Abdominal pain during pregnancy can be caused by many reasons such as growth of the uterus, constipation or gas. It can be best relieved through a balanced diet, exercise or taking teas.
However, it may also be a sign of serious complications such as ectopic pregnancy, placental detachment, preeclampsia, or even miscarriage. In these cases, the pain is usually accompanied by vaginal bleeding, swelling or discharge and the pregnant woman should go to the hospital immediately.
Here are the most common causes of abdominal pain in pregnancy:
In the 1st trimester of pregnancy
The main causes of abdominal pain in the first trimester of pregnancy, which corresponds to the period of 1 to 12 weeks of gestation, include:
1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
UTI is a very common problem of pregnancy and is more frequent to occur at the beginning of pregnancy. It can be experienced through pain in the bottom of the abdomen, burning and difficulty urinating, urgent urge to urinate even with little urine, fever and nausea.
What to do: It is recommended to go to the doctor for a urine test to confirm if it is urinary tract infection and start treatment with antibiotics, rest and fluid intake.
2. Ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy occurs due to the growth of the fetus outside the uterus, commonly in the tubes rising up to 10 weeks of gestation. Ectopic pregnancy is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain on only one side of the belly and which worsens with movement, vaginal bleeding, pain during intimate contact, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
What to do: In the case of suspected ectopic pregnancy, one should immediately go to the emergency room to confirm the diagnosis and start appropriate treatment, which is usually done by surgery of embryo removal.
Abortion is an emergency situation and it happens most often before 20 weeks and can be perceived through abdominal pain in the foot of the belly, vaginal bleeding or loss of fluids through the vagina, exit of clots or tissues and headache.
What to do: It is recommended to immediately go to the hospital to perform an ultrasound to check the baby’s heartbeat and confirm the diagnosis. When the baby is lifeless, curettage or surgery should be performed for its removal, but when the baby is still alive, treatments can be performed to save the baby.
In the 2nd trimester of pregnancy
Pain in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, which corresponds to the period of 13 to 24 weeks, is usually caused by problems such as:
Preeclampsia is the sudden increase in blood pressure in pregnancy, which is difficult to treat and which can pose a risk to both the mother and the baby. The main signs and symptoms of preeclampsia are pain in the upper right abdomen, nausea, headache, swelling of the hands, legs and face, and blurred vision.
What to do: It is recommended to go to the obstetrician as soon as possible to assess blood pressure and start treatment with hospitalization because this is a serious situation that puts the life of the mother and baby at risk.
2. Placental detachment
Placental detachment is a serious pregnancy problem that can develop after 20 weeks and can cause premature delivery or miscarriage depending on the weeks of gestation. This situation generates symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, contractions and back pain.
What to do: Go to the hospital immediately to assess the baby’s heartbeat and perform treatment, which can be done with remedies to prevent uterine contraction and rest. In the most severe cases, delivery can be made before the scheduled date, if necessary.
3. Training contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are training contractions that typically arise after 20 weeks and last less than 60 seconds, although they can happen several times a day they cause little abdominal pain. The belly usually becomes momentarily stiff, which does not always cause abdominal pain. But in some cases there may be pain in the vagina or foot of the belly, which lasts a few seconds and then disappears.
What to do: It is important at this point to try to stay calm, rest and change position, lying on your side and placing a pillow under the belly or between your legs to feel more comfortable.
In the 3rd trimester of pregnancy
The main causes of abdominal pain in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, which corresponds to the period of 25 to 41 weeks, are:
1. Constipation and gas
Constipation is more common at the end of pregnancy due to the effect of hormones and the pressure of the uterus on the intestine, which decreases its functioning, facilitating the development of constipation and emergence of gases. Both constipation and gas lead to the feeling of discomfort or abdominal pain on the left side and cramps, in addition, the belly may be more hardened in this section causing pain.
What to do: Ingest foods rich in fiber, such as wheat germ, vegetables, cereals, watermelon, papaya, lettuce and oats, drink about 2 liters of water a day and practice light physical exercises, such as 30-minute walks, at least 3 times a week. It is recommended to consult with the doctor if the pain does not go away on the same day, if you do not poop 2 days in a row or if other symptoms such as fever or increased pain appear.
2. Pain in the round ligament
Pain in the round ligament arises due to excessive stretching of the ligament that connects the uterus to the pelvic region due to the growth of the belly, leading to the feeling of pain in the lower abdomen that extends to the groin and lasting only a few seconds.
What to do: Sit back, try to relax and, if it helps, change position to relieve pressure on the round ligament. Other options are to bend your knees under the abdomen or lie on your side by placing one pillow under the belly and another between your legs.
Labor is the main cause of abdominal pain at the end of pregnancy and is characterized by abdominal pain, cramps, increased vaginal secretion, gelatinous discharge, vaginal bleeding, and uterine contractions at regular intervals.
What to do: Go to the hospital to assess whether you are actually in labor, as these pains can become regular for a few hours, but can disappear completely through the night. They may reappear the next day with the same characteristics. If possible, it is advisable that you call your doctor to confirm if it is labor.
When to go to the hospital
Persistent abdominal pain on the right side, near the hip and low fever that may arise at any stage of pregnancy, may indicate appendicitis, a situation that can be severe and therefore should be done away with as soon as possible. It is recommended to go to the hospital immediately when you experience these symptoms:
- Abdominal pain before 12 weeks of gestation, with or without vaginal bleeding
- Vaginal bleeding and severe cramps
- Severe headache
- More than 4 contractions in 1 hour for 2 hours
- Sharp swelling of the hands, legs and face
- Pain when urinating, difficulty urinating or urine with blood
- Fever and chills
- Vaginal discharge
The presence of these symptoms may indicate a serious complication, such as preeclampsia or ectopic pregnancy, and therefore it is important for the woman to consult the obstetrician or go to the hospital to receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible.