Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

Abdominal discomfort is common in pregnancy. Most of the time, it does not cause harm. There are many causes of abdominal pain. Some causes are more serious than others. Some of the causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy are easily diagnosed. Occasionally, the diagnosis takes time to understand. Other times, the cause is not determined. Abdominal pain can be a sign that something is very wrong with the pregnancy, or the pain may have nothing to do with the pregnancy at all. For this reason, always tell your caregiver if you have any abdominal discomfort.

CAUSES

Common and harmless causes of abdominal pain include:

  • Constipation.

  • Excess gas and bloating.

  • Round ligament pain. This is pain that is felt in the folds of the groin.

  • The position the baby or placenta is in.

  • Baby kicks.

  • Braxton-Hicks contractions. These are mild contractions that do not cause cervical dilation.

Serious causes of abdominal pain include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus.

  • Miscarriage.

  • Preterm labor. This is when labor starts at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Placental abruption. This is when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus.

  • Preeclampsia. This is often associated with high blood pressure and has been referred to as "toxemia in pregnancy."

  • Uterine or amniotic fluid infections. 

Causes unrelated to pregnancy include:

  • Urinary tract infection.

  • Gallbladder stones or inflammation.

  • Hepatitis or other liver illness.

  • Intestinal problems, stomach flu, food poisoning, or ulcer.

  • Appendicitis.

  • Kidney (renal) stones.

  • Kidney infection (pylonephritis).

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

For mild pain:

  • Do not have sexual intercourse or put anything in your vagina until your symptoms go away completely.

  • Get plenty of rest until your pain improves. If your pain does not improve in 1 hour, call your caregiver.

  • Drink clear fluids if you feel nauseous. Avoid solid food as long as you are uncomfortable or nauseous.

  • Only take medicine as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments with your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are bleeding, leaking fluid, or passing tissue from the vagina.

  • You have increasing pain or cramping.

  • You have persistent vomiting.

  • You have painful or bloody urination.

  • You have a fever.

  • You notice a decrease in your baby's movements.

  • You have extreme weakness or feel faint.

  • You have shortness of breath, with or without abdominal pain.

  • You develop a severe headache with abdominal pain.

  • You have abnormal vaginal discharge with abdominal pain.

  • You have persistent diarrhea.

  • You have abdominal pain that continues even after rest, or gets worse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.