Stomach pain is nobody’s idea of a good time, even more so if it occurs during pregnancy. The truth is, abdominal pain, as alarming as it can be, isn’t always a reason to fear. It can be an organic part of pregnancy, a response to the growing changes your body is undergoing. That’s not to say that pain in the abdomen is never a cause for worry, but knowing the signs of danger can be a good starting point before reaching to ring the alarm bells.
Causes of Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
Whether you’re a first-time expectant mother or one already primed at pregnancy, this pick of abdominal pain symptoms should serve as easy reference over these next few months.
First, the more common ones.
Gas and Constipation
Ahhh. Who doesn’t love gas – that bloated, heavy feeling that threatens to creep out of your rear in the presence of an audience? Gas is a common symptom of pregnancy and is caused by elevated levels of progesterone. Increased progesterone slows down the gastrointestinal tract, making food move more slowly. The solution? Drink lots of fluids, load up on fibre-rich foods and say yes to softeners.
Round Ligament Pain
Sharp stabbing or dull throbbing pain getting the better of you? Blame it on round ligament pain (after getting a formal diagnosis of course). Typically triggered by the enlargement of ligament muscles, this is generally associated with the second trimester. Again, a pain that’s hardly worth worrying about.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions can almost seem like God’s version of a practical joke. These contractions feel like a repeated tightening of the stomach muscles but are different from true contractions. While Braxton Hicks will present contractions that allow you to get on with your day, true contractions will appear closer together and be far more painful. Braxton Hicks contractions are usually spurred on by dehydration, so plenty of water can help to reduce its effects.
Pregnancy isn’t an exact science, so there are various factors at play when it comes to pain. A growing uterus, fibroids and food aversions, to name a few.
More Serious Causes
Abdominal pain, sometimes, is your body’s way of telling you something’s not right. The conditions mentioned below can be dangerous and pose a serious risk to you and your baby. If you experience any of these, schedule a visit with your doctor right away.
Placental abruption, as the name suggests, is when the placenta tears away from the uterine wall before the birth of your baby. The most common symptom? Severe, persistent pain that causes the stomach to become hard for extended periods. The condition may also lead to bloody vaginal discharge, premature water breakage and chronic back pain.
When the egg implants outside the uterus, it cannot progress as a healthy pregnancy and requires medical or surgical intervention. Ectopic pregnancies happen in about 1 in 50 cases and usually occur in the fallopian tube. They typically result in intense pain and bleeding, especially between weeks six and ten. Risk factors for the condition include endometriosis, a tubal ligation or an intrauterine device in place at the time of conception.
Unfortunately, 1 in 5 pregnancies end spontaneously in the first thirteen weeks. Miscarriage usually offers clues in the form of back pain, true contractions, spotting, blood clot-ridden discharge and reduced pregnancy symptoms.
Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infection (UTI) happens to as many as 50% of women, so it’s not something to get wound up over. If treated early, that is. Left ignored, a UTI can spiral into complications, characterised by abdominal pain and discomfort, and burning during urination. If you experience nausea, fever, chills or sweats in addition to pain, seek a doctor’s opinion, pronto.
High blood pressure and elevated protein levels after the fifth month of pregnancy are generally indicative of preeclampsia. The condition can give rise to upper abdominal pain, as also to nausea and vomiting. It’s important to seek medical intervention early for the condition.
Knowing When to Call the Doctor
It can be hard to draw the line between ‘maybe I’m overreacting’ and ‘I need help now’ when experiencing pain during pregnancy. Here are some symptoms to be clued into, and ones that merit an immediate visit to the hospital if accompanied by abdominal pain.
- Spotting or bleeding
- Vaginal discharge
- Discomfort during urination
- Nausea and vomiting
Knowing what to watch for during pregnancy can save you much hassle and heartache and prepare you for what’s to come. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on the various sorts of pain that may arise so you can tell right from wrong and harmless from serious. The important thing to know is that with pregnancy, pain isn’t always a problem.
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