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Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about abdominal pain during pregnancy?

Abdominal pain during pregnancy is common. Some causes include heartburn, constipation, gas, false labor, and round ligament pain. Round ligament pain is caused by stretching of the ligaments that support your uterus. Abdominal pain may be caused by a health problem, such as a stomach virus or appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix). The pain may also be caused by a problem with your pregnancy, such as a threatened miscarriage or preterm labor.

How is the cause of pain during pregnancy diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask you about the pain. You may also need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may be done to check for inflammation, liver function, blood cell levels, or get information about your overall health.
  • Ultrasound pictures may be used to check the organs inside your abdomen, including your uterus. Your baby may also be checked.
    Pregnancy Ultrasound
  • MRI pictures may be used if ultrasound pictures do not show a clear cause for your pain. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is abdominal pain during pregnancy treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your pain. Ask your healthcare provider before you take any medicine during pregnancy, including over-the-counter pain medicines. Acetaminophen may be recommended. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Your provider will tell you how much is safe to take each day during pregnancy. Too much medicine can be harmful to your baby. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Rest as needed. Rest may help to relieve pain. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you rest on your side instead of on your back. He or she may tell you to lie on your left side, if possible. Place a pillow under your abdomen. Keep another pillow between your knees. Ask your provider about other ways to relieve this pain, such as a supportive belt or pregnancy exercises.
  • Do not lie flat in bed or bend over if you have heartburn. Ask your obstetrician if you should make any changes to the foods you eat. Ask if you can take any medicines for heartburn.
    Prevent GERD
  • Move slowly. Avoid quick changes in position or movements that cause pain.
  • Exercise as directed. Gentle exercise can keep the ligaments loose and strengthen core (abdominal) muscles. An example is swimming, or a yoga program designed for pregnancy. Ask your healthcare provider which exercises are safe for you and how often to exercise. For most healthy women, a good goal is to try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. If activity causes pain, try not to walk too long or too far at one time. Break your exercise up into short amounts.
    Walking During Pregnancy
  • Apply a warm compress to the area. Warmth can relieve pain and muscle spasms. Ask your healthcare provider if you can take a warm bath or use a heating pad. Keep all heat settings low. High heat can be dangerous for your baby. Do not sit in a hot tub or use hot water in your bath. You may also be able to massage the area gently while you are applying heat. Massage can help relieve pain.
  • Eat more fiber and drink more liquids to relieve constipation. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread and cereals. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a fast heartbeat.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You feel lightheaded or faint.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have sudden, severe pain or cramps that are so bad that you cannot walk or talk.
  • You have vaginal bleeding or discharge.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, fever, and severe pain on your right side.

When should I call my obstetrician?

  • You have light vaginal bleeding or spotting.
  • You continue to have abdominal pain that cannot be relieved.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.