Are Stomach Pains Normal During Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman with morning sickness
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In This Article

Minor stomach pain and cramps are common during pregnancy and are rarely a sign that anything is amiss. But if you have severe pain you should seek medical help immediately as it may be due to an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placental abruption, or other serious problems. Learn what these symptoms indicate at different stages of pregnancy and when to see your doctor.

Pregnancy Stomach Pain and Discomfort

Nausea during pregnancy (morning sickness) is normal and usually nothing to be concerned about. Morning sickness can begin as early as 2 to 4 weeks following fertilization, peak around 9 to 16 weeks, and typically subside at around 22 weeks gestation.

Symptoms of morning sickness include nausea and vomiting. Many women with morning sickness don't need medication; however, prescription medications are available that treat morning sickness like Diclegis.

If you experience cramping or pain in the stomach (the organ that digests your food) this may be a sign of digestive issues but isn't likely to be a miscarriage symptom. Digestive problems are common during pregnancy but call your doctor right away if your stomach pain leads to flu-like symptoms (mild fever, muscle aches, headache, etc. ) that go beyond your typical morning sickness.

Pregnant women are prone to food poisoning and other infections in the GI tract. Some infections (such as Listeria) can cause complications for the baby even if they aren't especially dangerous for non-pregnant individuals, so it's good to be checked out if you suspect you might be sick.

General Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy

If you are having general pain in the abdomen but not specifically in the stomach, it could be due to a benign cause or it could be of concern. Your abdomen is growing and your organs are shifting, so some dull pain and an occasional sharp jab are normal.

The usual causes are:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions: Often without pain, Braxton Hicks may cause discomfort or pain during the second and third trimester when experiencing these "practice" contractions.
  • Cramping: Cramps may be felt due to the expansion of the uterus. These are usually not severe and subside after a few minutes of rest.
  • Gas, bloating, or constipation: These symptoms are common due to the high levels of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy, which slows down digestion.
  • Round ligament pain: You may feel this in the second trimester as the ligament that runs from your uterus to your groin is stretched. This can be a sharp stabbing pain when you make a change in position or it can be a dull, achy pain.

Abdominal Pain and Miscarriage

Call your doctor if painful cramps in your lower pelvic region or lower back are accompanied by vomiting, nausea, or vaginal bleeding, these symptoms could indicate a miscarriage.

However, cramping can also occur during normal pregnancies. If you have no bleeding and you're not experiencing any other symptoms associated with miscarriage but you still have cramps, it never hurts to mention it to your doctor at the next visit.

The specific symptoms of miscarriage vary depending on the individual. Here are some common symptoms of miscarriage:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Bleeding that becomes progressively heavier
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Weakness and fatigue

Note that many pregnant women occasionally experience some of these symptoms and don't go on to have a miscarriage. Nevertheless, if you experience any of these symptoms, or are otherwise concerned, contact your OB-GYN immediately.

Severe Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

If you are having severe pain anywhere in your abdominal region during early pregnancy, go to the emergency room. You need to make sure that ectopic pregnancy is ruled out, as this can be life-threatening if not treated.

In some cases, abdominal pain during pregnancy can indicate placental abruption and other life-threatening complications for both mother and baby, requiring immediate medical attention. In placental abruption, the placenta separates from the uterus after the 20th week of pregnancy and you may need close monitoring or early delivery of the baby.

Abdominal cramps can also be a sign of preterm labor. In any case, don't delay in seeking treatment. Early treatment of complications can make a big difference. Preeclampsia, which is a condition that includes high blood pressure and protein in the urine, can also generate upper abdominal pain.

If this condition is not treated it can lead to multiple organ problems, eclampsia (a condition with seizures or coma), and poor fetal growth.

In addition to these pregnancy-related causes of severe abdominal pain, you could also be experiencing pains related to non-pregnancy conditions that need immediate treatment. Some of these happen more frequently during pregnancy, while others are coincidental.

These include:

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing a minor stomach or abdominal pain may be part of an uncomplicated pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about what you should expect and what should be treated as the sign of a problem, especially if you have a chronic condition or gastrointestinal condition.

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