Stomach (abdominal) pain or cramps in pregnancy

Some pain and very light cramps in the stomach (abdominal) area in early pregnancy is not unusual.

Are cramps in pregnancy normal?

It’s completely understandable to worry about stomach pain in pregnancy and be anxious about this being a sign of miscarriage. But stomach pains or cramps are common in pregnancy and usually nothing to worry about.

Mild stomach pain in early pregnancy (during the first 12 weeks) is usually caused by your womb expanding, the ligaments stretching as your bump grows, hormones constipation or trapped wind. It may sometimes feel like a ‘stitch’ or mild period pain. It’s is probably nothing to worry about if the pain is mild and goes away when you change position, have a rest, do a poo or pass wind.

You may also feel light period-like discomfort or cramps at the end of your pregnancy. This is nothing to worry about, but call your midwife if you have any concerns.

When should I report stomach pain in pregnancy?

Stomach pain can be very worrying for pregnant women. Pain can make you fear the worst, such as a miscarriage. It’s important to listen to your own instincts. If you are worried about any pains you’re having, or you just feel like something is wrong, contact your midwife. Don’t be concerned about wasting anyone’s time. It’s always best to get things checked out.

If you are having persistent stomach pain (pain that won’t go away) or cramping, or if the pain comes on suddenly it should be checked by a doctor or midwife immediately.

What stomach pain and cramps should I look out for in pregnancy?

Most stomach pain and cramps in pregnancy are nothing to worry about. But there are some symptoms you should know about as they could be a sign of something more serious.

If you feel any of the following pains, even if you're not experiencing any of the other symptoms listed, call your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately.

Severe pain on one side of the lower stomach in early pregnancy
This pain could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. Other symptoms may include:

Severe cramps in your stomach with or without bleeding that lasts for several hours 
This could be a sign of a miscarriage or placental abruption.

Regular painful contractions/cramps before 37 weeks
This could be a sign of premature labour, especially if you also have:

  • either a slow trickle or a gush of clear or pinkish fluid from the vagina or any increase in vaginal discharge
  • backache that’s unusual for you
  • cramps like strong period pains
  • a feeling of pressure in the lowest part of your stomach (pelvis).

Severe pain in your stomach that doesn’t go away
This pain could be a sign of placental abruption. Other symptoms may include:

  • tenderness when you press your stomach
  • back pain with or without bleeding.

Pain in the upper stomach 

Pain just under the ribs is common in later pregnancy because your baby is growing and the uterus is pushing up under the ribs. But if this pain is bad or persistent, particularly on the right side, it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms may include:

  • a sudden increase in swelling in your face, hands or feet
  • a very bad headache or a dull headache that won’t go away
  • problems with your vision, such as blurring or flashing lights
  • vomiting or just generally feeling unwell.

Pre-eclampsia usually develops in the second half of pregnancy (from around 20 weeks). 

Lower stomach pain or dull back pain 

Call your midwife if you have this pain and one or more of the following:

    • pain or discomfort when weeing
    • a need to wee often (on its own this is common in a normal pregnancy)
    • a raised temperature  (over 37.5°C)
    • wee that smells bad, is cloudy or bloody
    • feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting.

These are symptoms of an urinary tract infection. It's not an emergency but should be treated as soon as possible.

What other kind of stomach pain should I expect?

Braxton Hicks contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are a sign that the muscles of your womb are tightening. This can happen from as early as 16 weeks, but are more common in later pregnancy.

Braxton Hicks’ contractions are:

  • irregular (more than 10 minutes apart)
  • short-lasting
  • uncomfortable more than painful.

You do not need to contact your maternity unit or midwife unless your contractions become painful and regular (less than 10 minutes apart).

Contractions/cramps after 37-40 weeks could be a sign of the early stages of labour. This is called latent phase of labour.

Read about our pregnancy insider's experience of aches and pains during pregnancy.

Read more

Sources

NHS Choices. Stomach pain in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stomach-pain-abdominal-cramp-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 01/05/2018. Next review due: 01/05/2021)

NHS Choices. Premature labour and birth https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/premature-early-labour/ (Page last reviewed: 29/11/2017. Next review due: 29/11/2020)

NHS Choices Pre-eclampsia https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-eclampsia/ (Page last reviewed: 07/06/2018 Next review due: 07/06/2021)

NHS (2017) Urinary tract infections www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/ (Page last reviewed: 12/12/2017 Next review due:12/12/2020)

NHS (2017) You and your baby at 33-36 weeks pregnant www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pregnancy-weeks-33-34-35-36/ (Page last reviewed: 17/07/2018 Next review due:17/07/2021)

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    Last reviewed on September 28th, 2018. Next review date September 28th, 2021.

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    Comments

    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Erica (not verified) on 16 Oct 2017 - 04:05

      I have been working as a server my whole pregnancy this has been my worst pregnancy so far I am having alot of unual pains In my lower stomach I swear the other day I was having a contractions to where j couldn't sit my pevis hurts so bad I just don't know what to do anymore

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Oct 2017 - 11:25

      Hi Erica.
      If you have abdominal pain and pelivc pain at any gestation of pregnancy, it is vital that you go to get reviewed at your local hospital by your midwife/doctor/gp asap. It may be nothing, but is sounds like you need a physiotherapy review in the least to address your potential supra pubic dysfuntion (SPD) which can be helped by support belts and analgesia. Braxton hicks contractions can be normal, but you do not say how many weeks you are, so again, this would be worth getting checked out asap too!
      Please take yourself in as soon as you can. All the best

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Oct 2017 - 14:00

      Am in my early stage of pregnancy,feeling very weak and dizzy,and also experience stomach pains in the mornings,feel cold during the afternoon..am i ok?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Oct 2017 - 11:22

      Hi there.
      It is difficult to know. Have you taken a pregnancy test? If you have not done so, it might be sensible to do one if you have had unprotected sex. Feeling weak, dizzy and having abdp pain, can be related to many things other than pregnancy. You may just be falling ill with a common cold/virus. Please take good care of yourself and visit your GP if this does not subside in a week or so.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 5 Oct 2017 - 13:04

      What can be used to decrease/help lesson stress, like a calming remedy or such, wich will help with anxiety, etc

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Oct 2017 - 13:52

      Thank you for your comment. It's very common to feel stressed and anxious in pregnancy. I assume you are having antenatal care including regular midwife appointments and have been informed what to do if you are worried or have any problems or concerns.
      Your midwife should also ask about your mental health and well being at each appointment but do not hesitate to contact them sooner if you are concerned about the way you are feeling or if you are becoming more anxious. Your GP can also provide support and refer you for counselling/therapy if appropriate.
      The attached link has lots of information about stress in pregnancy and also what help is available
      https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-wellbeing

      There are various techniques that can help with stress such as meditation, mindfulness, relaxation techniques etc. These can be accessed via face to face classes, apps on your phone or online. Exercise such as yoga, Pilates, walking or swimming may also help.

      You may find all or any of these technoques helpful but if the stress/anxiety is worsening. Tommy's also recommends that you
      'Talk to your midwife or doctor if:
      you feel anxious most of the time for more than two weeks.
      anxiety is making you feel physically ill with fast heartbeat, fast breathing, sweating, feeling faint, feeling sick and diarrhoea.
      you have panic attacks.
      you have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can’t control them.
      you find yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, counting) to feel better.
      you are so afraid of giving birth that you don’t want to go through with it.
      Just as extra care is needed in pregnancy to make sure you are physically healthy, the same applies to your mental health. Describing your symptoms can help your healthcare team make sure you get the right care for you and your baby.'
      Hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to contact us again or call our PregnancyLine 0800 0147 800
      Take care
      Tommy's Midwife

    • By toyin (not verified) on 3 Oct 2017 - 07:48

      am in my early pregnancy I confirm it after I miss my period ,but the problem is that I feel some stomach discomfort after eating or before eating but if I have opportunity to polute or devicate it use to stop want to confirm if is normal or not because am first timer.i will be waiting for my reply thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 3 Oct 2017 - 11:31

      Hi Toyin,
      In early pregnancy some women have an altered bowel habit. Try eating light meals and drink plenty of water over the day. If the stomach pains continue please go and see your doctor.
      https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/early-days-pregnancy/first-trimester-trials
      Keep in touch!
      Best wishes,
      Anna-Tommy's midwives

    • By Marouska (not verified) on 29 Sep 2017 - 14:43

      Hi, I'm 6weeks pregnant, and my stomach is hurting. What should I do to reduce the pain? Thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Sep 2017 - 15:22

      Can you please call the Info Line on 0800 0147 800 to discuss further. As I would like to ask you a few questions regarding the pain.
      Thank you.

    • By Alice (not verified) on 28 Sep 2017 - 22:44

      have mist my period nd ma stomach has been paining nt as much but just for smetimes nd stop now iam pregnant or not

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Sep 2017 - 12:39

      I would advise you to take a pregnancy test now that you have missed your period. It is difficult to know based on symptoms alone as pregnancy and period symptoms can be very similar.

    • By Viddique natasha (not verified) on 28 Sep 2017 - 16:47

      Hi, am 9 weeks pregnant and am having a constipating and a my stomach hurts all the time with the back pain.
      Please help

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 28 Sep 2017 - 16:53

      Hi Natasha, constipation is quite common in pregnancy - you can go to your local pharmacy and be given some pregnancy - safe stool softeners to help you to be able to pass stools more easily. In addition, drinking 2-3 liters of water per day will keep you well hydrated and help to prevent constipation. Eating plenty of leafy greens and vegetables each day, will also assist your bowels in moving along stools after digestion.
      Abdominal pain and lower back pain, at any gestation of pregnancy though should be investigated. It is possibly linked to your constipation - however, you may also have a urinary tract infection that requires urgent antibiotics. You can get these from your GP or in any hospital if you seek urgent care today. If the pain is very severe, you can attend a&e minors unit at your local hospital. Please take good care of yourself!

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 21 Sep 2017 - 14:13

      Hi im 20 weeks pregnant and a first time mom. I feel a tingling motion in my upper abdomen especially after eating. It's like there is slight movement but i know that its not my baby because my baby is still in the center of my abdomen. I would like to know if this is something to be concern. It's not really painful. Hope to hear any advice from you. Thank you.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Sep 2017 - 15:53

      Hi, Thank you for your comment.

      As the uterus gets bigger as the pregnancy progresses, organs will starts to move to accommodate the uterus in the abdomen. This may be a cause for the tingling feeling you are experiencing after eating as all the digestive organs will be slightly displaced. Eating little and often may help digestion.

      However, it is difficult to say what this is without a full examination so if you are concerned then it is advisable to seek medical advice from your GP or Midwife. Hope this helps
      Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 12 Sep 2017 - 21:42

      Am 9wks pregnant and having intermittent stomach pains. is this normal?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Sep 2017 - 09:11

      Hi there,
      abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy is most certainly worth investigating. It would be best for you to make an urgent GP appointment, where you will be referred to an early pregnancy assessment unit for review. If the pain becomes severe however, then please take yourself to A&E minors for an urgent review- especially if the pain is more focused on one side than the other as we worry about ectopic pregnancy, which can be very dangerous to the pregnant woman.
      Please do take care of yourself and feel free to call us if you need further advice!

    • By vaishnavi (not verified) on 11 Sep 2017 - 08:16

      hiii im 4week and 4days pregnant i consulted doc she said that im not able to find embryo or any suff like that please help y this happened

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Sep 2017 - 11:00

      Hi - I'm sorry you have been given worrying news. It's hard to advise with so few details on what your doctor has told you. If you could email us on [email protected] with some further details we maybe able to advise on your pregnancy.

    • By Joy (not verified) on 10 Sep 2017 - 11:40

      Hi,this is my first 2wiks notis, i hav stomak troubl all thru an it maks mi unkomfortabl an rstls. Any solution?thanks.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Sep 2017 - 10:57

      Hi - if you are experiencing stomach or abdominal pain it is important that you are reviewed urgently. Please call your local early pregnancy assessment unit or day assessment unit in your nearest maternity unit.

    • By Hayley (not verified) on 9 Sep 2017 - 14:39

      Hi,

      I'm 6 weeks pregnant with baby number 1 and in the process of changing doctors so can't book an appointment for at lease another week. The last couple of days I've had light pain on my lower left abdomen. It feels like a pulled muscle / stitch feeling. Would you advise going to a&her or to wait for my midwife appointment in 2 weeks? No other symptoms apart from tender breasts.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Sep 2017 - 10:55

      Pain at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be reviewed urgently. Please contact your GP or local A&E if the pain is severe or worsening.

    • By Amy (not verified) on 27 Aug 2017 - 19:19

      I'm 16 weeks pregnant and have dull ache on my left side comes and goes lasting around 30mins each time I've had no bleeding

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 30 Aug 2017 - 11:21

      Hi Amy
      Pain at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be reviewed urgently. Please call your local early pregnancy assessment unit or day assessment unit in your nearest maternity unit. At 16 weeks, some maternity units will be able to see you(some only see women over 18 weeks - it depends on the trust itself) , but otherwise you will need to be seen in an early pregnancy unit. Please do seek physical assessment if you have not already done so! Please take good care of yourself!

    • By lesa (not verified) on 27 Aug 2017 - 11:58

      I have one tube and is expecting my first child. had a few miscarriages when I reach six weeks but now I'm four months and happy. but these cramps and pains making me worried. any advise pls. thank u

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 30 Aug 2017 - 11:25

      Hi Lesa.
      Abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy, needs to be investigated urgently! Please call your local maternity unit to see if they take pregnant women at 16 weeks onward, otherwise you will be able to be seen in your local early pregnancy assessment unit, who usually see women up to 18 weeks gestation.
      Please take good care of yourself and get a medical assessment asap if you have not already done so.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 20 Aug 2017 - 19:36

      Hi. Last night I woke up with stomach pains across my whole stomach and a feeling of nausea. My stomach has felt very tender all day. Should I be worried? I have an anterior placenta so was feeling very light flutters before and think I still have them. I'm just over 20 weeks. My 20 week scan was 2 days ago and seemed fine.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Aug 2017 - 13:45

      Hi Thank you for your comment, apologies for the delay in our reply. We hope that you are feeling a bit better since you commented. Have you been feeling unwell with nausea and vomiting? The stomach ache and nausea could be a stomach bug but with any abdominal pain or bleeding it is advised that you are seen and assessed by a midwife or doctor. If you are still experiencing abdominal pain then please contact your local antenatal day unit so that they can see you and give you reassurance and treatment if needed. Take Care Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Tori (not verified) on 16 Aug 2017 - 01:40

      I'm 28 weeks, having sharp steady pain on my left side right below my ribs radiating to the left side of my belly. Should I go to the dr?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Aug 2017 - 09:35

      Hi Tori, abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be reviewed urgently. Yes please, you need to go to your local hospital labour ward/triage/day assessment unit to be reviewed asap. It might not be a cause for concern, for example, it could be ligament stretching, but it is far better to get this checked out, than to leave it.
      Please take good care of yourself.

    • By Maryann (not verified) on 16 Aug 2017 - 01:34

      I am 8weeks plus gone, and I feel pain anytime I press my right side abdomen.. Other than that I only feel it when I get up from bed or is rushing to do something, D sharp pain brings me to a halt. Is it normal to feel pain. When I just press my abdomen a little?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Aug 2017 - 09:13

      Hi Maryann. Feeling abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy, needs to be investigated. Especially in early pregnancy when the pain is on one particular side as we worry about Ectopic pregnancies which can be dangerous. It would be sensible, to get an urgent GP appointment today, to be referred to your local Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit for scan and review. Ifthe pain is very severe, then skip waiting for the GP and please take yourself into A&E minors to be reviewed as an emergency. Please take good care of yourself

    • By Carrot cake991 (not verified) on 15 Aug 2017 - 10:32

      Hi, im concerned about the fact that I've been having bouts of diarrhoea for the past 4days and along with that some quite painful stomach cramps that seem to come in waves weather or not I need to go to the toilet. Its worrying because sometimes the pain only goes away once ive used the toilet and comes in waves one after the other. My unborn baby is still kicking around and has actually been more active. I have no temperature along with the diarrhoea just cramps which really really hurt. Please help.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Aug 2017 - 11:50

      Hi - Congratulations on your pregnancy!
      I'm sorry to hear you've been feeling unwell. In order to advise I'd need a little bit more information. Please either email us at [email protected] or call our pregnancy information line on 08000147800

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 9 Aug 2017 - 20:15

      Hi I am 6weeksand 3 day's work pregnant and I've got a stitch pain that is starting to go down to the front of my thigh. It's also worse in the evening and night. I feel great I have a slight change in discharge which I think is normal in early pregnancy so I'm not too concerned I just need reassurance. Thank you.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 10 Aug 2017 - 10:42

      Hi Thank you for your comment.
      Slight cramping can be normal in early pregnancy as all the ligaments are stretching and the pregnancy grows. If you think that this is getting worse then it may be advisable to be seen by a doctor. As it is worse in the evening and at night it could be muscular if you have been working all day.
      But with any pain in early pregnancy this should be checked out. It is reassuring that you have feeling well and it can be normal to have an increase in discharge in pregnancy but if this starts to smell, change colour of becomes itchy then again you need to seek advice from your GP. Hope this helps, take care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 - 23:26

      I usually have irregular periods.My last period was June 11th and today is July30th. Before, my period came 40 days late.. However ive been having all day long cramps in my lower abdomen, a lot of back and shoulder pain and sometimes a little nausea. Could i be pregnant? I've had sex a few times in the last month but I am not sure when I ovulated since i have irregular periods.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Jul 2017 - 11:43

      Hello, I would advise that you do a pregnancy test. If it is positive I would suggest that you see your GP to discuss your symptoms as cramps all day long with nausea and shoulder pain should be investigated as soon as possible. If the pregnancy test is positive and you are not able to see your GP, most hospitals have an early pregnancy unit who will see you. Hope this helps . Best wishes

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 - 17:18

      hi im currently 14 weeks pregnant this is my first pregnacy im always having a slight but pressure in my pelvic area is this normal i got antibiotics for a uti on friday just worried thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Jul 2017 - 11:32

      This may be linked to the UTI but may also be that you need to work on your pelvic floor muscles. When you are pregnant, the hormones produced soften the ligaments and put pressure on your pelvic muscles. We have a link which describes how to do the exercises but remember that it takes time to feel the benefits. https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/exercise-pregnancy/pelvic-floor-exercises

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 - 15:53

      Hi,
      I'm 6 weeks pregnant with my first child. I had mild period pains when I first found out and have very tender breasta which I understand is normal, but yesterday I returned to the gym (doctor said it was fine), I didn't push myself and do anything like what I would normally do and felt fine whilst I was there but in the night I woke up with bad tummy ache (wouldn't say cramping), after rubbing my tummy for a little while it went away but I was sweating loads and I'm wondering if this is something to worry about it a sign something bad has happened?
      My friend had a still born last year followed by a miscarriage at 7weeks as her baby hadn't grown since 4 weeks and I constantly have this in the back of my head and it makes me worry

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Jul 2017 - 11:23

      Hi, I hope you are feeling better this morning. There may be several reasons for the sore tummy in the night but it is reassuring that the pain resolved fairly quickly. Have you had any bleeding? If not then I would suggest that you take it easy for a few weeks and see your GP if you have further episodes of pain and sweating. Look after yourself and best wishes x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Jul 2017 - 09:11

      Im 4weeks pregnant n i hv sum stomach crams n i feel sum pains when im urinating n also urine sum bloody urine n also feel nausea n vomiting so what does it mean?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Jul 2017 - 13:15

      Hello, thank you for your comment. Mild cramping can be normal in early pregnancy as all the ligaments are stretching, however, as you are having pain when urinating and you have blood in your urine then this could be signs of a urine infection. It is advisable that you see your GP who can test your urine and prescribe you antibiotics if this is needed. It is important that you drink plenty of water, this can help with the pain when you pass urine but please contact you GP as soon as you can. If these pains increase or you have any vaginal bleeding then you need to seek urgent medical advice. Hope this helps, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Mrs noble (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 - 02:14

      My daughter is 11weeks pregnant just woke with diahrroa feeling faint and very hot and feeling sick is this a bug ?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 26 Jul 2017 - 09:06

      Hi Mrs Noble. It doesn't sound like anything to worry about - yes it probably is a bug. Make sure that for the next 48 hours, she drinks plenty of water, eats when she feels able to and monitors her temperature. If it goes above 37.4, she can have x2 tablets, or 1g of paracetamol orally to reduce her temperature. A cool shower or cool flannel will also help to cool her down. It is likely that the bug will flush out of her system in 1-3 days.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Jul 2017 - 06:12

      I m six weeks pregnant n i have a stomach pain and vomiting plz tell me wht ti do...

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Jul 2017 - 14:05

      Hi, Please, if your stomach cramps are severe, seek medical advice from your GP or from the early pregnancy unit at your local hospital. Mild pains at 6 weeks are quite common and usually settle down but if it is severe you should be checked out. Best wishes

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