There are various aches and pains and discomforts that form a part of pregnancy. However, lower abdominal pain during pregnancy, persistent pain or severe pain is something that should never be ignored.
We look at why lower abdominal pain during pregnancy happens at different stages:
Lower abdominal pain in the earlier part of pregnancy
Implantation – When the implantation of the embryo into the uterine walls occurs, this could cause mild pain in the earlier stages of pregnancy. This does happen among some women, but the pain or cramping is mild.
Ectopic pregnancy – This is a potentially life threatening condition where the embryo implants in the fallopian tubes rather than in the uterus and it can cause pain and cramping in the lower abdomen.
This pain may worsen with activity or sneezing/coughing and even going to the bathroom.
Other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are vaginal bleeding or spotting, and in advanced cases a woman could experience lightheadedness, cold sweat and pain in the shoulder.
Miscarriage – This is another very serious reason for lower abdominal pain during pregnancy. Though this is most common in the first trimester, a miscarriage could occur at any time during the first half of the pregnancy (up to 20 weeks). It could be mild or severe pain or could feel more like backache. But relating to miscarriage is usually preceded by some amount of bleeding.
Lower abdominal pain in the latter part of pregnancy
Stretching of ligaments – As the body changes and stretches to accommodate the growing fetus, the muscles and ligaments in the lower abdomen can experience some amount of pain.
This starts out in the second trimester or the second half of pregnancy and is also known as round ligament pain. Lower abdominal pain during pregnancy that occurs due to this reason is also normal and usually nothing to worry about.
Preeclampsia – High blood pressure during pregnancy can sometimes cause lower abdominal pain, particularly if severe. Other symptoms can include swelling or puffiness and rapid weight gain. There could also be visual disturbances, headache and nausea.
Placental Abruption – This is another serious reason for lower abdominal pain during pregnancy, where the placenta separates from the uterus. This is usually accompanied by bleeding and contractions.
Preterm labor or false labor – Sometimes, abdominal pain could mean preterm labor of the real kind. However in most cases it is something called Braxton Hicks Contractions which are like practice contractions that cause some amount of pain in the abdomen in the last trimester.
Urinary tract infections – Women are more susceptible to UTIs during pregnancy. These should be investigated and treated promptly because left untreated they could lead to pregnancy complications.
Other causes for lower abdominal pain during pregnancy – Common pregnancy problems such as constipation and gas can also cause stomach pain. As the body stretches to accommodate the baby, various aches and pains are also normal. The rule of thumb however is that if the pain is severe, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal bleeding or spotting, dizziness, chills, fever, cramps or tenderness, you should call a doctor at once.