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.
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:
- pain in the tip of your shoulder
- brown discharge
- feeling faint or dizzy
- discomfort when pooing or weeing.
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:
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)
- uncomfortable more than painful.
Contractions/cramps after 37-40 weeks could be a sign of the early stages of labour. This is called latent phase of labour.
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Having more vaginal discharge during pregnancy is common, but speak to your midwife or doctor if you are unsure about any increase or change in your vaginal discharge.
Swelling or puffiness of your hands and feet is common in late pregnancy.
Some itching around the stomach is normal as your skin is stretching around your growing baby.
A growing bump is the sign of a growing baby. Your midwife should start measuring your baby from 24 weeks to make sure they are growing well.
If you feel your midwife isn’t listening to you, you can ask to see another member of the team.
If you feel that something is wrong, or if you are worried about the baby, call your midwife or doctor to talk about it.
If you have a painful or burning sensation when you wee (urinate), you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Vision problems can be caused by different issues in pregnancy. If you have vision problems always tell your midwife or hospital straight away.
Mild headaches can be caused by hormones and are common in pregnancy.
If your temperature is above 37.5 degrees Celsius, even with no other flu or cold symptoms, call your doctor or hospital maternity unit.
Stomach bugs are common in pregnancy. It is very unlikely that your baby will be harmed from a bug lasting less than 48 hours.
Fetal movements can be anything from a flutter, kick, swish or roll. Feeling your baby move is a sign that they are well.
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)Hide details
ℹLast reviewed on September 28th, 2018. Next review date September 28th, 2021.