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 Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 16:40

      This discomfort is completely normal in the first trimester as the uterus is growing but has not yet risen out of your pelvis. This discomfort & pressure persists for a few more weeks unfortunately as the uterus does not rise out of the pelvis till around 12 weeks. You may also find that you have to pass urine quite regularly as little one is pressing on your bladder at this time! However if you experience more severe pain or bleeding, you should seek medical advice. Please contact our Midwives on Tommy's Pregnancy Line on 0800 01417 800 if you need a chat about any concerns. A Midwife is here from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 16:20

      It sounds like you had a regular period, however if you are concerned, some pregnancy tests can give a result seven days after potentially conceiving as it detects the level of HCG (the pregnancy hormone) in the urine at this time which is only present once you have conceived. However the earlier the test is undertaken the less reliable it is, so it may be worthwhile waiting till your next period is due before testing.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 12:25

      You are correct that the stomach is part of the digestive system, however but many individuals refer to the abdominal area as the stomach, not the uterus when they are pregnant, so we sometimes adapt accordingly. If a woman is not pregnant & she is c/o abdominal pain or pain in the stomach area she should see medical advice

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Aug 2016 - 12:04

      It is difficult to give you advice with the information you have given. As you are not pregnant and have missed 5 periods, you should seek medical advice from your GP regarding this

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Aug 2016 - 23:39

      my period are late 5month but im not pregnet how did i knw whats a problem?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Aug 2016 - 19:51

      Babies are not in your stomach. 'Lower stomach'? You mean abdomen. The stomach is part of the digestive system and not a reproductive organ. You cannot get pregnant 'that way'.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 - 10:29

      Hy I had unprotected sex on thursaDy n got om my periods on sunday until tuesday n my blood was light o my last day was brownish could I be pregnant pls help am stessed

    • By [email protected]'s on 19 Jul 2016 - 09:46

      Hi,
      If your pain is a light period-like pain at the beginning pf pregnancy then it is likely to be fine. If you have any other kind of stomach pain or cramps, call your midwife or hospital. If you would like to talk about this to one of our midwives please call 0800 0147 800, Mon - Fri, 9-5.

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Jul 2016 - 03:19

      I have pains under my abdomen , its a first time i experience this course on my first born I didn't see all those things

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 12 Jul 2016 - 13:28

      ive got pains in ma stomach nd a vaginal discharge nd ma stomach is so down

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2016 - 18:36

      Hi Tommy I experience instant cramps dat last few minutes and stop da doctors failed to see da cause for pains bt they say da embryo is in its right position what could be da cause

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2016 - 09:54

      Hi, this is my first and I'm 4 and a half weeks. I have a sort of dull ache in my lower left side, it's constant but not painful and seems to go up around my hip and slightly to my side, not really in to my back. I'm hoping this is normal stretching and trying not to worry, but as this is my first and I don't know what to expect, I'm petrified it's ectopic. I'm not due to see my GP until Tuesday. No spotting or anything. Any advice would be gratefully received. Thanks.

    • By Joy (not verified) on 26 Aug 2019 - 17:33

      Hi what ended up happening?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Jun 2016 - 17:30

      Hi I am about ten weeks pregnant and I am getting stabbing pain nar my bellybutton

    • By [email protected]'s on 1 Jun 2016 - 12:39

      Hi,
      Would you like to call our midwives on 0800 0147 800 to talk about this? They are on the line 9-5 Mon to Friday.
      Hope this helps,
      Tommy's

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Jun 2016 - 11:15

      Hi Tommy's I am a first time mom,36 weeks pregnant and I am having stomach cramps, with no discharge. Just that I have regular intervals to the toilet. IS this normal

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 30 May 2016 - 17:01

      am 37 weeks pregnant and am waiting for the big day to come. hoping for the best

    • By [email protected]'s on 13 May 2016 - 10:01

      Hi,
      Would you like to call our midwives on 0800 0147 800 to talk about this? They are on the line 9-5 Mon to Friday.
      Hope this helps,
      Tommy's

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2016 - 00:57

      yes it is very useful. just a quick one. i have painful stomach not severe only comes when i walk long distance or do washing. am 7 weeks now. no bkeeding, no pain when passing urine...just that at times i feel the pressure released on the lower abdomen when passing urine. what could it be?

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 May 2016 - 21:30

      I like what you are doing

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