Abdominal Cramps and Pain During Pregnancy: Is It Normal?

Small discomforts in your body are a common occurrence during pregnancy, ranging from backaches to leg cramps and a lot of other bodily problems. In this laundry list of unwanted changes that your body goes through, either due to hormonal changes or pregnancy weight gain, cramps in the stomach are another addition. However, each surprising pain or sign of a problem in your body during pregnancy comes with a warning of its own. What does stomach pain during pregnancy signify? Will you have complications in pregnancy? Is it a sign of an impending miscarriage?

Causes for stomach pain during pregnancy

In the first trimester or the early days, there are multiple possible reasons for abdominal cramps during pregnancy. As you progress into the later trimesters, these reasons may vary and sometimes, even lead to an inability to have a normal delivery. Here are some of the milder reasons for stomach pain in early pregnancy:

  1. The expansion of your womb stretches your abdominal muscles much more than they are used to, causing tears and pain in them.
  2. Hormonal surges in your body during pregnancy often interfere with the functioning of the digestive system, leading to constipation and stomach pain.
  3. Trapped wind and gas can also cause upper stomach pain during pregnancy, a by-product of not being able to digest food properly.
  4. Mild pains that seem very period-like are also part of the early pregnancy symptoms, but those are not any indicators of any major problems.
Woman feeling stomach pain in early pregnancy due to digestive problems

When to report stomach pain?

The line between what is normal and what indicates real danger in context to stomach pain during pregnancy is very thin. As an expecting mother who is nurturing a little one inside, you are always instinctively aware of whether everything is going fine or not. While abdominal cramps during pregnancy may make you fear the worst or conversely, feel very normal, it is the best to follow your instincts too. Do not ignore the signs of your body, it will help you get any problem diagnosed before it has the time to develop into something truly harmful. If the stomach pain is consistent and feels different from any normal stomach ache, inform your doctor immediately. Don’t underestimate any symptom, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Your gynaecologist meant to medically assist you throughout pregnancy, therefore, you won’t be wasting their time even if everything turns out to be fine.

Signs of abnormality

While doctors will definitely do their work diligently when you tell them, it is you who has to identify the problem first. Stomach pain in early pregnancy is often ignored and doesn’t seem too out of the norm, so how will you know that this time, the case is different. You need to look out for specific symptoms for a deeper problem to categorize this pain as an actual threat to you or your baby. These are the symptoms that you should be on a lookout for and be vigilant about:

1. An intense pain on one side of your lower stomach in the early days

This kind of pain can be a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, a dangerous condition that will need to be treated before it reaches a later stage of increased risk to life. Along with the pain, you may also experience bleeding, pain in shoulders, dizziness, brown discharge and difficulty in using the loo.

2. Severe abdominal cramps during pregnancy that last for hours

This type of cramping can be accompanied by bleeding sometimes too. With or without the bleeding, such symptoms can indicate a miscarriage or a placental abruption.

3. Painful contractions before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy

Having regular contractions and cramps before 37 weeks can lead to premature labour and can be problematic. If you have pink or clear vaginal discharge, unusual backache or pressure on your pelvis; chances are that you are heading towards a premature delivery.

Woman experiencing stomach pain during pregnancy before 37 weeks

4. Persisting severe pain in the stomach 

Along with this pain that does not go away, if you have tenderness in your stomach and back pain without any bleeding, it is most likely the sign of placental abruption. This a highly dangerous condition where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus, effectively breaking your baby’s lifeline.

5. Upper stomach pain during pregnancy

As your baby grows bigger in the third trimester, it is natural to experience some upper stomach pain during pregnancy due to the upward pressure your uterus puts. However, if the pain is persistent and towards the right side, it can also be an indicator of pre-eclampsia. If that is indeed the case, then you may also have swellings on visible body parts, headaches of various degrees, blurring vision and feelings of nausea. Since pre-eclampsia generally develops after 20 weeks into the pregnancy, it is best to be vigilant about this time period.

6. Pain in lower stomach and your back

This lower stomach and back pain often comes with discomfort in urinating, increased frequency of it and a bad smell in your urine. All these symptoms along with raised body temperature and a general feeling of sickness point towards urinary tract infections (UTI). UTIs are not an emergency situation but quick medical intervention in such cases are still beneficial.

Doctor helping woman with upper stomach pain during pregnancy

In most cases, experiencing stomach pains in early pregnancy or at any time is not a cause for concern. But it is also true that ignoring any symptoms of a problem, be it big or small, is not a wise decision in pregnancy. So when you feel the worry about the above sign of abnormality in your own journey of pregnancy, do not hesitate to alert your doctor and get the appropriate help. Your health and well being are the priority here, so be watchful and take care, Mommy!

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