Abdominal pain during pregnancy is one of those physical changes that can cause even an experienced mother’s anxiety to spike. While most of the reasons for feeling abdominal discomfort are normal and nothing to worry about, there are some instances where abdominal pain can be a sign of a much bigger health problem.
Let’s take a deeper look at what level of pain is considered “normal,” the most common causes, how to ease abdominal pain during pregnancy, and, most importantly, how to know when it’s time to reach out to a medical professional for help.
Is it normal to have abdominal pain during pregnancy?
Sometimes, having abdominal pain during pregnancy indicates that everything is working just as it should. Many women experience abdominal pain during the early weeks of pregnancy as the fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall.
However, abdominal pain can be felt at any time during your pregnancy, and with varying levels of intensity. Most women experience mild to moderate abdominal pain that resembles menstruation cramps, though sometimes it manifests as a sharp pain similar to a runner’s stitch or a pinch. You can feel this pain in your upper belly, on either side of your belly, and sometimes even as low as your hips and groin depending on the cause of the pain. All of these are normal and common types of abdominal pain felt during pregnancy.
What kind of abdominal pain is bad during pregnancy?
While most abdominal pain is harmless, there are some types of pain that should never be ignored because they may be a sign of a more serious medical issue. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:
- Pain that comes on suddenly and severely
- Pain that is constant or grows steadily worse over several hours
- Intense pain that is accompanied or followed by severe cramping
- Severe pain with abnormal discharge or bleeding
If you are experiencing any type of abdominal pain that resembles the kind described above, you should contact your physician immediately.
Most Common Causes of Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
The most common causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy are harmless side effects of the many changes happening within your body.
During early pregnancy, it’s not uncommon to experience some mild cramping or abdominal pain from an expanding uterus and rising progesterone levels. In fact, this mild abdominal pain is a good sign! It means your body is already making preparations to support a happy, healthy baby for the next 40 weeks.
Later on in pregnancy, the causes of abdominal pain become much more varied. You could experience abdominal pain because of:
- A growing uterus putting extra pressure on muscles and ligaments, causing a sharp or aching pain as the muscles stretch and strain to support your growing belly.
- Sharp stomach pains from gas build-up, constipation, or even indigestion caused by progesterone slowing down your digestive system.
- Braxton-hicks contractions as your body prepares to go into labor.
All of these types of abdominal pain are normal and easily relieved with small changes in diet or exercise, and they usually disappear entirely after pregnancy.
In addition to these common and harmless causes of abdominal pain, there are several other potential reasons for abdominal pain that are much more serious. These include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption, or preeclampsia. Abdominal pain resulting from any of these reasons is often severe, intense, and is accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
How to ease abdominal pain in pregnancy
The best answer for how to relieve abdominal pain during pregnancy will depend on the cause of the pain:
For abdominal pain caused by muscle strain or stretched ligaments: Wearing pregnancy support bands like the Belly Bandit Upsie Belly® Pregnancy Support Band will give your belly a gentle lift to help take the weight off of your already tired muscles. You can also use cold and hot packs like the Belly Bandit Upsie Gel Pack to target specific sore areas without raising or lowering your core body temperature to dangerous levels.
For abdominal pain caused by digestive problems: You can treat many digestive issues by making small lifestyle changes. Try eating smaller meals more frequently and make sure you are well hydrated. It may be helpful to keep a food diary for several days to help you identify which foods may be triggering your abdominal pain or other indigestion symptoms.
For other abdominal pain: One of the best remedies for soothing discomfort during pregnancy is to sleep in the right position. Sleeping on your side can often help relieve abdominal pain, especially if this pain is related to gas buildup. Be sure to get a supportive pregnancy pillow like the Belly Bandit S.O.S. Side Sleeper Pregnancy Pillow to help your belly feel comfortable and supported while in this position.
When to reach out to your doctor
If none of the treatments above help alleviate your abdominal pain or you experience additional symptoms like fever, headache, nausea, or blurred vision, then it’s time to reach out to your doctor. They can help you identify the cause of your pain and come up with a treatment plan specific to your needs.
If you’re ever concerned about abdominal pain, even if it’s mild, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and make your doctor aware of new symptoms than risk putting your baby in danger.