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 fatty (not verified) on 23 Nov 2018 - 18:14

      Hello am three months pregnant and am having upper abdomen pain every day especially at night but no discharge,should I worry about it?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 26 Nov 2018 - 11:14

      You may be having your 12 week scan soon so this may reassure you that all is well, but If you are concerned you should arrange to see your doctor.

    • By Alex (not verified) on 23 Nov 2018 - 04:39

      I am 13 weeks pregnant experiencing severe waves of stomach pain throughout the night it wakes me up and once awake I’m experiencing them every 10 minutes ish I have been prescribed codeine but it isn’t having an effect. I have had bleeding on and off and yesterday had an examination which showed my cervix was closed and no signs of bleeding (bleeding has mildly started again tonight)

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Nov 2018 - 10:47

      Hi Alex,
      So sorry to hear that you are in pain and going through a difficult time at the moment. It is great to hear that you are being seen regular at the hospital and being monitored closely. If we can support you then do be in touch.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Phemmy (not verified) on 22 Nov 2018 - 20:12

      Hi,I'm 5 weeks pregnant,ever since I noticed I was pregnant I've been having this pain in my tummy like I'm in my period,most times I sweat during the day even without working and I'm always feeling tired, should I be worried?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Nov 2018 - 10:14

      Hi Phemmy,
      Some period type aches and cramps can be very normal, as can sweating and flushes in temperature, and feeling tired, due to changes in hormones. If your cramps and aches become painful or you have any bleeding or you feeling unwell then do contact your GP for a review.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Julia (not verified) on 19 Nov 2018 - 21:30

      I have estimated I am 5 weeks pregnant and it wasn’t expected but I am so happy about it.
      However the last few days I have experience abdominal pain, sharp pain lower abdominal on right side. Also some back ache on and off. I have no bleeding or spotting. Obviously I am worried of miscarriage.
      I also have issues with IBS, therefore wondering what effect this will have on my pregnancy. Thanks for your time.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Nov 2018 - 16:44

      Hi Julia, It isn't possible to tell you what is causing your pain and it may be related to the IBS or be unrelated to the pregnancy, however if it doesn't resolve soon, do go and get checked out at your GP who should be able to examine you and refer you to the best place.

    • By Claire (not verified) on 15 Nov 2018 - 19:34

      Hi Im 11 weeks pregnant n have got a pain in my upper stomach down my sides n across the middle of my back twice now it comes on really quickly n takes my breath away should I be worried

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Nov 2018 - 10:37

      Hi Claire,
      It is difficult to tell what could be the cause of this pain. If this is happening regularly then I would suggest you contact your GP or midwife to discuss your symptoms further. In the meantime if you become breathless or feel unwell then go straight to A+E.
      Best wishes, Tommy's midwife

    • By Pauline (not verified) on 14 Nov 2018 - 19:04

      hi. I'm seven weeks pregnant and feel pain at back and lower part esp on the right side. I can't lay on my back nor stomach only on sides. What could possibly be the cause?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Nov 2018 - 13:13

      Hi Pauline, Thank you for your comment.
      At this stage in your pregnancy you can experience round ligament pain where the uterus, muscles and ligaments start to stretch as the pregnancy grows. However, if you feel that this pain is getting worse or you have any bleeding then you should seek medical advice as any abdominal pain in pregnancy should be assessed. Hope this helps, Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Florence (not verified) on 8 Nov 2018 - 17:35

      Hello, pls I'm 5week 6days pregnant and this is my first pregnancy. I've been having stomach pains and little blood spottings occasionally. Should I be worried? I have never been to any doctor since I found out I'm pregnant but I'm taking pregnacare tabs.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Nov 2018 - 15:42

      Hi Florence. Any abdominal pain or bleeding in pregnancy, at any gestation, would ideally need to be reviewed to rule out miscarriage. You do not need both, one or both symptoms would warrant review. Please visit your GP who can refer you to your local Early pregnancy assessment unit - you may be scanned. Please take care. Tommy's Midwife

    • By Ciku (not verified) on 8 Nov 2018 - 00:35

      Hi,i had unprotected sex with my boyfriend last week and am feeling nausea and abdominal pain at time lower stomach or sideways, could it be am pregnant or is because of monthly period which come around this time. Pliz advise

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Nov 2018 - 15:59

      Hi Ciku,
      The only way of knowing if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. If your next period does not come when due, then we would suggest taking a test. Taking a test earlier than this make result in a false negative result. If you think you may be pregnant or if you are trying for a baby, then we would advise you to be taking a daily folic acid supplement if you are not already.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Tee (not verified) on 29 Oct 2018 - 17:28

      Hi I'm 16 weeks pregnant, I've had a smooth pregnancy thus far, no morning sicknesses or anything but today I feel so bloated like I have a lot of gas in my stomach and it's also causing discomfort in my abdominal. I am battling to pass air, Should I worry?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Nov 2018 - 09:55

      Hi Tee,
      Some bloating can be very common during pregnancy, and is often due to constipation, therefore drinking enough water, eating high fibre foods and doing some exercise will help with this. If this continues, or you have any pain or bleeding then do speak with your midwife.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Alex (not verified) on 5 Oct 2018 - 20:47

      I am 10 weeks pregnant today and I started getting these lower abdominal pains and lower back pains out of nowhere today and the pain subsided when I came home and laid down.
      I've had one miscarriage before last year due to my ex husband throwing me into a wall, my main concern right now is I'm afraid that these pains mean I have miscarried are these pains normally for someone who is 10 weeks pregnant

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Oct 2018 - 16:40

      Hi, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. No, lower abdominal pain is not normal in the first trimester but it is also not necessarily a sign that you are miscarrying. It is reassuring that you have not had any bleeding. If it happens again you may be able to be seen in the EPU (Early pregnancy unit). Your hospital website will have details about where to go and the opening times. If in doubt call us here at Tommy's between 9-5pm Monday to Friday. Take care.

    • By Bongiwe (not verified) on 5 Oct 2018 - 17:02

      hy im 35w2days pregnant n iv got a very bad pain in my stomach should I be worried?????

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Oct 2018 - 16:29

      Hi, Please see your doctor about this. Any abdominal pain at 35 weeks must be investigated.

    • By Sophie (not verified) on 4 Oct 2018 - 10:43

      Hello, I am 22 weeks pregnant and am experiencing a dull ache in my abdominal area and lower back. I don’t have any other symptoms so far. Could I just have an upset stomach? Thank you

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Oct 2018 - 16:26

      Hi Sophie, So sorry to take so long to get back to you. I hope that your pain has resolved now but if it hasn't please see your GP to rule out any infection. If you think it is more related to back pain, try to see a physiotherapist or osteopath.

    • By Nandi (not verified) on 3 Sep 2018 - 16:00

      Hy i'm 4 weeks 1 day today and this is my 3rd preg and this time i have stomach cramp and pain all day also abornal pain in my lower but i dont have any bleeding i want to know if it normal or should i go tho see the docter

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 10 Sep 2018 - 16:10

      Hi Nandi
      If your stomach pain isn't resolved it would be sensible to see your GP for assessment and advice. Take care x

    • By Ann (not verified) on 31 Aug 2018 - 02:35

      Am 40weeks pregnant and my EDD was on the 31 of August according to the first hospital I was attending and the current hospital I am visiting also gave me 25,august but its 31 august today and have been having severe pains under.should I be worried because I don't really know which date to stick to.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Aug 2018 - 15:18

      Hi Ann,
      The date that should be used is the EDD given when you had your 12 week dating scan, this is the most accurate time to date a pregnancy. If you are having severe pains then it is important that you ring your maternity unit to let them know and check everything is ok.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Kendra (not verified) on 28 Aug 2018 - 16:56

      I just found out this morning that I was pregnant. But the last 4/5 days I’ve been experiencing severe lower abdominal pain and I’ve been spotting. Yesterday it was heavy bleeding but still not an “actual” period. What could this be??

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Aug 2018 - 16:11

      Hi Kendra
      Any bleeding, especially heavy and with cramping, needs to be investigated. So please go to your GP if you can get an emergency appt for today, or go to A&E minors if you out of hours or you cannot get an urgent appt and you are still in pain and bleeding heavily. Please take good care of yourself
      Tommy's Midwife

    • By Clem (not verified) on 26 Aug 2018 - 19:18

      Hi,
      I am 30 weeks pregnant and have started to feel a stitch-like pain in my lower left abdomen, almost underneath my belly, when I am walking. I have to stop or slow down a lot for it to feel better. Should I be worried or is this a normal “side effect”?
      Many thanks!

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Aug 2018 - 16:08

      Hi Clem
      Whilst i am sure this is nothing to be concerned about, and is likely to be ligament stretching pain as your uterus grows in the third trimester, it is 100% worth being checked over at your local maternity unit on the pregnancy triage/day assessment unit. So please go in with your notes as soon as you can.
      All the best Tommy's Midwife

    • By Ruby (not verified) on 22 Aug 2018 - 08:01

      i was depress this past few days and i can't sleep properly, also i have a brown discharge after a stomach cramps. now i am experiencing a stomach cramps and pack pain almost a day already. i'm so worried that i might lost my baby.what should i do?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 22 Aug 2018 - 11:40

      Hi Ruby
      You don't mention how many weeks pregnant you are. If you are less than 16 weeks, please make an urgent GP appt to be seen and they can refer you to your local early pregnancy assessment unit. If you are over. If you are over 16 weeks, then please go to your maternity unit triage/labour ward for urgent review. Abdominal pain and bleeding at any gestation needs to be reviewed by a doctor/midwife
      Please take good care of yourself .
      Tommy's Midwife

    • By Mel (not verified) on 16 Aug 2018 - 20:50

      I’m 12 weeks pregnant and had a scan yesterday and everything was okay. This evening after dinner I decided to go for a walk and after a few minutes I had pin in my upper abdomen which then went to cramping pain in my lower abdomen. I sat down for ten minutes and walked back. Pain seems to have eased but I’m a little concerned. I thought it may be gas but I don’t feel I need to pass gas?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Aug 2018 - 10:57

      It is great to hear that you have had your scan and everything was ok. Some dull and mild aches in pregnancy can be very normal, and could be start of having some ligament pain which is most common in the second trimester as your baby is growing. Sometimes it can also be a symptom of a urine infection so if it is ongoing then it maybe worth just have a urine sample checked to rule this out. If it is a little uncomfortable then just monitor, if it increases and becomes painful or you have any loss then do see your GP straight away.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Flo (not verified) on 14 Aug 2018 - 18:35

      Hi,
      I am 12+1 and had my dating scan today, which showed all was okay and no problems at the moment. However, for the last 2/3 days I have had a dull ache low down in my pelvic area. It is mostly not painful, just uncomfortable but I do have the odd pain/twinge. In all the excitement of seeing our baby (previous mc's and mmc) I forgot to mention it. Should I phone my midwife or Dr, or could it just be round ligament pain? I don't want to be a worry wart, but it's the fact it's been pretty much constant for the last few days. Many Thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Aug 2018 - 09:58

      Hi Flo,
      It is great to hear that you have had your scan and everything was ok. Some dull and mild aches in pregnancy can be very normal, and could be start of having some ligament pain which is most common in the second trimester as your baby is growing. Sometimes it can also be a symptom of a urine infection so if it is ongoing then it maybe worth just have a urine sample checked to rule this out. If it is a little uncomfortable then just monitor, if it increases and becomes painful or you have any loss then do see your GP straight away.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Shalini (not verified) on 9 Aug 2018 - 07:57

      Hi m 19 weeks pregnant and m getting severe pain in my lower left side can’t even walk properly from last 4 days

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Aug 2018 - 16:05

      Hi Shalini, Without examining you I can't really advise. If you are concerned please see your midwife or GP. The pain may be linked to muscular skeletal, gastric or pregnancy. Any pain should be investigated so please don't be worried to ask. Take care

    • By Lizzy (not verified) on 7 Aug 2018 - 08:06

      Hi I’m 11.5 weeks pregnant and have lower pelvic/ uterus pain followed by brown discharge. I have had an ultra sound and there is a heart beat. Everything looks okay in all my tests but my ongoing pain and discharge is of concern. Please help

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Aug 2018 - 15:42

      Hi Lizzy, Thank you for your comment.
      Sometimes women can experience unexplained cramping and spotting and then it settles down. It is reassuring that all the tests and scans have come back normal so there is nothing to suggest that there is a problem at this time. Keep an eye on things, if this pain and spotting continues and you are worried then please contact your early pregnancy unit so that they can check you over again and give you reassurance. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Curious (not verified) on 29 Jul 2018 - 07:38

      Hi, i am guessing i am 5 weeks pregnant, i took a pregnancy test because i expected my period 5 days ago. This will be my second pregnancy but cannot remember what symptoms i felt in my first. I am feeling abit of pressure in my pelvic area for the past 3 days on and off. Nothing too serious or nothing too painful. Is this normal?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Jul 2018 - 15:48

      Hi Curious
      It would be a good idea to see your GP to inform them you are pregnant and to get your urine checked. Feeling pressure can be a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection which may need antibiotics.
      Please take care
      Sophie,Tommy's Midwife

    • By Emma (not verified) on 23 Jul 2018 - 21:36

      Hi am now 24 weeks and for few weeks i have not been able to control worrying about something happening which would cause me to lose my baby like her heart stops its making me feel depressed family try and reassure me but nothing is working just looking for some advice

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 26 Jul 2018 - 12:01

      Hi Emma
      Have you spoken to your midwife about your anxiety? It sounds like you need some more support via more antenatal appointments- your midwife can help arrange this for you. You might also benefit from some talking therapies to help process your thoughts which your GP can arrange for you. Being anxious is a normal part of pregnancy, but when it is taking away your enjoyment of the pregnancy and you are unable to relax away and stop thinking about it, then you need to ask for help. So well done for reaching out!
      I hope that your partner and family are being very supportive of you at this time also. I hope that one of them will attend the GP/Midwife with you for moral support.
      Feel free to call us on the helpline if you need a friendly chat Mon to Fri 9 am to 5pm
      Take care of yourself
      Sophie,Tommy's Midwife

    • By Happiness (not verified) on 20 Jul 2018 - 12:01

      hi, please I need your assistance. I am 10 weeks pregnant and have been having this severe very sharp pain in my tummy and I feel cold everyday uptil now, it's getting me worried. have not start anti natal due to some things. please help me what can I do.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Jul 2018 - 13:13

      Hi Happiness,
      If you are having severe sharp pains then I would advise for you to see your doctor for a review. Some cramps and aching is normal in pregnancy, but you describe the pain as sharp and severe therefore this needs to be reviewed. We would advise for you to book for your antenatal care as soon as possible also.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By Felicia (not verified) on 20 Jul 2018 - 06:10

      Hi I've been having the stomach pain during the night and I'm 9 months pregnant what must I do

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Jul 2018 - 12:59

      Dear Felicia,
      If you have been having pain then it is important to ring your maternity unit for advice. It is really important to be monitoring your baby's movements also, if they have reduced at all then you must go straight in to be check out.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

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