Stomach Pain During Pregnancy

Mild cramping is usually harmless, but severe pain could be a sign of a problem.

Pregnant woman with morning sickness
Vesna Andjic / Getty Images

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 another serious problems. Learn what these symptoms indicate at different stages of pregnancy and when to see your doctor.

Stomach Pain in Early Pregnancy

Abdominal pains is a frequent symptom in early pregnancy and usually not a cause for concern. However, if your pain is severe or persists, you should contact your healthcare provider. For instance, it could be the result of digestive issues or a sign that you need to change positions or use the restroom. Most commonly, you may experience nausea during early pregnancy (morning sickness), which is normal and usually nothing to be concerned about.

Morning sickness can begin as early as 2 to 4 weeks following fertilization, which is from about when your period is due or a week or two after. These symptoms typically peak around 9 to 16 weeks and usually subside at around 22 weeks gestation.

Symptoms of morning sickness include nausea and vomiting. Many pregnant people with morning sickness don't need medication to cope. However, sometimes morning sickness becomes quite severe, which is called hyperemesis gravidarum. 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 Stomach 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.

Stomach 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 Stomach 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.

18 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Office On Women's Health. Pregnancy complications.

  2. Bustos M, Venkataramanan R, Caritis S. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy - What's new?Auton Neurosci. 2017;202:62-72. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2016.05.002

  3. Nuangchamnong N, Niebyl J. Doxylamine succinate-pyridoxine hydrochloride (Diclegis) for the management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: an overview. Int J Womens Health. 2014;6:401-9. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S46653

  4. Sapra KJ, Buck Louis GM, Sundaram R, et al. Signs and symptoms associated with early pregnancy loss: findings from a population-based preconception cohortHum Reprod. 2016;31(4):887-896. doi:10.1093/humrep/dew010

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Early Pregnancy Loss.

  6. Tam C, Erebara A, Einarson A. Food-borne illnesses during pregnancy: prevention and treatmentCan Fam Physician. 2010;56(4):341-343.

  7. March of Dimes. Abdominal pain or cramping.

  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Labor and birth.

  9. Tobah YB. Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy week by week. What causes round ligament pain during pregnancy?.

  10. Sapra KJ, Joseph KS, Galea S, Bates LM, Louis GM, Ananth CV. Signs and Symptoms of Early Pregnancy LossReprod Sci. 2017;24(4):502-513. doi:10.1177/1933719116654994

  11. Cleveland Clinic. Early Signs of Miscarriage (and When Not to Panic).

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Ectopic Pregnancy Mortality — Florida, 2009-2010. 2012;61(6);106-109.

  13. Li Y, Tian Y, Liu N, Chen Y, Wu F. Analysis of 62 placental abruption cases: Risk factors and clinical outcomes. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2019;58(2):223-226. doi:10.1016/j.tjog.2019.01.010

  14. Preeclampsia Foundation. Making Sense of Preeclampsia Tests.

  15. English FA, Kenny LC, McCarthy FP. Risk factors and effective management of preeclampsiaIntegr Blood Press Control. 2015;8:7-12. doi:10.2147/IBPC.S50641

  16. Weston P, Moroz P. Appendicitis in pregnancy; how to manage and whether to deliverObstet Gynecol. 2015;17:105-110. doi:10.1111/tog.12188

  17. Semins MJ, Matlaga BR. Management of urolithiasis in pregnancyInt J Womens Health. 2013;5:599-604. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S51416

  18. Gardner T. The National Pancreas Foundation. Acute Pancreatitis and Pregnancy

Additional Reading

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.