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 Aida (not verified) on 10 Dec 2018 - 00:39

    Hi I’m 6 weeks pregnant and I notice this week while I was walking I had pain on my lower left side and sometimes it moves a bit on my upper left or right abdomen . I’m going for a scan next week
    What could that be. Should I be worried or should I go to emergency immediately

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Dec 2018 - 14:11

    Hi Aida, Thank you for your comment.

    It can be common in early pregnancy to have some abdominal discomfort as all the ligaments and uterus are stretching as the pregnancy grows. If you think that this pain is getting worse or you have any bleeding then please seek medical advice as soon as you can. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

  • By Rianna (not verified) on 5 Dec 2018 - 03:36

    Hai I've missed my period 2 days ago and I keep getting belly cramps and lower back pain, headaches and I even keep feeling upset but can't vomit is it a sign of pregnancy???

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Dec 2018 - 10:52

    Hi Rianna
    If you have not seen your period when it is 7 days late, then it would be best to take a pregnancy test to find out. See the link below for the best way to do a pregnancy test, to get the most accurate result...
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/planning-pregnancy/taking-pregnancy-test
    All of the symptoms you mentioned, could be related to your menstrual cycle, a possible pregnancy, or just a virus.
    Please take care of yourself, Tommy's Midwife

  • By Tebogo (not verified) on 4 Dec 2018 - 19:47

    Hi there, I'm 21wks,3days I've started to have pains today and little bleeding and this is my first pregnancy, should I be worried?.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Dec 2018 - 10:47

    Hi Tebogo
    Any abdominal pain, at any gestation of pregnancy, especially with vaginal bleeding, needs to be urgently reviewed at your local hospital by a midwife and obstetric doctor. So please get yourself seen as soon as you can. Please take good care of yourself. Tommy's Midwife

  • By Carol (not verified) on 3 Dec 2018 - 12:43

    Hi,please I am 14 weeks today but since yesterday I have being having this severe pains in the left side of my abdomen ,although I was diagnosed of fibroid before now ,but d pain is so severe, I don't know what might be d cause

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 3 Dec 2018 - 15:10

    Hi Carol. Please see your doctor if you have severe abdominal pains. He or she will examine you and try to diagnose the cause.

  • By Thando (not verified) on 1 Dec 2018 - 05:26

    Hi thando
    I am 10 weeks pregnant, I took vitamins and folic acid pills for only 5days then I stopped . I feel like they make me sick , will that be a problem?cause I am always tired ,backpains, my lower abdomen is in pain at times specially when am sleeping, the left nerves in my head is sometimes painful as though I have a toothache. Must I be worried about that

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 3 Dec 2018 - 15:05

    Hi Thando, We do advise all women planning a pregnancy and up until 12 weeks to take folic acid as this reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the baby. It is unlikely that this is the cause of your nausea which unfortunately is common in early pregnancy. The only vitamin we advise in pregnancy is vitamin D. You should be able to get all other vitamins and nutrients from a normal healthy balanced diet.

  • By halima (not verified) on 27 Nov 2018 - 17:46

    am 28weeks pregnant with abdominal pain when i change positions or if i lift something abit heavy


  • By Midwife @Tommys on 28 Nov 2018 - 15:19

    Hi Halima
    Any abdominal pain (when lifting something heavy or not) should be reviewed urgently by a midwife and obstetric doctor. So please, get yourself seen as soon as you can - don't forget your pregnancy notes.
    Look after yourself - Tommy's Midwife

  • 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

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