Is it normal to get Abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain in pregnancy

As your baby develops and your bump gets bigger, your body changes to adapt to this. This extra strain can commonly lead to mild pregnancy pains such as backache and abdominal discomfort. If you are concerned, get checked out by your midwife or doctor to put your mind at rest. And of course, if there’s anything on your mind about your pregnancy, don’t forget our expert team is on hand 24/7.

Identifying abdominal pain in pregnancy

Discomfort such as stretching sensations or tightening is not unusual during pregnancy. They’re not normally anything to worry about – but abdominal pain or stomach cramps can occasionally be a sign of something more serious.

Here you’ll find information from reliable sources, including nhs.uk, to help you identify the causes of your abdominal discomfort, and ways to soothe them. But if you are concerned at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Careline, your midwife, a doctor or your local hospital.

Causes of abdominal discomfort that can be common in pregnancy

There are a few harmless causes of abdominal discomfort in pregnancy, and here’s everything to expect from them, and how to ease them:

GROWING UTERUS
Getting full-up more quickly than usual when eating, and suffering from indigestion, nausea or bloating? The likelihood is that you’re feeling the effects of your growing uterus. This is completely normal and can be helped by eating smaller meals more regularly, doing some gentle exercise, getting plenty of rest and going to the toilet as soon as nature calls!

LIGAMENT PAIN
As your pregnancy progresses, at times you may begin to feel an uncomfortable stretching sensation in your lower abdomen and down into your groin, especially when you change positions. One possible cause of this is the stretching of the ligaments that connect your uterus to your groin area, one of which is called the Round Ligament. This usually resolves itself over time, but if it is causing you a lot of pain or if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP or midwife.

CONSTIPATION AND TRAPPED WIND
You probably know what constipation and trapped wind feels like. Unfortunately, it can get worse during pregnancy – the culprit is usually your changing hormone levels that slow down the whole digestive process. To help combat wind and constipation, drink lots of water, eat fibre-rich foods, or talk to your GP or midwife about taking something to get things moving again.

BRAXTON HICKS CONTRACTIONS
As your pregnancy develops, you may experience tightening of the uterus/womb, known as Braxton Hicks. Unlike contractions, these tend to be short, irregular and may cause some discomfort but should not be painful – they won’t get closer together like contractions either. If the tightening persists and you can’t identify whether they are contractions or not, call your midwife or the triage at your maternity unit. You can read more about Braxton Hicks contractions here.

Warning signs of more serious problems

There are a few symptoms that you should keep an eye out for that could be more cause for concern. We’ll cover all these symptoms and what they might mean below; however, please do bear in mind that you may not have all the symptoms listed, so if you are ever unsure it’s best to get checked over.

ECTOPIC PREGNANCY
Symptoms - lower abdominal pain concentrated on one side, vaginal bleeding or brown discharge, pain felt in the tip of your shoulder, discomfort when going to the toilet.

If you have the above symptoms at between 4 and 12 weeks, you may be suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. This means that the egg has implanted in the fallopian tube or somewhere other than the uterus. In this case, you should contact your hospital A&E department or Early Pregnancy Unit straight away.

MISCARRIAGE
Symptoms - cramping and pain in your lower abdomen, abnormal discharge of fluid from your vagina, discharge of tissue from your vagina.

Miscarriage is a common concern for all newly-pregnant mums. If you experience cramps and/or have vaginal bleeding, miscarriage may be the cause - although there may be other reasons that this can happen. It is very important to get in touch with your midwife, hospital A&E department or Early Pregnancy Unit straight away.

PREMATURE LABOUR
Symptoms - regular painful contractions, a sudden breaking of waters, a "show (mucus plug coming away from the cervix and out of the vagina) before 37 weeks gestation.

If you have any of the above symptoms you must call your delivery suite and attend your maternity unit right away. Your hospital will be able to assess you, and it's important that you are in the care of people who know what they are doing as soon as possible.

PLACENTAL ABRUPTION
Symptoms - stomach pain, frequent contractions that can seem continuous, bleeding from the vagina.

The placenta is your baby's source of oxygen and nutrients - it usually remains attached to the wall of your uterus until after you have given birth. Occasionally it can detach from the uterus too early in pregnancy, which is called placental abruption. If you experience the above symptoms with or without bleeding, it's crucial that you are seen in your maternity unit as soon as possible.

PRE-ECLAMPSIA

Symptoms - severe heartburn, pain just below the ribs, severe headache, nausea, fluid retention, vomiting, flashing lights or starry vision, swelling of feet, ankles, face and hands - usually after 20 weeks gestation.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition affecting the development of the placenta during pregnancy. Mums suffering with pre-eclampsia may experience the above symptoms along with high blood pressure and protein in their urine. The condition can be harmful for both mum and baby, and it is very important to call your midwife or hospital as soon as any of these symptoms occur.

URINARY TRACT INFECTION
Symptoms - dull backache, constant dull pain in the pubic region, cloudy and unpleasant smelling urine, need to urinate more often than usual or passing small amounts, usually accompanied by discomfort when urinating.

These are all symptoms of a UTI (urinary tract infection). Although not usually an emergency, UTl's are more serious when you are pregnant as untreated infections can lead to complications in pregnancy. Thankfully, UTl's are easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. If you think you might be suffering from a UTI, get in touch with your midwife or doctor who will be able to confirm if this is the case and offer the most suitable treatment.

You know your body best

Pregnancy discomfort is common and is often nothing to worry about. But you know your body better than anyone, so if any aches or pains are worrying you, make sure you talk to your midwife.

If you have any further questions on abdominal pain or you'd like to know more about pregnancy, why not give our Careline experts a call on 0800 977 8880 or ask us a question online, instantly, using Live Chat Monday to Friday, 8am - 8pm.
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