abdominal pain and cramping pregnancy

Understanding Abdominal Pain and Cramping During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of constant change, especially for a pregnant woman’s body. As your baby grows, your body has to accommodate for the extra room your little one requires. The stretching and expansion of your womb may cause some uncomfortable pain and cramping. A variety of other pregnancy related issues, like constipation, can also create some extreme discomfort. However, certain pains and cramping can indicate a more serious issue and merit immediate medical attention. Here’s a look at what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to abdominal pain and cramping during pregnancy.  

What is normal abdominal pain during pregnancy?

As long as there’s no bleeding or spotting, fever, nausea or vomiting, or pain during urination, minor discomfort in the abdominal region is simply one of the joys of pregnancy. A twinge of pain on one side is also fairly normal, especially during the early months. Pain that subsides after few minutes or when you change position is a typical sign of a growing baby. These pains mau subside alotogether as your pregnancy progresses and your muscles stretch out enough to easily accommodate your baby.  
Experiencing light, menstrual-like cramps throughout pregnancy is also normal. During the third trimester, many women experience Braxton Hicks contractions -- the body’s way of practicing labor. As you approach your due date, these cramps may become more intense and regular, signalling the onset of labor. With changing hormones and a baby sitting on your intestines, gas, constipation, and indigestion are also common during pregnancy and can cause abdominal pain and cramping sensations. If these things become extremely uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about safe ways to manage them.

When should I be worried about cramping or pain in my abdomen?

Ultimately, if you’re worried about cramping or pain in your midsection while you’re pregnant, call your doctor. It could be absolutely nothing, but it could be a warning sign of a bigger problem. Additionally, anytime there’s bleeding or heavy spotting along with cramping, contact your obstetrician. 
Abdominal pain can also be indicative of a urinary tract infection, to which pregnant women are more susceptible. Other symptoms of a UTI include difficulty urinating, fever, chills, and a general feeling of malaise. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection and prevent it from spreading to the kidneys, which is dangerous. If your pain becomes excruciating or reaches a point that frightens you, seek emergency medical attention. 
Any severe cramping or abdominal pain in the first and second trimester requires a visit to a doctor. If the pain and cramping occurs during the third trimester, it may indicate labor. Exactly what course of action your healthcare provider will choose generally depends on how far along you are.

How can I relieve the pain?

Normal, non-serious abdominal discomfort can be relieved by walking around, changing positions, or gently pushing on your belly to move the baby into a more comfortable position. Avoid foods that cause gas, indigestion, and constipation, and drink lots of water and eat plenty of fiber-rich foods (such as fresh vegetables or whole wheat products). If you don’t know what’s causing your abdominal pain, talk to your doctor instead of trying to treat yourself. Even over-the-counter medication shouldn’t be taken without your doctor’s approval. 
Last Updated: January 09, 2018