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 livie (not verified) on 18 Apr 2017 - 13:37

      Hi I don't know how many weeks pregnant I am cause I used I did a strip test,I'm scared and I have been having this sharp pain on either sides of my tummy and sharp back pain.please help me

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Apr 2017 - 14:16

      Congratulations on your pregnancy. I'm assuming you are still in the early stages of pregnancy - it isn't uncommon to experience some mild period like pain or occasional sharp pain where the ligaments are stretching to accommodate your pregnancy. However it is best to have any abdominal pain checked out by your doctor or midwife who can assess and advise on early pregnancy care too.
      If you are worried please contact your GP for a check up.

    • By (not verified) on 4 Apr 2017 - 09:35

      Hi, I'm 15 weeks gone n I'm having a lower abdominal swelling close to my pubic hair. In the first trimester, I had a troubled stomach ( I mean pain all over my stomach due to heat cos I've been having stomach heat since childhood) and after going for scan/checkup nothing was found wrong with me now that it has subsided, this early morning swelling of the lower abdomen; at times, it's a bit painful when I touch it but mostly I'm just uncomfortable with it. Pls help out. Thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 4 Apr 2017 - 12:12

      Hi-Thank you for your comment.
      It's difficult to say what could be causing the swelling, pain and discomfort that you describe. It could be that as the baby grows the pregnancy is starting to show. However given that you are also experiencing some pain and have had stomach problems earlier in the pregnancy, I would advise you to seek further advice and assessment from your GP if the pain is mild. If it becomes more severe, or there are other symptoms such as bleeding or fever for example, then to contact your Early pregnancy unit or A&E urgently.
      I have attached links to more information about stomach pain in pregnancy
      https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/symptom-checker/i-have-pain-my-stomach-area
      http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/common-pregnancy-problems.aspx
      Hope this helps
      Please contact us on Tommy's PregnancyLine 0800 01470 800
      for further advice
      Take care

    • By Angel (not verified) on 2 Apr 2017 - 03:42

      Hi
      Am just 3 weeks pregnant but I have been having pains in the stomach every night .

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 3 Apr 2017 - 09:52

      Hi Angel. Abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be investigated urgently. It might be a sensible idea to go to your local early pregnancy assessment to be reviewed. They may offer you blood tests as well as a scan to look at how and where the pregnancy is growing. Please go to your GP, walk in centre or a&e minors if the pains are unbearable for urgent treatment. Please take good care of yourself!

    • By Beaarceo (not verified) on 24 Mar 2017 - 15:30

      So here it goes, whenever I take up my prenatal vitamins I always feel stomach pain and it really bothers me. Is this normal? What could be the reason for this? Though my ob says my baby is healthy, that my baby is development is fine but still this is a bit worrisome for me as first time mom and im so dissapointed since I cant get good answers from my ob whenever I raise this topic. Please help me

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Mar 2017 - 15:38

      Hi Beaarceo.
      So, we are based in the U.K, so I can only give advice that we would suggest over here. It should still be applicable to you though in the United States.
      Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy should be investigated by your obstetric doctor or midwife at your local hospital triage/day assessment unit urgently. It may be that your stomach pains happen to coincide with you taking your pregnancy vitamins as it unlikely that these are causing the pain. But abdominal pain should not be ignored, especially if they are constant. It could be ligament stretching depending on the gestation of your pregnancy when you have growth spurt, but it is difficult to know this for sure without being reviewed first.
      Please take care of yourself!

    • By Nelle (not verified) on 19 Mar 2017 - 10:57

      Hiya,

      Am currently pregnant with my 3rd child. My second pregnancy didn't end well as I miscarried at 22 weeks I am petrified I am going to go through that again and I have been feeling a burning sensation pains on either side (normally how I would feel if my period was to start) I am also experiencing a pain at the top of my stomach (by the rib cage) and it feels quite tender do I need to be worried? I am still trying to choose my midwife and I have my official dating scan next week.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Mar 2017 - 09:59

      Hi Nelle
      I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling very well at the moment and to hear about the loss of your baby at 22 weeks in your last pregnancy. It would certainly be sensible to make an emergency appointment at your GP for today. Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be reviewed as soon as possible.It sounds like your GP will then need to refer you the your local early pregnancy assessment unit for early scan and bloods. Please take good care of yourself .

    • By waznah (not verified) on 17 Mar 2017 - 23:10

      Hi am a 33 week pregnent mother and am suffering from stomach ache I consult my doctor and he gave a kind of medicine to insert through veginal but after placing it I feel much pained so my be know the reason for it?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Mar 2017 - 09:23

      Hi Waznah. I would strongly recommend that you take yourself into hospital as soon as possible. Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be reviewed by an obstetric doctor and midwife.
      It is unclear what the pessary's are for, but you certainly need to be reviewed soon in regards to the adbo pain at 33 weeks gestation.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 13 Mar 2017 - 09:12

      Hi,
      I am 33 & had a miscarriage around 2yrs back. from 6 months we are planning for a baby. but it don't happen. so we both had medical checkup. Everything is fine. But i am not getting pregnant. So now in this month i have not got my period. But i am getting stomach pain like usually it will get in my periods. Is this is a sign of pregnant or any problem is there?
      Please help me on this.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Mar 2017 - 10:55

      Hi. Sorry to hear that you had a miscarriage two years ago. Unfortunately it isn't possible to know whether this is a sign of pregnancy. Are you able to get a pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant? Or if you have been trying to conceive for a while it would be a good idea to see your Doctor for advice at this stage. Best wishes

    • By adriana (not verified) on 14 Mar 2017 - 13:19

      Yes,it could be because you are pregnant.I felt period like pains in the first few days.Good luck to you

    • By Angie (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 - 10:09

      This is my 2nd time preg. I had a misscarriage at 19. I'm now 26. N just found out I'm expecting. I'm so nervous n scared. Im happily married. But I have no one to talk to about y I'm nervous n scared. No one understands... Some1 plz help me

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 10 Mar 2017 - 12:21

      Hi,
      I am sorry to hear how anxious and scared you are, pregnancy can bring up feelings like this especially after having a miscarriage before. It is really positive that you are reaching out for support and realising how you are feeling. If you do not feel that you can talk to your husband then you can thinking about speaking with your GP about how you are feeling or with the midwife when you are booked with one? They can support you through your pregnancy journey. Please know that we are here also for you, a team of midwives are available Monday to Friday 9-5pm to support you and talk with you about how you are feeling, you can either email us [email protected] or call 0800 0147 800. There is help and support out there, please do not feel alone through this time. Take care, Tommy's midwives.

    • By sunita danuwar (not verified) on 25 Feb 2017 - 09:15

      I have started yoga frm yesterday ...today I feel painning so please I need advise ......that yoga should be done or notdone ...

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Feb 2017 - 10:13

      Hi Sunita
      Yoga (pregnancy yoga specifically) is perfectly safe to undertake in pregnancy if you have a low risk pregnancy. Please do check with your GP and/or midwife to ensure that you are well and suited to yoga in pregnancy.
      Abdominal pain at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be investigated as soon as possible at your local triage or labour ward if you are over 18 weeks gestation, or your GP/ early pregnancy assessment if you are less than 18 weeks gestation.
      Please take good care of yourself.

    • By hellen john (not verified) on 7 Mar 2017 - 20:02

      I want to know if I feel stomach pains during period

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Mar 2017 - 15:02

      Hi I'm not quite sure what you're asking. If you are pregnant you might experience period like pain in the first trimester as your baby develops and your womb and ligaments stretch to accommodate, baby, placenta and fluid. This can be quite worrying but it is very common.
      Please get back in contact if this isn't what you were asking!
      Best wishes
      Tommy's Midwives

    • By Beth (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 - 20:08

      Now, when doing the worst thing, which is googling why you have something, I came upon this promising article... and i have been getting a stitch like pain/sensation in either side of my tum... however i have been on the pill for a year... can light be shed on this, i welcome it...

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Feb 2017 - 13:29

      Dear Beth,

      If you have been having this stitch like sensation on either side of your tum but are currently on the pill and not pregnant I would suggest making an appointment with your GP as this information is related to pregnancy.

      Best wishes
      Tommy's Midwives

    • By Mav (not verified) on 11 Feb 2017 - 13:32

      Hi I'm 23 weeks + 3 pregnant I'm still experiencing vomting I have lower abdominal pain with server back pain . I feel dizzy n extremely tired iv not gained much weight n u can hardly tell I'm pregnant. The pain is pushing down in your my abdominal n right on my pelvic bone .. what should I do ?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Feb 2017 - 09:20

      Hi Mav. Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy needs urgent review. In addition, feeling dizzy, and very tired could suggest that your iron levels are very low and could require some kind of treatment. It would be best, if you haven't already done so, to take yourself to your local labour ward as a matter of urgency with your pregnancy notes to be reviewed by a midwife and obstetric doctor. Please take good care of yourself!

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 8 Feb 2017 - 18:24

      This is my third pregnancy after a first late miscarriage at 18 weeks and a second at 8 weeks. I'm currently 15 weeks pregnant and quite anxious due to the sudden drop in symptoms since the second trimester began. I need constant reassurance frm my doc via ultrasounds that baby is ok since i dont feel any flutters or movements. In my last check i noticed the placenta was quite huge and right infront of the baby. I researched and found out abt anterior placentas. Would you be so kind to write a blog or article on anterior placentas and how a bereaved mother like myself needs to cope with the knowledge that that the kicks might be felt much later on. As if the patience requirement and sudden onset of comfort wasn't difficult enough. I want to be uncomfortable. It's my only reassurance that pregnancy is still on.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Feb 2017 - 11:07

      Hi. I am sorry to hear that you have had 2 miscarriages and understand that you must be anxious. An anterior placenta means that your placenta is positioned on the front wall of your uterus. This is entirely normal and should not cause problems for you or your baby.
      However an anterior placenta can make the baby’s movements harder to feel in the second trimester as they are “cushioned”. It is therefore possible that someone with a placenta in this position will feel first movements later than most and a first time mother may not feel movements until after 22 weeks. I understand that this can be an anxious time but hopefully you will be reassured when you have your anomaly scan at 20-22 weeks. Anybody who has not felt their first movements by 24 weeks should contact their midwife, regardless of where their placenta is positioned. Although feeling movement can be more difficult for anterior placenta mums, the same advice for establishing what is normal for your baby individually applies; your baby should still develop regularity with their movement.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Feb 2017 - 03:22

      Hi. Sometimes if I walk at pace (my normal pace is about 3-4 mph) for more than 5 minutes, I experience pain like a pulled muscle in the right side of my lower abdomen. It stops when I stop or slow down. What is this?
      (Walking is about the only exercise I get at the moment - I was a gym bunny pre-pregnancy). Thanks.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Feb 2017 - 09:59

      Hi there.
      Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy should ideally be investigated at your local triage/day assessment unit. It is likely that it could be ligaments stretching as they pregnancy grows, but it is always best to get abdo pain reviewed by a midwife and obstetric doctor to rule out anything else more serious.
      Take care of yourself.

    • By Tee (not verified) on 4 Feb 2017 - 08:05

      Gud morning I'm 14 weeks pregnant and I just can't sleep.I feel very uncomfortable with every way I try to sleep and constant urge to poo.. Because of my frequent need to poo I stopped taking my drugs and it reduced ,but I started again and I always want to poo. I need advice especially on the sleeping part ,I just can't sleep ,so uncomfortable ..

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Feb 2017 - 09:55

      Hi Tee.
      Sadly it is not uncommon for pregnant women to struggle with sleep. You could consider buying or making a pregnancy pillow to see if this helps you to adopt some more comfortable sleeping positions.
      What i would suggest though, is that you never stop taking medication suddenly without consulting your doctor - depending what it is, sometimes it can be dangerous to stop something suddenly rather than weaning yourself off them. Please visit your GP to discuss this.
      Constipation can also be related both to pregnancy and medication. Visit your local pharmacy where they can sell you some stool softener to help ease your symptoms. There are also many foods that can help with constipation like eg figs, prunes, dates, apricots and drinking plenty of water so that you are well hydrated will help to!.

    • By Laura coppin (not verified) on 23 Jan 2017 - 18:08

      I was admitted to hospital with bleeding and lower tummy pain bleeding stopped all toghter and cervix looked fine I was keep in and put on co codamol and sent home to deal with the pain as they couldn't find what was wrong I suffering badly sat here most the day crying and in lots of pain but it is the same pain as I was in while up the hospital should I go back or just carrying on trying my best I also suffer Hyperemesis so the sickness really isn't helping

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Jan 2017 - 10:16

      I'm sorry to hear you are experiancing pain. If the pain is severe I would advise you need to see your GP or attend the hospital for help and support. If you require advice and support on your pregnancy once you are feeling better or if you wish to discuss in furhter detail please email us on [email protected]

    • By Frances Roberts (not verified) on 8 Jan 2017 - 18:12

      I've been experiencing abdominal and tummy pain for about 5 hours now, along with nausea. It is especially noticeable on left hand side. I have tried resting and having a warm bath. My symptoms haven't improved. I understand that it is likely that this pain is related to ligament movement etc. But I'm still quite worried as most advice appears to suggest that if resting doesn't help to seek medical advice. The only option I would have at moment would be to go to walk in centre or A&E and don't want to waste people's time if it's nothing to worry about. I would be grateful for any advice you could give me. I have not yet been sick today and have no bleeding.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Jan 2017 - 09:41

      Hi Frances
      I would certainly recommend that you take yourself in to be seen if you are still experiencing this abdominal pain and nausea. It is possible that it is in fact ligament pain, but if the pain is severe, then i would recommend either going into your GP and being referred to the local early pregnancy assessment unit or yes, a&e minors. Your health is important and if you do not feel well and believe that something is not right, then it is certainly worth being checked over.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 3 Jan 2017 - 02:39

      hi for the last 3 days ive had lower tummy pain on and of pain/ disconfort of my lady area n back pain also wanting to use the loo more but when i do i dont always go

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Jan 2017 - 15:51

      Hi, You don't say how many weeks pregnant you are but your symptoms suggest that you may have a urinary tract infection. Please see your GP as soon as possible for assessment and treatment. Best wishes

    • By happiness (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 - 06:54

      im always having pains around ma stormach i feel as if am in labour its painful plz help

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Dec 2016 - 09:46

      Hi Happiness.
      Abdominal pains at any gestation of pregnancy needs to be investigated as soon as possible. Please take yourself in to your GP and you may be referred into the hospital depending on what the GP finds. If the pain is very severe, then please don't delay and take yourself into a&e. Please look after yourself.

    • By letty (not verified) on 19 Jan 2017 - 13:53

      same as to me

    • By amber (not verified) on 10 Dec 2016 - 09:04

      Hii
      I did three pregnancy test and they all came back positive, so that mean am pregnant.
      Anyway its my first time been pregnant and for five days every night am feeling belly cramps like I want to use the rest room but I don't ..
      Am very much less because I was wondering if the baby may not be growing it my womb ?? Can you tell me whats going on?
      Anyways i dont think am going to know when you reply to this so can you tell me whats going on can whatsapp me and let me know please +18765621771

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Dec 2016 - 09:09

      Hi Amber. I am afraid that I am unable to whatsapp you on this number as we do not have a whatsapp service. It also looks as if you are seeking advice from outside of the United Kingdom.
      I would suggest that if you have had a positive pregnancy test and are experiencing abdominal pain and cramping, that you visit your GP/doctor as soon as possible. If you have a pregnancy growing in your fallopian tube, it is called an ectopic pregnancy and needs to be identified as soon as possible for your ongoing health. If your pain is very severe, then please take yourself to a&e/emergency department for a review, where you may be scanned and have bloods taken. Please take care of yourself!

    • By Andy (not verified) on 7 Dec 2016 - 21:38

      I am second trimester and one week of pregnant, I am experiencing pains on my lower right of my stomach, is something wrong?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Dec 2016 - 10:54

      Abdominal discomfort in the second trimester often occurs due to the uterine ligaments stretching to accommodate your growing baby and the abdominal pain can feel ''stitch like'', often subsiding with rest. Keep an eye on baby's movements and if the pattern changes or if the pains persist, or if you have any vaginal bleeding, you should get it checked out to reassure you and baby are fine

    • By asthandile (not verified) on 9 Jan 2017 - 14:54

      Sorry guys bt I have problem in my stomach so it's pain and I want to vomit bt I control my self plz tell me what's wrong plz guys I m scared

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Jan 2017 - 15:15

      Hi there. If you are pregnant and experiencing stomach pains and vomiting, at any gestation of pregnancy, you should seek review from a midwife and obstetric doctor at your local hospital as soon as possible. Often, there is no reason for concern, but it is better to be checked over to be sure of this.

    • By Catherine (not verified) on 5 Dec 2016 - 13:54

      I was about 7 weeks 4 days when I started bleeding heavily, I was then rushed to the hospital after 2 day a scan was conducted and the doctor said the baby is fine.
      Now am about 10 weeks still noticing a discharge like an old blood and it's giving me concern.
      Again there's a mass cyst measuring about 67×67, those it pose any threat.
      I really need you to talk to me please.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Dec 2016 - 14:09

      Hi Catherine.
      Sorry to hear about the difficult start you have had in your pregnancy. Passing old brown blood is normal after an episode of fresh red bleeding from the vagina. The body will try to get rid of anything it no longer needs and so old blood can take a few days to fully flow out of the body. If the discharge has a green tinge and/ or an abnormal or unpleasant smell, then i would advise you to visit your early pregnancy assessment unit asap to review you for infection.
      If you have a temperature of 37.6 or over, then i would also advice you to be reviewed for possible infection.
      With regards to the "mass cyst", i presume you are under obstetric led care for your maternity care and they will be able to keep a close eye on you with regular scans etc and more frequent appointments.

    • By tumi (not verified) on 22 Dec 2016 - 12:54

      i have lot of pain and im preg so i need advice

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Dec 2016 - 14:10

      Sorry to hear you are having pain, I am unsure how many weeks' pregnant you are but if you are having a lot of pain then I would advise you to speak to your midwife to be reviewed today as a lot of tummy pain is not normal in pregnancy and should be checked out. If you would like to talk further then please email [email protected]

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