Stomach pain in pregnancy

Some stomach pain and very light cramps in the abdomen/stomach area in early pregnancy is not unusual.

Are cramps in pregnancy normal?

Light stomach pain at the start of pregnancy is usually caused by your expanding womb and hormones. It can sometimes feel like a ‘stitch’. You may also feel light period-like discomfort or cramps at the beginning and end of pregnancy. These are nothing to worry about.

When should I report stomach pain in pregnancy?

If you are having persistent abdominal/stomach pain or cramping, it should be checked by a doctor or midwife immediately.

What causes stomach pain and cramps in pregnancy?

As we have already explained most stomach pain and cramps in pregnancy are nothing to worry about, but there are some signs and symptoms that you should look out for as they could be a sign that the pain is a sign of something is more serious.

  • severe lower one-sided abdominal pain in early pregnancy (between week 5 and 10) with bleeding or a brown discharge could be the sign of an ectopic pregnancy. The pain is sometimes felt in the shoulder. Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital A&E immediately.
  • severe cramps in your lower stomach/abdomen with bleeding that lasts for several hours could be a sign of a miscarriage. Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital.
  • regular painful contractions/cramps before 37 weeks could be a sign of premature labour, particularly if accompanied by backache, pelvic pressure and vaginal discharge. Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital.
  • severe constant pain in your lower abdomen/stomach, tenderness when you press your stomach and back pain with or without bleeding could be a sign of placental abruption. Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately.
  • from 20 weeks, pain in the upper abdomen/stomach with other symptoms such as a very bad headache, nausea, vomiting, flashing lights or seeing spots in front of your eyes could be signs of pre-eclampsia. Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital.

If you have lower abdominal pain or dull back pain that comes with one or more of the following, contact your doctor or midwife as soon as possible:

    • pain or discomfort when urinating
    • pelvic discomfort
    • need to urinate frequently (although this on its own is common in a normal pregnancy)
    • a raised temperature
    • cloudy, foul-smelling or bloody urine
    • nausea and vomiting

These are symptoms of an infection of the urinary tract. It is not an emergency but should be treated as soon as possible.

What other kind of stomach pain should I expect?

Towards the end of pregnancy, the following are common:

  • ‘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. They are infrequent (more than 10 minutes apart) and short-lasting, and uncomfortable more than painful. You do not need to contact your maternity unit or midwife unless contractions become painful and regular (less than 10 minutes apart).
  • Contractions/cramps after 37-40 weeks could be the sign of the early stages of labour. This is called latent phase of labour.

Read more

Sources

  1. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes midwifery, thirteenth edition, Edinburgh Balliere Tindall, 2012

  2. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Ectopic pregnancy – information for you, London RCOG, 2010

  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, clinical guideline 154, London NICE, 2012

  4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Hypertension in pregnancy, clinical guideline 107, London NICE, 2011

     

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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.

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Comments

  • By Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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

  • By Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 midwife@tommys.org 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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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 midwife@tommys.org

  • By Anonymous (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 Anonymous (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

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