Abdominal pain during pregnancy: Why it occurs and what to do about it

Lower abdominal pain during pregnancy

Occasional abdominal pain during pregnancy is a common complaint. Typically, it is harmless. But sometimes, it may signal a serious problem. Persistent abdominal pain should never be ignored.

Possible causes for persistent abdominal pain during pregnancy

Here are some serious situations which would cause abdominal pain -


A loss of pregnancy in the first 20 weeks is termed a miscarriage. Vaginal bleeding or spotting is usually the first symptom, followed by stomach pain a few hours to a few days later.

Ectopic pregnancy

When a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes, it is termed an ectopic pregnancy. Untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. It starts out as abdominal or pelvic pain, or even vaginal spotting, and is a pain that worsens during physical activity, or while moving your bowels or coughing. It could also manifest as a pain in your shoulder.


Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that causes changes in your blood vessels and can affect a number of organs, including your kidneys, liver, brain, and the placenta.

Symptoms could include swelling in your face or around your eyes, more than slight swelling in your hands, and excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles. You may also have intense pain in the upper abdomen, a severe headache, visual disturbances or nausea and vomiting.

Urinary tract infections

Symptoms of a bladder infection may pelvic discomfort or pain just above the pelvic bone; a frequent urge to pee, and a cloudy, foul-smelling, or bloody urine.

Placental abruption

This is a life-threatening condition for you and your baby in which your placenta separates from your uterus, before your baby's born. It could cause sudden heavy bleeding or you might have only light spotting. You will also notice a decrease in your baby's activity.

What are the harmless causes of abdominal pain?

Rest assured that not all abdominal discomfiture during pregnancy signals a sign of a serious problem. Stomach pain during pregnancy could also be the result of a stomach flu or food poisoning, appendicitis, kidney stones, gallbladder disease, hepatitis, pancreatitis, fibroids, and/or bowel obstruction.

Some other benign and causes of stomach pain during pregnancy include;

Bloating and gas: You are quite likely to have gas pain and bloating during pregnancy. This could be the result of hormones that slow down your digestion or due to the increased pressure of your fast growing uterus on your abdomen and intestines.

Constipation: Pregnancy hormones can also slow down your digestion. This coupled with the pressure of your bigger uterus exerts on your rectum could lead to constipation.

Round ligament pain: Round ligament pain is a short, sharp, excruciating pain or a dull throbbing ache that you feel on one or both sides of your lower abdomen or even in your groin area. It usually happens in the second trimester when the ligaments supporting your uterus stretch and thicken to accommodate its growth..

Note: You must call your healthcare provider if your pain does not go away after several minutes of rest, or if you notice any of the following:

  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Excessive vaginal discharge
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizziness
  • Pain while urinating
  • Vomiting