Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy: What Medical Conditions Cause Them?
Occasional abdominal pain is pretty frequent during pregnancy, but sometimes it can be the sign of a serious health problem. You should never ignore severe or persistent abdominal pain while pregnant.
Find out more about the most frequent causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy, but don`t try to put a diagnosis on your own. If you experience a pain or abdominal cramps followed by vaginal bleeding, fever, chills, vaginal discharges, fainting, pain when urinating, nausea and vomiting, or if the pain doesn`t improve after a few minutes of rest, call your doctor!
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Medical Conditions that Cause Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
If you experience persistent or severe abdominal pain while pregnant accompanied by other symptoms, you can take into consideration the fact that you may suffer of a serious condition.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterine cavity, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can put the life of the mother in jeopardy. Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you experience one of these symptoms: pain or sensitivity in the abdominal or pelvic area, vaginal bleeding and pain with worsen during physical activities or if you stool or sneeze, as well as pain in the shoulder.
If you are bleeding heavily or experience signs of shock, such as dizziness, rapid pulse, fainting, wet or pale skin, immediately call a doctor.
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy under 20 weeks. Bloody vaginal bleeding or frequent leaks are usually the first symptoms, followed by abdominal pain which last for a few hours or even a few days. The bleeding can be small or severe. The pain is under the form of a cramp or persistent, a bit intense or on the contrary, very severe and you can sense it in your back or around your pelvic area. Call a doctor immediately if you think you experience signs of miscarriage. If you have severe pain or heavy bleeding, you need to visit a hospital immediately.
The contractions which thin and dilate the cervix before the week 37 of pregnancy are a sign of early labor.
Call your obstetrician immediately if during the second or third trimester (before the week 37) you experience either one of the below symptoms:
- Increase of vaginal discharges or changing of their consistency – they become more watery, similar to mucus or they include blood, even if it has a pink color or it`s accompanied by streaks of blood.
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Abdominal cramps similar to the tones during menstruation or more than 4 contractions per hour (even without pain).
- Pressure around the pelvic area.
- Back pain – especially if you didn`t experience back pain by now.
Placental detachment appears when the placenta separates itself from the uterus, partially or completely, before birth and is a life-threatening medical condition.
The symptoms are extremely varied. Sometimes it causes sudden and obvious bleeding, but in other cases they may be no initial bleeding or only experience a low amount of discharge or a few leaks of blood. Also, if the water was broken, you`ll notice a liquid which contains blood.
In addition, the uterus becomes sensitive, you may experience back pain and frequent contractions, and in the same cases the uterus contracts itself without relaxing anymore. It`s possible to notice a decreased fetal activity, which requires immediate medical care.
Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition which occurs with pregnancy-induced hypertension which can affect a series of the mother`s organs: the liver, kidneys, brain and placenta. Additionally, you may also experience excess of protein in the urine. Generally, this medical condition is diagnosed after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The signs of preeclampsia are: swollen hands, legs and face around the eyes. This retention of liquids leads to rapid weight gain. In severe preeclampsia, the upper part of the abdomen can become painful, you can experience trouble seeing, headache, nausea or vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Urinary Tract Infections
Pregnant women are more prone to urinary infections of any kind, including kidney infections.
Discomfort or sensation of burning when urinating, pelvic discomfort or pain in the inferior abdominal area and sensation of frequent urination are signs and symptoms which should alert you or make you call your obstetrician. Untreated, urinary infections can lead to kidney problems and early labor.
Signs that the infection spread in the kidneys (you need immediate medical care) are: fever, chills, sweating, back pain or located under the ribs in one of the abdominal sides or both, nausea, vomiting or blood or cloudy urine.
Less Dangerous Causes for Abdominal Pain
Not all abdominal pains are symptoms of severe conditions, but don`t forget that if you aren`t sure of what to expect, it`s best to talk to your doctor.
- Gases and bloating – Are common during pregnancy due to hormones which slow the digestion, and also because of the pressure from the growing uterus on the stomach and intestines.
- Constipation – The cause is the same – slowing the transport of the food through the intestines due to pregnancy hormones and the pressure exerted by the developing fetus on the rectum.
- Round ligament pain – It`s generally manifesting either as a short, intense pain (like stabbing), either as a continuous discomfort that you feel on one or both sides of the inferior abdomen or groin. Frequently, the pain starts in the second trimester of pregnancy due to the stretching and thickening of the ligaments which support the growing uterus. You may feel a brief sting when you change the position of your body, like when you get out of bed, stand up from a chair, cough or change your position while being on the bed. Or you may feel a discomfort especially if you had an active day, you walked a lot or done a physical activity. Call your doctor if the discomfort continues even after you`ve rested.
- Braxton–Hicks contractions – Sometimes, after half of the pregnancy you may start to notice how your abdomen contracts from time to time. Before the week 37 of pregnancy, this type of contractions is irregular, rare and frequently painless. Get in touch with your obstetrician if these contractions are accompanied by back pain, are more than 4 in 1 hour (even if they are painless), if they become regular or if you may experience signs of early labor. Once the pregnancy approaches the term, abdominal cramps can be signs that labor started.
What Can You Do to Relieve the Pain?
The following advices may be helpful if the discomfort isn`t caused by a serious issue.
- Move or do some easy exercises to relieve the abdominal pain caused by gas.
- Change the position of your body – if you are lying down, stand up and go for a walk.
- Do a warm bath for maximum 30 minutes.
- Drink water, if you are dehydrated.
- Drink a glass of milk or warm tea.