Pregnancy is a very beautiful phase of a woman’s life filled with excitement and also with anxiousness. However, a pregnant woman goes through consistent body and hormone changes during the phase.
Unexpected pregnancy symptoms, food cravings, or even mood changes kick in at any time. These discomforts can be a stumbling block at times. It is important that one stays wary about such unusual symptoms in pregnancy.
One of the rare yet worrying discomforts during pregnancy is sudden pain in the abdomen. Abdominal pain is uncommon, however, it could be a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache entailing many possible causes.
This article explores everything you need to know about the most common causes and associated serious conditions of stomach pain during pregnancy and when to see the doctor.
In this Article
- 1 Common Causes of Lower Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
- 2 Serious Conditions Causing Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy
- 2.1 Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- 2.2 Appendicitis
- 2.3 Presence of Gallstones
- 2.4 Preeclampsia
- 2.5 Miscarriage
- 2.6 HELLP syndrome
- 2.7 What are the signs of worry or seeking medical help?
- 2.8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 2.9 Conclusion
Common Causes of Lower Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings about significant body changes within a woman. Some changes are painful yet necessary for healthy foetal growth, while some can be a reason for worry. As the baby grows in-utero, the surrounding organs are pushed aside, and hence becoming one of the most common causes of stomach pain in pregnancy.
However, this pain gradually subsides and goes away on its own. Here are some of the other possible causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy explained in detail.
The growing foetus puts tremendous pressure on the stomach and intestines predominantly seen in the second and third trimesters. Such cases of lower abdominal pain during late pregnancy can be due to gas, bloating, or constipation.
Abdominal pain in pregnancy due to gas can be excruciating. It can be concentrated in a particular area or a radiating pain spreading through the belly, back, and chest.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women experience gas problems due to increased progesterone. Progesterone relaxes the intestinal muscles, extending the time for the food to get through the intestines. The food stays longer in the colon, developing gas and constipation.
As the pregnancy advances, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the intestines, slowing digestion and promoting gas buildup. Constipation is another issue among pregnant women. Hormone Fluctuations, a diet with low fluid intake, exercise, and iron can lead to constipation and sharp abdominal pain during pregnancy.
- Add a healthy fibre-rich diet with low sugar and carbs to help overcome these digestive problems and their associated stomach pain.
- Eating frequent small meals and taking lots of water and liquids can help ease digestion.
- Avoid foods that can trigger bloating issues, like oily, greasy foods, carbonated drinks, etc.
- And exercise, as suggested by the doctor during pregnancy keeps digestive problems at bay.
Round Ligament Pain
Two round ligaments run around the uterus and groyne regions, supporting the uterus. As the uterus stretches to hold the baby, the ligaments also expand, causing a sharp or dull pain in the lower abdomen, hips, and groyne regions.
Pain due to ligament stretching is most common in the latter pregnancy period. Round ligament pain can trigger suddenly while changing positions, sneezing, or even coughing.
Apart from round ligament pain, the expanding ligaments can also bring about strained muscular pain, especially in the lower abdomen, abdominal sides, and back pain. This pain can stay till the muscles get pulled and retreat to a relaxed state.
One of the ways to reduce round ligament pain is slow stretching daily and practising gentle movements while getting up or laying on the bed. Flexing the hips or bending while coughing or sneezing can also help reduce pressure on the ligaments.
Braxton-Hicks contractions are “false” contractions that usually occur when the uterine muscles contract, lasting up to two minutes. These contractions are part of a normal pregnancy but are highly irregular, uncomforting, and unpredictable. The body practises labour- aptly known as “false labour” pains.
These contractions are more common during the third trimester, and the experience is similar to normal labour. However, these contractions do not increase progressively or get more frequent, unlike labour pain.
Baxton-Hicks’ pain begins with strong contractions that get weak over time and is milder than normal labour pain. Though these contractions are painful and discomforting, they tend to stop on their own with changes in positions or movements.
Serious Conditions Causing Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy
Abdominal pain during pregnancy can be tricky to find if they are serious or normal. But, if you have unusual pain, connecting with the doctor can help determine the underlying cause of lower abdominal pain in early or late pregnancy. Here are some of the serious conditions contributing to abdominal pain in pregnancy.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
UTIs are frequently seen among pregnant women causing severe tummy pain, pain while urinating, or painful bowel movements. However, medications can help treat UTIs.
Appendicitis is a condition caused due to an infection of the appendix. Appendicitis can occur during pregnancy leading to,
- Severe stomach pain on the right side,
- Pain near the belly button,
- Loss of appetite,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- High fever,
- Weakness or fatigue.
Presence of Gallstones
During pregnancy, the changes in hormones and digestion can negatively impact gallbladder functioning, leading to gallstones. Gallstones can cause,
- Acute, sharp pain in the upper right side of the stomach,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Loss of appetite,
- High fever.
Gallstones may or may not require medical treatment, as they can go away by themselves. Speak with your doctor if you observe any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Delay in attending to this condition can cause adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition occurring during late pregnancy when the pregnant woman develops high blood pressure. The elevated blood pressure levels in late pregnancy can damage the liver and kidneys causing sharp, stabbing stomach pain. Some of the other signs of preeclampsia to look out for are:
- Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen,
- Blurred vision,
- Predominant headaches,
- Shortness of breath,
- Low urination frequency.
Severe pain on the lower right side of the abdomen, accompanied by spotting, indicates a pregnancy loss or a miscarriage. Blood-red passing clots and heavy bleeding are other associated signs of a miscarriage. In such circumstances, seek medical help immediately.
According to the Agency of Healthcare, Research and Quality, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy are more frequent causes of lower abdominal pain in early pregnancy and are often accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening condition of pregnancy. A pregnant woman with HELLP syndrome will have hemolysis, increased liver enzymes, and low platelet count.
Though the exact reason for this pregnancy complication is still unclear, it is believed that preeclampsia may lead to HELLP. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, among 5 to 8 percent of women who develop preeclampsia, nearly 15 percent will develop HELLP.
However, women without preeclampsia diagnosis can also develop this condition having symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain is predominant in the upper right side,
- Shoulder pain or pain while breathing,
- Indigestion with the pain while eating,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Severe Headache,
- Blurred vision,
- Swelling of face and hands,
- Breathing difficulties
If you experience abdominal pain with other HELLP symptoms, seek medical help at the earliest to avert life-threatening complications.
What are the signs of worry or seeking medical help?
Minor abdominal pain, especially in the left side of the stomach in early pregnancy, goes away by itself after some time. But some cases require medical attention. Here are some common signs, requiring one to reach out to their doctor at the earliest.
- Persistent and severe stomach or back pain,
- Pain that increases while lying down,
- Pain that is associated with swelling or redness,
- Pain while urinating,
- Contractions anytime before 37 weeks,
- Abdominal contractions spaced at 10 minutes interval,
- Experiencing decreased foetal movements post 28 weeks of conception,
- Stomach pain accompanied by vomiting and nausea or diarrhoea,
- Extreme headaches that do not subside with prescribed medications,
- Bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge in pregnancy
- Blurred vision
Frequently Asked Questions
What helps with stomach pain during pregnancy?
When the stomach pain during pregnancy is mild but very uncomfortable, resting helps one feel better. Other things that can help reduce thepregnancy abdominal pain are:
- Have a warm water bath,
- Drink plenty of fluids or water,
- Change the position of the stomach,
- If it is a round ligament pain, move gently or stretch slowly.
Which part of the stomach pains during early pregnancy?
Mild pain can be a part of your pregnancy journey. However, during the first trimester (0 to 12 weeks), pain in the lower abdomen is often experienced because of the significant hormonal changes and growing foetus.
What does stomach pain during miscarriage feel like?
Many women experience miscarriage very early in their pregnancy and do not even realise it. They may pass out from a miscarriage just as a heavy period. Miscarriages often occur with
- Abdominal cramps,
- Bleeding more than normal,
- Excruciating lower stomach pain,
- Pain in the pelvic and back regions,
- Fatigue or weakness.
Stomach pain in pregnancy may occur at any point during pregnancy and are usually not a sign of concern. Mild, dull pain goes away with a change in position or when the trapped faeces/ Gas is passed. Less harmful pain is due to ligament pain, gas problems, or constipation.
However, stomach pains that need one to worry about come with a bracket of symptoms, which can be due to gallstones, Urinary tract infections (UTIs), appendix problems, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or preeclampsia. These causes lead to sharp, stabbing pain and require immediate medical treatment. Connect with your doctor at the earliest to find a proper diagnosis and treatment for pregnancy abdominal pain.