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 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

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 24 Jun 2017 - 11:15

      Hi, I just recently took a test and got a very faint positive result. I've been booked in to see my midwife 6th July. The question I have is if it's normal to still feel like my period is going to come? The cramps I'm having aren't all that painful or anything, I just keep thinking my period is coming even though it's five days late with a positive test, however faint. It sounds ridiculous but I keep thinking it's a false positive and I've just tricked my body into a very late period.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 28 Jun 2017 - 14:39

      Hi, I also felt the cramps and gas that i usually feel when am about to have my period, but it never came. I took the test the day i was supposed to have my period and i got a positive. For almost the whole of 1st month of my pregnancy i had the same feeling but now its completely normal. I actually asked my sister then and she told me its normal, so i guess there is nothing to worry about

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Jun 2017 - 14:37

      Hi, experiencing cramping in early pregnancy can be very normal as all the ligaments are stretching and the uterus is growing. It is reassuring that this has settled down and that you have no pain at all. If you have any more abdominal pain or bleeding then we would advice that you seek medical advice. We wish you the very best in your pregnancy. Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2017 - 04:33

      i miss my period 1 week, but i hv sharp stomach pain tis one week..i not sure im pregnant or not.. i never have like tis pain b4

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Jun 2017 - 11:32

      Hi, if you have missed your period then you should do a pregnancy test to see if you are actually pregnant. If you are pregnant then it is advisable that you see a doctor as any severe abdominal pain in pregnancy needs to be assessed. If you aren't pregnant, then again if this pain is severe then you need to be seen by a doctor. Stomach pains can be caused by a number of things like constipation, trapped wind or a stomach bug that can cause loose stools and/or vomiting. If you are unsure of what to do and you are still in pain then please go and see your GP as they will be able to treat you if needed. Take Care Tommy's Midwives x

    • By striveness (not verified) on 4 Jul 2017 - 14:58

      stomach pain is too high each and every night

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Jul 2017 - 11:43

      Thank you for your comment
      If you are having regular or severe stomach pains, it is important to contact your maternity unit for urgent advice-they make ask you to come to the unit for assessment and tests to find out the cause of the pain and give treatment. I have attached a link with more information about stomach pain in pregnancy-
      https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/symptom-checker/i-have-pain-my-stomach-area
      Please contact us again for more advice or call our PregnancyLine on 0800 0147 800 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
      I hope this helps
      Take care
      Tommy's Midwife

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 - 08:17

      Um 5weeks pregnant nd I can't sleep feeling pains in my stomach nd when I go to bathroom I c some spotting of blood nd 2moro I have an appointment with my doctor so um so stressed as last yr I had miscarriage so I can't really loose dis one 2, I really need dis baby plz help wat should I do to stop bleeding nd dis cramps.... #Cindy

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Jun 2017 - 09:57

      Hi Cindy
      At 5 weeks pregnant there can be many reasons for spotting/bleeding. Many women who do have bleeding at this stage go on to have normal pregnancies and a healthy outcome and the spotting is linked to implantation. However, I would suggest that you arrange to see your GP or midwife who may refer you to an Early pregnancy unit (EPU) for assessment and blood tests. You can read about the many reasons for bleeding before 12 weeks on this link https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/symptom-checker/i-am-bleeding-pregnancy . I hope this helps and good luck x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 17 Jun 2017 - 00:58

      I understand your worry. Try your best to stay relaxed for you and your baby. Every pregnancy is different and some bleeding is common. With any symptom you're curious about, stay in contact with your OB. Keep moving forward with your best prenatal care and take it easy on your body as it may be a little sensitive considering your history. Hopefully your job isn't taking a large toll on you, but nonetheless always remember that your body is designed to keep the baby healthy even when you don't feel like you are. Stay strong and positive. I hope your appointment went well.

    • By Lindsay Hunstad (not verified) on 27 May 2017 - 23:19

      Hi, I'm 13 weeks with #3 and I've been having pain in my lower rib cage and down to my abdomen. My GP checked everything as I was in pretty intense pain and baby is healthy and active and cervix length is great so no signs of preterm labor that would be the cause of my pain. I thought it might be indigestion but the pain isn't in my chest/throats like the symptoms are supposed to be. Also, my back muscles keep getting tighter and tighter. Any suggestions? The pain has been intense enough to keep me from sleeping and I'd really like it to stop. Thank you!

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 May 2017 - 09:25

      Hi Lindsay.
      I am really sorry to hear that you have been suffering with this pain. Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy should be urgently reviewed. It would be a good idea if you have not already done so, to be seen in your local early pregnancy assessment unit- your GP can refer you or you can call them to find out if you can self refer too.
      If the pain is very severe,then i would urge you to go to a&e as a matter of urgency. please take good care of yourself.

    • By Renee (not verified) on 16 May 2017 - 18:15

      Hi.. I am 5 weeks and 6 days. And experiencing upper abdominal pain. It's not constant and feels like a bad period pain.
      I had a miscarriage a year ago and am a little concerned. Gp says it's normal pain. The pain is right in the middle of my rib cage if that makes sense.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 May 2017 - 09:12

      Hi Renee.
      Any abdominal pain should be investigated during pregnancy, although upper abdominal pain with a 5+6 week pregnancy doesn't sound pregnancy related. If the pain continues and you cannot get another GP appointment, then you could go to your a&e minors walk in centre to be checked over there. I wonder if you are experiencing early reflux or a gastrointestinal problem being that the pain is around your rib cage.
      Please take good care of yourself

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 May 2017 - 12:23

      Hi iam three weeks pregnent and ever since i took a pregnency test three weeks ago iam feeling abnomal pain almost every night accompanied by stomach acidic pain like..iam scared..should i be wooried???

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 May 2017 - 09:16

      Hi there.
      Abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy should be reviewed. It is possible that you are experiencing implantation bleed pain which can occur at 2-3 weeks gestation. But if you are concerned that this is ongoing, then please make an urgent GP appointment. They will then assess you and decide if you might need to be referred to your local early pregnancy assessment unit.
      Please take good care of yourself

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2017 - 21:30

      I am 7weeks pregnancy with severe abdominal pains not sure if this is normal , the GP said there is nothing to worry about since am not bleeding but the pains is becoming unbearable please what can I do .

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 May 2017 - 10:42

      Hi, cramping in early pregnancy can be very normal and can be all the ligaments stretching as the pregnancy grows. However, if the pains that you are experiencing are severe then it would be advisable that you are seen, either by the GP or if you feel this pain is getting worse and need to be seen urgently or if you have any bleeding then you can go to your local A and E department. It sounds like if they are unbearable pains then you need to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Take care x

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2017 - 21:23

      Hi, I am 7 weeks pregnant with my 3rd and I have been experiencing severe abdominal pains which makes me visit the toilet often. I never experience this on my previous pregnncy and am very scared, spoke with my GP about it and she said there is nothing to worry about since there is no bleeding but the pains is becoming worst everyday what can I do please help.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 May 2017 - 10:21

      Hi, we hope that you are feeling a little better. Even though abdominal cramping can be normal in early pregnancy, we do advice that if this does become worse then you should seek medical advice. It could be that you may have a bit of a stomach bug if your are going to the toilet often but just to be safe I would still go and see your GP again if this pain is still getting worse or you have any bleeding. I hope this has helped, take care x

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 May 2017 - 16:15

      Hi,
      without a little more detail I am not sure whether this is something to be concerned about or not.

      Pregnancy discharge can increase but as long as it not offensive smelling, green, bloody or itchy it is probably normal for pregnancy.

      You mention stomach pain. In early pregnancy your uterus is growing and women do experience mild aches and pains. Sharp twinges and pulling or pinching sensations when you move are most likely to be ligament pain (in the pelvic or groin area and either side of belly button). Hormonal changes in pregnancy cause the ligaments which support your organs and growing uterus to soften and stretch - this allows your womb to grow and other organs to move - but can cause aches and sharp twinges. Usually change of position, rest and a warm bath or applying a heat pad will help to ease this discomfort. Paracetamol is also safe to take in pregnancy to ease pain (no more than 8 tablets in 24 hours). The discomfort should only be mild and occasional. Some women also experience mild cramping pains in pregnancy - this is due to increased congestion of blood in the pelvic region and the release of hormones called prostaglandins - which usually cause period pain during menstruation. Again this pain should only be mild and occasional - and improve with rest and heat. However, if you feel the pain is severe for you, or you have strong regular pain, burning when you pass urine or bleeding you need to see your GP or be referred to your nearest Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit.
      I hope this helps
      Anna - Tommy's Midwife

    • By Oluwakemi (not verified) on 8 May 2017 - 21:08

      I am 14 weeks pregnant and feeling dis d discharge started dis morning

    • By anonymous (not verified) on 23 Apr 2017 - 06:18

      hi there I'm also feeling sharp pains everyday.and they are very painful. still in the early weeks BT its hard even if I bend.what should I do

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Apr 2017 - 09:58

      Hi - congratulations on your pregnancy!
      Some sharp intermittent pain is not uncommon in early pregnancy - the pains maybe caused by ligaments stretching to accommodate your pregnancy. however if the pain is ongoing and painful, as well as causing you discomfort please visit your GP who can advise and refer if necessary.
      Best of luck

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