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 be 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 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 include:

These symptoms usually develop between the 4th and 12th week of pregnancy.

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 include:

  • tenderness when you press your stomach
  • back pain with or without bleeding.

Pain in the upper stomach 

This pain could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms 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.

This typically happens 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
These 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

  • 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

  • By Nicolette (not verified) on 5 Aug 2018 - 23:29

    Hello,I'm also 9 months pregnant( about 39 weeks) and I started having stomach pains quite recently.The baby's movements have increased a lot.And I've had below my abdomen ( in the pelvis I think) since end of second trimester.When I first did my scan I was 9 weeks and EDD was 4th of August ,Today it's the 6th .My EDD based of last day of menstruation is 16th of August and my scan during 20 weeks showed EDD as 19th of August.So I'm not sure if the pains are a sign of early labour or what it is because the EDD's are quite confusing for me. it's my first pregnancy by the way.Your advice in this regard would be appreciated

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Aug 2018 - 10:25

    Hello Nicolette, We usually advise that the most accurate due date is the one done earliest which would be 4th August. However, there is no reason to be alarmed as only about 6% of babies are born on their due date. We expect most babies to be born between 37 and 42 weeks.

  • By Nicolette (not verified) on 12 Aug 2018 - 16:46

    Sorry to bother you again,but I've been having a pain on my lower back more on my left.The pain is so bad that walking becomes a quite difficult.I've been having this for the past 3 to 4 days.I'm currently 39 Weeks and 6 days.Please Help!!!

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Aug 2018 - 10:01

    Hi Nicolette,
    Sorry for the delay as we are non urgent service, I do hope that you have been in contact with your maternity unit for a review if are experiencing on going pain. Do monitor your baby's movements closely also, any chances then contact your maternity unit straight away.
    Best wishes
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Laura (not verified) on 19 Jul 2018 - 20:51

    Hi,i was wondering if you could give me some advice about having an abortion as I think I might be pregnant I gave my boyfriend a blowjob three weeks ago and accidentally swallowed his sperm and now I have missed my period and I'm panicking that I'm pregnant he also told me he has strong swimmers? What do I do next?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Jul 2018 - 12:55

    Hi Laura,
    It is not possible to become pregnant by swallowing sperm so please do not worry. If you are very stressed and anxious this can also delay a period. If you have missed a period I would suggest that you do a pregnancy test if you have been having intercourse with your boyfriend to rule out pregnancy. I hope this has reassured you, please do be in touch if we can support you.
    Best wishes, Tommy's midwife

  • By norah (not verified) on 13 Jul 2018 - 14:50

    I am 5 months pregnant but I have been having a stomach pain and a back pain.. the thing is that am worried cause the pain is not stopping.. is this normal

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Jul 2018 - 15:10

    No it is not normal to have pain in pregnancy. Please call your maternity unit and arrange to be seen as soon as possible.

  • By Jay (not verified) on 12 Jul 2018 - 20:56

    I haven't been pregnant before. However,I am a little confused. I have been having some abdominal pains for the past few weeks, sometimes I can't sleep. Had unprotected sex with my husband 3 months ago. I have been going on my period.. However,my tummy looks big. I went to the docs and he said I was bloated but I really doubt it. Now I have been feeling back pain ,been feeling tired, nauseous though I am not vomiting. I need your help please. Could I be pregnant? I have done a home testing using sugar and urine but the results are negative. I am not sure how accurate that is.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Jul 2018 - 13:47

    Hi Jay,
    A home test of sugar and urine will not give you an accurate pregnancy result, I would advise for you to use a pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant. If your symptoms continue then do go back to the doctor.
    Best wishes
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Jay (not verified) on 16 Jul 2018 - 19:36

    I have been to the doctor's and they did some blood tests but they came back negative. However, I am still experiencing the abdominal pain. The docs are not sure what's causing these cramps,they have requested for a scan to see if they can get some answers.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Jul 2018 - 12:21

    Hi Jay
    Blood tests are very accurate, so if it was negative, then this will be the true result. It sounds like they will send you to a gynecology clinic to see if they can find what is causing your abdominal pain.
    Please take good care of yourself. All the best
    Sophie,Tommy's Midwife

  • By Becca (not verified) on 12 Jul 2018 - 14:24

    Hi. I’ve just found out i’m Pregnant. My doctor thinks I’m 4-5 weeks. I’ve been getting cramps which feel a little bit like period pains? Is this normal or should I ring my doctor? The cramping started as soon as I found out a few days ago, so I’m also thinking it could just be anxiety? Thanks in advance. Becca x

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Jul 2018 - 13:34

    Dear Becca,
    Some mild period type cramps can be normal at this stage and can often coincide roughly when your next period would have been due. If they are painful or you are having any spotting then do contact your doctor to be reviewed.
    Best wishes
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Sri (not verified) on 11 Jul 2018 - 23:42

    Hii...i am suffering with back pain...stomach pain and adnormal pain...i am feeling suddenly sickness....nd vomiting sensation....did i am pregnant

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Jul 2018 - 14:14

    Hi Sri,
    I am a little unclear from your message as to whether you are pregnant or unsure if you are pregnant? If you are pregnant and getting these pains and feeling unwell then I would advise for you to ring your maternity unit to be reviewed straight away. If you are unsure whether you are pregnant, if you have missed a period then do take a pregnancy test to confirm whether you are pregnant or not. If you have not missed a period then I would advise for you to wait to see if it comes or not or else you may get a false negative test result.
    I hope this helps
    Best wishes,
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Charlotte (not verified) on 11 Jul 2018 - 08:27

    Hi I’m 13wks 4dys and have woke with cramp like pains that are persistent in bottom right and middle of my abdomen and my back this is Also my 3rd is this normal ?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Jul 2018 - 15:37

    Hi Charlotte,
    It is possible that it is normal as some cramps and aches are in pregnancy, however if you are having persistent pains then I would advice for you to contact your GP or early pregnancy unit for a review just to make sure everything is ok.
    Best wishes
    Tomm's midwives

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