Abdominal pain is a worrisome symptom and a common complaint in pregnancy. It is probably suffered by all women at some stage of their life. There is nothing to worry about as it is very common during pregnancy.
In early pregnancy, mild abdominal pain may be caused due to stretching of ligaments and muscles as the uterus grows, expansion of the uterus, effect of the hormones, indigestion, constipation or gas. If the pain goes away while you change position, have a rest or pass gas then nothing to worry about.
If you have persistent abdominal pain or sudden pain then you need to seek medical advice immediately because they could be a sign of something very serious.
It is very necessary to distinguish between the physiologically normal (muscle stretching or indigestion), the pathological but not dangerous and the dangerously pathological which requires immediate referral to the appropriate medical practitioner for urgent treatment (ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or appendicitis).
Causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy
Most abdominal pains and cramps are not that much serious and require no treatment. If something serious happens, you need to call your health care provider. The following are some of the causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy-
- Round ligament pain due to stretching of the uterine muscles
- Excessive vomiting
- Braxton hicks contraction– These contractions are experienced by every pregnant woman and are usually irregular and painless. It occurs from the very early weeks of pregnancy but it cannot be felt much. As the pregnancy progresses, the contractions become more frequent and cause some discomfort to the woman.
- Ectopic pregnancy– It is a very life-threatening condition in which fertilized ovum implants outside the uterine cavity. You may feel severe pain on the affected side of the abdomen; along with other symptoms like bleeding, dizziness, shoulder pain and you need to contact your doctor immediately.
- Miscarriage– It’s a very painful condition for all pregnant women. If you feel severe pain that lasts for several hours with bleeding and passing of clots then it might lead to pregnancy loss.
- Preterm labour– It is a condition in which, labour starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy with severe uterine contractions at regular intervals, leaking of watery fluid from the vagina, backache and feeling of pressure in the lower part of the abdomen.
- Severe pre-eclampsia– This usually occurs in the second half of the pregnancy. You may experience a rise in blood pressure and severe stomach pain associated with vomiting. Other symptoms include headache, disturbed sleep, swelling of the hands, feet, face, even the whole body; blurring of vision and decreased urine output. It is a complicated case and needs immediate treatment.
- Uterine rupture– When uterus walls get weakened by any previous scar or surgery then tearing of the uterus may occur which is an emergency condition during pregnancy.
- Placental abruption– Premature separation of a normally situated placenta may occur during pregnancy which causes severe pain and bleeding in the mother.
- Uterine fibroid- Fibroids are benign tumors of the uterus. Approximately 10% of women with uterine fibroids will experience acute pain because these fibroids receive a reduced blood supply as the pregnancy progresses. The pain usually subsides within 4 to 7 days with adequate rest and analgesia.
- Intestinal obstruction
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Peptic ulcer
- Renal disease
- Urinary tract infection
In all the above-mentioned conditions, you need to seek medical advice. Mild abdominal pain goes away with rest but others need to be treated. Do not take any pain lightly, otherwise, it could result in complicated pregnancy. Have regular antenatal check-ups.
In the above post, we discussed the causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy.