It is perfectly normal to experience low belly pain when pregnant. The body goes through many changes as the fetus grows, and this can cause various types of discomfort throughout the pregnancy.
There may be several explanations for lower belly pain. Most are harmless and perfectly normal.
However, severe pain or cramping that does not go away might be a sign of a serious issue.
This article will look at some of the most common causes of lower belly pain during pregnancy, how to treat them, and when to see a doctor.
Some causes of low belly pain can occur at any time during pregnancy:
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- pain or pressure in the lower belly area
- pain or burning while urinating
- feeling extremely tired
- feeling shaky
- needing to urinate more often
- foul-smelling urine
- reddish or cloudy urine
Doctors can test a urine sample to diagnose a UTI, while treatment usually involves antibiotics.
Trapped wind is a possible cause of lower belly pain in pregnant women. This happens because:
- pregnancy hormones can slow digestion
- the growing uterus puts pressure on the digestive system
- pregnancy-related constipation disturbs the balance of the digestive system
During the first trimester, the following are potential causes of low belly pain:
In the early stages of pregnancy, many women experience period-like pain or cramps, usually low down in the belly. This is normal, as the egg settles into the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancy is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition. It occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. As the egg develops, it can burst the tube, which can cause serious internal bleeding.
Early signs of ectopic pregnancy include:
- mild pain in the lower belly or pelvis
- vaginal bleeding
- pain in the lower back
- mild cramps on one side of the pelvis
These symptoms can worsen as the egg grows. Signs of a ruptured fallopian tube include:
- sudden, severe pain in the belly or pelvis that does not go away
- pain in the shoulders
A ruptured tube is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
Doctors will normally use a combination of medication and surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy. Treatments will aim to trigger the body to reabsorb the egg, and repair the ruptured fallopian tube.
Low belly pain during the second trimester could commonly be caused by:
Stretching muscles and ligaments
Later on in pregnancy, the muscles and ligaments that support the uterus stretch as the belly expands. Women might feel a dull ache across the belly, or a sharp pain on one side. It might worsen when they stand up, get out of bed or the bath, or cough.
The following causes of low belly pain are more common during later pregnancy:
Braxton-Hicks contractions are part of the body’s preparations to give birth, and usually occur in the week before delivery. They help make the cervix softer and thinner. Many women will find the pain goes away if they go for a walk, or change position.
Belly pain that does not go away when the woman moves around may be a sign of pre-term labor. This means giving birth before week 37 of pregnancy.
Signs and symptoms of pre-term labor include:
- pain or pressure in the lower belly
- a dull backache that doesn’t go away
- belly cramps
- a change in vaginal discharge quantity or consistency – it might be more watery, mucusy, or bloody
Anyone who experiences any labor symptoms too early should call a doctor straight away.
Mild belly pain during pregnancy will usually go away on its own. Women can also try taking acetaminophen to ease discomfort.
UTIs, ectopic pregnancies, and pre-term labor all require medical attention.
There are several home remedies to ease mild cases of lower belly pain. These include:
- using a heat pad
- using a cold compress
- massaging the belly
- relaxation techniques
Pregnant women should see a doctor if they have any of the following:
- symptoms of a UTI
- severe pain
- pain that lasts for more than a few hours
- vaginal bleeding
- a fever
- feeling lightheaded
- feeling faint
Anyone who thinks they may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy should call 911.
It is common to experience lower belly pain during pregnancy. This discomfort is usually mild and will go away on its own, or with the over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen.
If the pain is severe and lasts for more than a few hours, it could indicate a more serious condition. In these cases, people should speak to a doctor.