What Causes Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy?

By October 12, 2018General

Throughout the three trimesters of your pregnancy, you may experience abdominal pain of varying degrees. Your body is going through a number of changes very rapidly as it adapts to accommodate your baby, and there are a number of ways this can result in abdominal aches.

Some causes are common and not be a reason for concern. Others can be quite serious. Let’s take a look at what these might be.

Cramping From Your Growing Uterus

As your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby, it can place pressure on your bowels, causing stabbing pains in your abdomen, uterus, or groin area.

Gas, Bloating and Constipation

When you become pregnant, your body begins increasing levels of the hormone progesterone. This slows down your gastrointestinal tract, meaning the food you eat will digest more slowly, causing gas, bloating and constipation. This is exacerbated by the pressure your growing uterus places on your stomach and intestines. If you are troubled by constipation, simple treatments such as Metamucil/Benefibe, or Movicol/Osmolax are safe at all stages of pregnancy.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions – also known as ‘false labour’ – are a tightening of your uterine muscles. They may begin in your second trimester as your uterus prepares for labour and delivery of your baby. They may come as a shock at first but don’t be alarmed, they are completely normal – albeit a little uncomfortable.

If they become regular or painful, get in touch with your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of preterm labour. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking. Sometimes the only way to tell the difference between true labour and Braxton Hicks contractions is that they stop before a baby is born!

Abdominal Pain

Round Ligament Pain

As the uterus grows, the ligaments that support it begin to stretch and thicken, causing pain and discomfort. This often happens when you move positions (like getting out of a chair or car) and is characterised by a sharp stabbing pain. If you’ve had having a busy, active day you may experience a dull ache for a time afterwards.

Urinary Tract Infection

Whether during your first, second or third trimester, you are still susceptible to developing a UTI. Women are more likely to develop UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men. If left untreated, it can lead to kidney or bladder infections, which is quite serious during pregnancy. Pain or pressure in your lower back or abdomen is a common symptom of a UTI.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, usually in your fallopian tube or somewhere else in the abdomen. Cramping or stabbing pains are common symptoms.

Early detection of an ectopic pregnancy is very important and can prevent serious medical complications and permanent damage to the fallopian tube or where the egg has implanted.

If you have any of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, it should be considered an emergency and will require immediate treatment. Around one or two in every 100 pregnancies are ectopic. Read more about it here.


A miscarriage is the loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy (the loss of a baby after 20 weeks is called a late pregnancy loss or stillbirth).

Miscarriages are, sadly, very common. Up to 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks. An even greater number end in miscarriage before women even realise they are pregnant. Vaginal bleeding is often the first symptom, followed by abdominal pain.

Premature Labour

If you are having regular contractions earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy, you may be going into premature labour. Sharp abdominal pain (similar to period cramps) is a common symptom.


Pre-eclampsia is the most common serious complication associated with pregnancy and is usually diagnosed during your routine check-ups. It is a condition characterised by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, swelling of the hands, face and feet, and severe fluid retention, and pain just below the ribs is a common symptom.

Of course there is a wide range of reasons you may be experiencing pain in the abdomen during pregnancy that are pregnancy-related. Everything from food poisoning to a stomach virus to kidney stones may be causing you discomfort.

If you are concerned about abdominal pain and would like to book an appointment, please get in touch today.

Dr Bevan Brown is one of the most trusted obstetricians in the Hills District.

We understand that no two pregnancies are the same, so we’re there for you every step of the way, before, during and after. Personalised care and strong relationships with our patients is of utmost importance to us!

If you are experiencing serious or ongoing pain, get in touch with your doctor or call emergency services.