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Abdominal pains during pregnancy can be disconcerting and frightening. They can range from severe shooting pains to twinges in your abdomen- feeling almost like your baby kicked just a little too hard. The concern about abdominal pain is that it is difficult to gage whether your pain could be contractions, cause for serious concern, gas, or a myriad of other conditions pregnancy causes your body to weather through. After all, your organs are constantly shifting, your uterus is expanding, and your ligaments are stretching. As a mama to be, your body is shifting and changing but that doesn’t mean that you have to live with unexplained pain until you have your baby!
There are multiple reasons for abdominal pain during pregnancy that are no cause for concern. From constipation to gas, below are some common culprits that cause painful but harmless abdominal aches and pains during pregnancy.
It is important to note, if the pain you’re experiencing continues, or if you have symptoms such as bleeding or strong cramping, you must check in with your healthcare provider.
Gas: High levels of progesterone are relaxing your intestinal muscles, so gas may happen at any point in your pregnancy. You may experience it even more than usual toward the end of your pregnancy when your enlarged uterus puts extra strain on your muscles and slows digestion. Severe gas can feel very painful, almost mimicking a heart attack.
Growing uterus: As your uterus grows, it displaces your bowel, which can lead to nausea, a sense of feeling full easily, or distention in your abdomen. Eat more frequent, smaller meals, exercise regularly, get rest, and empty your bladder often.
Constipation: Up to 75 percent of pregnant women may experience constipation at some point in their pregnancy. Iron supplements, a diet low in fiber, a lack of sufficient fluids, and fluctuating hormones can all contribute. Constipation can feel painful after a while and may need medical intervention if severe.
Round ligament pain: Sometimes as the uterus enlarges, it stretches the round ligaments—two big ligaments that travel off the front of the uterus and down into the groin. You may feel this as lower abdominal discomfort that radiates into the groin; it may be sharp and stabbing when you change positions or dull and achy. It usually begins in the second trimester and will resolve on its own, but if you’re extremely uncomfortable ask your ob-gyn if you can take acetaminophen.
Braxton Hicks contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions are not associated with dilation of the cervix. The trick is to differentiate these “practice contractions” from real premature labor. True contractions tend to get closer and closer together, while Braxton Hicks contractions usually come erratically or further apart. Dehydration can trigger Braxton Hicks contractions, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. If the contractions persist, or you’re not sure whether they’re Braxton Hicks or true contractions, call your ob-gyn.
However, if you feel any of the sensations below make sure to call your primary care physician right away:
Any kind of abdominal pain paired with vaginal bleeding: These symptoms could be a sign of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. This happens when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube (or elsewhere in the abdomen) instead of the uterus.
Sudden, sharp pain in the upper right abdomen, with or without nausea: Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific condition that involves a sudden increase in blood pressure and some kind of damage to other organs, usually the kidneys and liver. More specifically, risk factors include having a family history of preeclampsia, chronic hypertension, as well as factors like age and race. Pain in the upper right abdomen could also be a symptom of gallstones. If you have gallstones, in addition to upper right abdominal pain, you might experience pain in the center of your abdomen, back pain between your shoulder blades, pain in your right shoulder, nausea, and vomiting.
If you are unsure about if what you are feeling is normal, please see your healthcare practitioner as it is always better safe than sorry when your precious bundle of joy is involved!