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 Midwife @Tommys on 3 Nov 2016 - 16:28

      Hi
      Vaginal bleeding or blood stained discharge does not always mean there is a problem, but it can be a warning sign of a miscarriage or of other complications in early pregnancy. Speak to your GP or midwife who may decide to do some tests or a vaginal scan to check for the reasons for the bleeding.
      Or you could call our midwives on 0800 0147 800 for more advice.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 2 Nov 2016 - 10:40

      I was supposed to see my period on the 16th of October but it didn't come so I decided to take pregnancy test and it was positive. Just this morning I had sex with my partner and while cleaning up I saw a brownish kind of stain from my private part what could cause it & is my baby safe

    • By Eesha (not verified) on 24 Oct 2016 - 19:15

      My stomach will be paining me every night nd last 2 week i went to hospital nd my doctor tells me that am pregenen but pls i dont know whats this stomach pain for

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Oct 2016 - 10:18

      It is difficult to tell what gestation you are from your post, but I am presuming you are in your first trimester. Intermittent aches and pains in the stomach region can occur during the first trimester. These pains in the first trimester are usually linked to the normal physical changes your body is going through during pregnancy. Some women can also get cramps with a little bleeding when the embryo implants itself into the wall of the womb. However if these pains are associated with spotting or vaginal bleeding, or if the pains become more regular and persistent and you are concerned , you should always seek medical advice.

    • By Concerned (not verified) on 17 Oct 2016 - 20:12

      Hi...I found out I was pregnant early September my breasts were heavy and painful. Yesterday morning i noticed some bleeding as if it's my 1st day of periods with painful cramps like period pains then i noticed the bleeding has stopped in the evening but the pains still there. The was nothing in the morning today, then the bleeding came back again it's not heavy..I went to visit a doctor he did an ultrasound he told me there's nothing wrong the pregnancy is still there and I'm 5 weeks I don't have to worry everything is fine. I am so worried the pains and bleeding are still there. What could be wrong.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Oct 2016 - 10:24

      In the first trimester, a little spotting or bleeding is actually more common than you think and it is often harmless. The light spotting you describe can happen at about the same time that your period would have been due, and may last for a day or two. It is thought that it is your hormones triggering this reaction. It may also be a cervical erosion or polyp which can bleed if irritated by sexual intercourse for example.However if the bleeding persists along with the pain you are experiencing , you should seek medical advice again just for reassurance. Bleeding in pregnancy should never be ignored completely, especially when associated with pain.




    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 18 Oct 2016 - 18:34

      I have been bleeding very heavy all day with blood clots and the pain is so unbearable it's like very painful period cramps. I am so worried, could it mean it's a miscarriage?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 19 Oct 2016 - 11:13

      Hello,
      I hope you have sought medical help since you posted this message. Heavy bleeding with blood clots and unbearable pain makes me concerned that you are having a miscarriage.
      Please get in contact with us on 0800 0147 800 if you need to talk.
      Thinking about you Tommy's Midwives

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 19 Oct 2016 - 10:54

      Hi, I'm sorry to hear that you are experiencing pain and bleeding again after your early scan with the doctor. It is reassuring to know that the baby is developing in the uterus and the bleeding is not heavy. Light spotting can be common in early pregnancy and doesn't necessarily indicate a problem. It can be due to breakthrough bleeding (when a woman would usually have her period, implantation, hormonal changes, cervical erosion (bleeding from the neck of the womb) and is sometimes the result of an infection.
      Mild period-type cramping can also occur in early pregnancy, prostaglandins are released ( which are responsible for period pain).I t can also occur due to more blood supply to the pelvic area and trapped wind can also be responsible.
      We would hope that the bleeding will turn brown (indicating old blood) and that your symptoms should settle over the next few days. A heat pad, warm bath or paracetamol may help.
      Have you got a follow up appointment with your doctor?
      If your bleeding increases (bright red fresh bleeding) or the abdominal pain gets worse you need to see your GP or go to your local Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. Out of hours this would be A&E.
      Please do get in touch on the PregnancyLine if you need to talk to us at this anxious time.
      We hope that the pain and bleeding settles.
      Tommy's Midwives 0800 0147 800

    • By Amy Doyle (not verified) on 13 Oct 2016 - 15:57

      Hi there, Iam just off 8 weeks currently on a trip to Thailand, Iam getting a lot of pains in my stomach no bleeding last night cramps as if I really needed the toilet just for a few minutes but all day it feels like I have a funny tummy also a ten minute period when my back felt as if it wAs breaking at the bottom. What should I do? Worried as I have a previous miscarriage behind me but I was not this far along. Thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Oct 2016 - 16:02

      Hi there Amy, I would suggest that you find an English speaking doctor in a hospital who will see tourists under their insurance policy and be reviewed as soon as possible. Since you have previously suffered a miscarriage, are experiencing severe abdominal pain and have an upset stomach, it would be advisable for you to seek medical attention as you are 8 weeks pregnant. Look after yourself!

    • By Annoymous (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 - 15:15

      I want to know if u took preg test an u check later the results an its positive is there smthng wrong

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Sep 2016 - 15:20

      It is a little unclear what you are asking. Please would you call us on 0800 0147800 or contact us via email on [email protected] so we can better understand the information you require.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Sep 2016 - 15:40

      It is a difficult time when you are trying to conceive, but you have to ensure you are well too. The low abdominal pain you are getting may indicate that you have a have a urinary tract infection & you should ensure you seek medical advice via your GP for diagnosis and treatment. Your period is due on 14th September , so the symptoms you describe may be your period coming early. Otherwise. if you miss this period then it would we advisable to get a pregnancy test to assess whether you may be pregnant ! Good luck!

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Sep 2016 - 15:35

      It is a difficult time when you are trying to conceive, but you have to ensure you are well too. The low abdominal pain you are getting may indicate that you have a have a urinary tract infection & you should ensure you seek medical advice via your GP for diagnosis and treatment. Your period is due on 14th September , so the symptoms you describe may be your period coming early. Otherwise. if you miss this period then it would we advisable to get a pregnancy test to assess whether you may be pregnant ! Good luck!

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 Sep 2016 - 15:22

      hi, l am a first time mom and l have stomach pains almost every day but not too painful and I also feel uncomfortable in my lower part abdominal, when I go to the toilet to pee l do a little sometimes l don't do it the whole day and l go for my periods on the 14th September and l enjoy sex with my hubby without protection every day. l am trying to conceive for five months .am I pregnant please help me it's my wish

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Sep 2016 - 15:26

      You are understandably anxious so you need to seek urgent medical help so you can be assessed correctly as you may be miscarrying. Also please feel free to contact one of our Midwives to discuss this further on the Tommy's Pregnancy Helpline on 0800 0147 800. A Midwife is available on the phone lines from 9am till 5pm every weekday.

    • By Lindiwe (not verified) on 1 Sep 2016 - 12:34

      I have this pain on my abdominal n I was bleeding this morning but it was not a heavy bleeding and now i am having spot bleeding but I still got this pain. I had sex with my men yesterday and I saw later be for I go to bed but it was not that bad, my problem is this pain I feel like something is moving on my abdominal, how can I prevent that or pain

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Sep 2016 - 15:44

      From your question I am unsure how many weeks pregnant you are however I would advise you to be reviewed at the hospital, any bleeding and on going pain should be investigated to make sure everything is ok. If you are in early pregnancy then see your GP today or call your local early pregnancy unit, if you cannot get an appointment then go to A+E. If you are in later pregnancy, after about 20 weeks then ring your maternity unit and be seen today. If you need further advice and support then please call us on 0800 0147 800 or email [email protected] however if you have had bleeding and pain then you need to be seen today.

    • By Bianca (not verified) on 29 Aug 2016 - 13:48

      Help

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Aug 2016 - 11:10

      I would suggest that you need to go in to your nearest labour ward triage to be reviewed as soon as possible if you haven't already done so. Abdominal pains need to be investigated at any gestation of pregnancy. Lower back ache could also be a sign of a urinary tract infection which may require fast antibiotic treatment. Take care of yourself!

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 21 Aug 2016 - 05:56

      I am 22 weeks pregnant and since Friday I have had uncomfortable pains really low down in my pelvis. In line with with my pubic hair line both left and right hand side. I have tried resting and it even aches in bed. I have also felt waves of sickness ( not actual need to be sick) and my whole abdomen at times feels tender like it would after recovering from a stomach bug. I also have lower back ache which feels in line with dull period pain. Any ideas. Its now a Sunday at 5 am and getting increasingly worried because its not easing.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 10 Aug 2016 - 15:38

      It is unclear how many weeks gestation you are, however you seem understandably anxious regarding the bleeding and pain so you need to seek medical help so you can be assessed. Please feel free to contact one of our Midwives to discuss this further on the Tommy's Pregnancy Helpline on 0800 0147 800. A Midwife is here from 9am till 5pm , Monday to Friday and would be happy to help.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 Aug 2016 - 11:54

      I got a chramps on my stomach an it moving to other hand,an I got a discharge of black blood,an I got a miscarriage before an I was bleeding red blood so this pains of nw is not the same an those blood are not lyk before so I need a help for that course my heart use to beat fast

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 17:07

      Aches & discomfort in the first trimester are fairly usual but if the discomfort becomes painful, or if you develop spotting or bleeding you should seek medical advice immediately. If the pain is still there or if you are still concerned when you see your GP on Tuesday, he/she can send you for an early scan to reassure you

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 16:54

      Abdominal discomfort in pregnancy is quite a regular complaint as the uterus expands in pregnancy. However as you don't state your gestation it is difficult to fully establish why you are uncomfortable so you should seek advice from your Midwife as the vaginal discharge may indicate an infection. However vaginal discharge does increase in pregnancy so don't be too concerned, but best to get it checked out anyhow. If you need further information please contact our Tommy's Pregnancy Line on 0800 0147 800 where a Midwife will be happy to discuss your concerns from Monday to Friday between 9am & 5pm.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 16:40

      This discomfort is completely normal in the first trimester as the uterus is growing but has not yet risen out of your pelvis. This discomfort & pressure persists for a few more weeks unfortunately as the uterus does not rise out of the pelvis till around 12 weeks. You may also find that you have to pass urine quite regularly as little one is pressing on your bladder at this time! However if you experience more severe pain or bleeding, you should seek medical advice. Please contact our Midwives on Tommy's Pregnancy Line on 0800 01417 800 if you need a chat about any concerns. A Midwife is here from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 16:20

      It sounds like you had a regular period, however if you are concerned, some pregnancy tests can give a result seven days after potentially conceiving as it detects the level of HCG (the pregnancy hormone) in the urine at this time which is only present once you have conceived. However the earlier the test is undertaken the less reliable it is, so it may be worthwhile waiting till your next period is due before testing.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 12:25

      You are correct that the stomach is part of the digestive system, however but many individuals refer to the abdominal area as the stomach, not the uterus when they are pregnant, so we sometimes adapt accordingly. If a woman is not pregnant & she is c/o abdominal pain or pain in the stomach area she should see medical advice

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 12:04

      It is difficult to give you advice with the information you have given. As you are not pregnant and have missed 5 periods, you should seek medical advice from your GP regarding this

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Aug 2016 - 23:39

      my period are late 5month but im not pregnet how did i knw whats a problem?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Aug 2016 - 19:51

      Babies are not in your stomach. 'Lower stomach'? You mean abdomen. The stomach is part of the digestive system and not a reproductive organ. You cannot get pregnant 'that way'.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 - 10:29

      Hy I had unprotected sex on thursaDy n got om my periods on sunday until tuesday n my blood was light o my last day was brownish could I be pregnant pls help am stessed

    • By [email protected]'s on 19 Jul 2016 - 09:46

      Hi,
      If your pain is a light period-like pain at the beginning pf pregnancy then it is likely to be fine. If you have any other kind of stomach pain or cramps, call your midwife or hospital. If you would like to talk about this to one of our midwives please call 0800 0147 800, Mon - Fri, 9-5.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Jul 2016 - 03:19

      I have pains under my abdomen , its a first time i experience this course on my first born I didn't see all those things

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 - 13:28

      ive got pains in ma stomach nd a vaginal discharge nd ma stomach is so down

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2016 - 18:36

      Hi Tommy I experience instant cramps dat last few minutes and stop da doctors failed to see da cause for pains bt they say da embryo is in its right position what could be da cause

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2016 - 09:54

      Hi, this is my first and I'm 4 and a half weeks. I have a sort of dull ache in my lower left side, it's constant but not painful and seems to go up around my hip and slightly to my side, not really in to my back. I'm hoping this is normal stretching and trying not to worry, but as this is my first and I don't know what to expect, I'm petrified it's ectopic. I'm not due to see my GP until Tuesday. No spotting or anything. Any advice would be gratefully received. Thanks.

    • By Joy (not verified) on 26 Aug 2019 - 17:33

      Hi what ended up happening?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Jun 2016 - 17:30

      Hi I am about ten weeks pregnant and I am getting stabbing pain nar my bellybutton

    • By [email protected]'s on 1 Jun 2016 - 12:39

      Hi,
      Would you like to call our midwives on 0800 0147 800 to talk about this? They are on the line 9-5 Mon to Friday.
      Hope this helps,
      Tommy's

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Jun 2016 - 11:15

      Hi Tommy's I am a first time mom,36 weeks pregnant and I am having stomach cramps, with no discharge. Just that I have regular intervals to the toilet. IS this normal

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 30 May 2016 - 17:01

      am 37 weeks pregnant and am waiting for the big day to come. hoping for the best

    • By [email protected]'s on 13 May 2016 - 10:01

      Hi,
      Would you like to call our midwives on 0800 0147 800 to talk about this? They are on the line 9-5 Mon to Friday.
      Hope this helps,
      Tommy's

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2016 - 00:57

      yes it is very useful. just a quick one. i have painful stomach not severe only comes when i walk long distance or do washing. am 7 weeks now. no bkeeding, no pain when passing urine...just that at times i feel the pressure released on the lower abdomen when passing urine. what could it be?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 May 2016 - 21:30

      I like what you are doing

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