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Stomachache During Pregnancy: When To Seek Medical Attention

Stomachache During Pregnancy: When To Seek Medical Attention

Stomachache during pregnancy can be a source of stress. After all, you don’t know if the stomachache is just a simple abdominal problem or if it’s connected to the pregnancy and affecting the baby. The first thought that comes to mind is the possibility of a miscarriage.

Knowing more about the causes of abdominal pain can help a pregnant woman figure out if it’s time to call the doctor or simply rest. Read up on the different potential reasons why you may experience stomachache during pregnancy.

Stomachache During Pregnancy

It is quite normal to feel a bit of pain and some slight cramping in the abdominal area during the early stages of pregnancy. Your body is adjusting to the fact that there is now a baby inside it and the skin is slowly stretching to fit the baby in the womb. This can cause a bit of pain.

The womb is expanding in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. The ligaments are being stretched, which is sometimes felt as discomfort at the lower abdomen, radiating to the groin area. Sometimes there is a feeling of bloatedness or abdominal heaviness, which may be from abdominal gas or constipation. This is because hormonal changes in pregnancy can also affect the movement of the stomach and bowels.

At times, it can feel like mild menstrual pain. If the pain goes away after you have rested, relieved yourself, or changed sleeping positions, then there is usually nothing to worry about.

Harmless Causes of Stomachache during Pregnancy

Constipation or Gas

A hormone called progesterone slows down the movement of the gastrointestinal tract. This causes food to travel more slowly, thus leading to constipation. This can sometimes cause stomachache during pregnancy. Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods to lessen constipation.

Braxton Hicks

These are contractions that are similar to labor pains, but are actually not true labor pains. It normally occurs a month or few weeks before actual labor starts. As long as the contractions are not getting stronger and nearer each other, these are considered harmless.

Round Ligament Pain

When the uterus enlarges, it can sometimes cause the round ligaments, two big connective tissue that travel off the front of the uterus and down into the groin, to stretch as well. This can be painful and can be felt in the lower abdomen up to the upper inner thigh.

This is usually felt during the second trimester. To reduce round ligament pain, daily stretching is recommended. When you get up or plan on lying down, do it slowly so as not to suddenly stretch the ligaments.

When to Call the Doctor about Stomachache during Pregnancy

Though stomachache during pregnancy is quite common, there are certain instances when you should consult with a doctor.

Call your doctor if you feel any of the following:

Severe pain on one side of the lower stomach

When you feel this especially during the first stage of your pregnancy, call your doctor.

This could possibly be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. Other symptoms may include a brown vaginal discharge, dizziness, pain in the tip of your shoulder, or bleeding.

Lower stomach pain or dull back pain

If you experience this kind of pain coupled with pain or discomfort when you pee and your urine smells bad, looks cloudy or bloody, you should call your doctor.

This could be indicative of urinary tract infection (UTI), which is not an emergency, but needs to be treated immediately.

Pain in the Upper Stomach

It’s normal to feel pain just under the ribs during the latter part of your pregnancy because your baby is growing.

As your baby grows, the uterus pushes under the ribs which cause pain. However, when the pain becomes unbearable and is persistent on the upper right side, this could be a sign of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is the elevation of blood pressure in the second half of pregnancy, around the 20th-week mark. Call the doctor if you also have a sudden increase in edema or swelling of the face, hand, and feet as well as a dull headache that won’t go away, with associated blurring of vision.

Severe Cramps in your Stomach

If you are already beyond 20 weeks age of gestation but before 37th week of pregnancy, say around 36 weeks or less, and you are experiencing backache that’s more than normal, menstrual-like cramps, and pressure in the lowest part of your abdomen, you need to call your doctor immediately. This may be a sign of premature labor.

General Abdominal Pain

If you are feeling severe pain in the general area of your abdomen, associated with strong and frequent crampy contractions, it could be placental abruption. What happens with placental abruption is the placenta separates from the uterus after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Other Potential Causes of Stomachache during Pregnancy

There could be non-pregnancy related reasons as well as to why you are experiencing stomach pains. While not usual, it could happen when one is pregnant. These are:

  • appendicitis
  • kidney stones
  • pancreatitis
  • gallstones

Though these may not be related to your pregnancy, they still require medical attention to ensure that there won’t be any potential complications that could affect the pregnancy or endanger the baby.

Key Takeaways

Stomachache during pregnancy is part and parcel when one is carrying a baby. Though there are certain situations that would require the immediate attention of a medical doctor, more often than not, the reason for a stomachache is harmless. Aside from paying attention to unusual pain, it’s good to ensure that you get the right amount of rest, proper diet, safe exercise, and supplement your nutrients to have a happy, healthy pregnancy.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Stomach pain in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stomach-pain-abdominal-cramp-pregnant/ Accessed 20 May 2020

7 Abdominal pain, abdominal pain in women, complications of pregnancy and labour  https://emj.bmj.com/content/21/5/606 Accessed 20 May 2020

Abdominal Pain https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/abdominal-pain Accessed 20 May 2020

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Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo Updated Jun 06
Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, M.D.