Causes of Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

05 July, 2020
For 9 months the body of a pregnant woman goes through many changes and is under a lot of pressure and these factors can cause pain. It's important to understand the pain so you know what's going on in your body.

Belly pain during pregnancy is very common, especially after the second trimester. Additionally, the causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy can vary widely. Although pain isn’t always a cause for concern, it may sometimes indicate there’s a more serious problem going on. Therefore, it’s important to be able to identify the type of pain and inform your obstetrician.

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With pregnancy, the woman’s body undergoes major transformations to create the necessary space to house the fetus and supply it with all the vital resources for development. These adjustments can sometimes cause belly pain. It can be difficult for mothers to know whether it’s normal pain or something more complicated and serious.

Below, read about the possible causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy.

Causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy

Round ligament pain

A woman holding her belly.

Pain in the round ligaments is usually caused by a sudden change in posture, such as when getting up or coughing.

The round ligaments run from the groin to the uterus. As the woman’s abdomen grows during pregnancy, these ligaments stretch and can cause pain.

Round ligament pains feel like a sharp stitch when changing positions, getting out of bed, or even a simple cough. Additionally, fatigue from physical activity can make the pain seem even worse.

This type of pain is normal and can be reduced by avoiding sudden movements, slightly bending the waist when coughing or sneezing, and doing exercises that will help stretch the ligament.

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Gases

During pregnancy, the woman accumulates more gases than normal due to the increased production of progesterone, which slows down digestion.

Gas pain is sharp and can appear in different places. The most frequent areas of gas pain are the abdomen, chest, and sometimes even the back. These pains may be more frequent as the pregnancy progresses due to the additional pressure of the growth of the fetus in the uterus.

The best way to reduce gas pain is by eating smaller portions more times a day and exercising. The doctor may recommend some anti-gas medication to reduce frequency and intensity.

Constipation

Pregnant woman taking pills.

The use of laxatives in pregnancy should be recommended by a doctor, since in some cases it can be dangerous for a pregnant woman.

Constipation is also a very common cause of abdominal pain during pregnancy. Hormonal changes, vitamin supplements, and adjustments in metabolism can make it difficult to evacuate the bowels.

To prevent constipation, it’s important to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, exercise, which can consist of simple walks, and increasing water consumption. You should only take laxatives if your doctor has prescribed them since this is usually a contraindication during pregnancy.

Braxton Hicks contractions can cause abdominal pain during pregnancy

These are contractions that occur in the last trimester of pregnancy, although it doesn’t usually mean that you’re in labor.

Braxton Hicks contractions produce the same pain as labor contractions but don’t have the same frequency. They are completely normal and are not at all dangerous. They are also known as practice contractions, as they help to prepare the body for labor by toning the uterine muscles.

To relieve pain from Braxton Hicks contractions, the American Pregnancy Association recommends taking hot baths, drinking water, and changing your body position to find a more comfortable one that will decrease pain.

Ectopic pregnancy

Woman with abdominal pain during pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy is one of the serious causes of abdominal pain.

This is a serious condition that requires emergency medical attention. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg lodges outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies require medical treatment and complete rest until delivery.

The pain of ectopic pregnancy is intense, sharp, and stays in one place, most commonly in the abdomen or pelvis. Ectopic pregnancies may also cause vomiting, dizziness, and vaginal bleeding.

Miscarriage

A miscarriage is when the pregnancy ends involuntarily within the first 20 weeks. The reasons for the loss of the fetus are diverse and often difficult to predict and determine. Most cases are related to abnormalities in the fetus’s chromosomes or damage to the egg or sperm.

Miscarriages usually begin with severe back pain, abdominal pain from contractions, and pinkish vaginal fluids. When this problem occurs you must seek emergency medical treatment immediately in order to avoid infections.

Other possible reasons for abdominal pain during pregnancy

Abdominal pain during pregnancy may also appear due to other reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy such as:

  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Ulcers
  • Stomach viruses

All these conditions must be treated by a specialist. Although they are not directly related to the pregnancy, they can represent risks for the mother and baby if they aren’t treated.

  • Prenatal Care. In Danforth’s obstetrics and gynecology. Gibbs, R. (2008). 10th ed., p. 18.
  • Pregnancy: Body changes and discomforts: Constipation. womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/body-changes-and-discomforts
  • Pregnancy: Staying healthy and safe: When to call the doctor. (2017). womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/staying-healthy-and-saf
  • True vs false labor. (2016). my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/true-vs-false-labor