Abdominal pain or cramping
Some short-term achiness in the belly is normal during pregnancy. But, severe cramping or pain never is. Call your health care provider when you show signs of severe pain.
What causes mild belly pain in pregnancy?
There are different causes for mild achiness or pain in the abdomen during the different stages of pregnancy.
- Some women have low, period-like pain or cramps early in pregnancy. But if pain is severe or felt on one side, call your health care provider right away.
Later in pregnancy
- As your belly grows, the muscles and ligaments (tough bands of tissue) that support your uterus stretch. This can cause a dull ache across the belly or a sharp pain on one side. Many women feel this pain most severely when getting up from a bed, chair or bathtub or when coughing.
- Gas pains and bloating may be caused by hormones that slow your digestion, the pressure of your growing uterus, constipation and heartburn.
- You may feel irregular contractions or tightening of your uterus muscles, often called Braxton-Hicks or false labor. False labor is usually painless, but some women feel pain. False labor tends to increase in the weeks right before your due date and can be confused with true labor.
When should you call your health care provider?
While some pain or achiness is normal, severe abdominal pain or cramps could be a sign of a serious problem. Many conditions can cause this type of pain, like ectopic pregnancy, urinary tract infection or preterm labor (when labor begins too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
Contact your provider if you have:
- Severe pain
- Pain that lasts more than a few hours
- Bleeding or discharge from your vagina
- Lightheadedness or faintness
Last reviewed December 2013
Most common questions
How do you know you're pregnant?
Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:
If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.
Is my baby moving enough?
You'll start feeling your baby's kicks at around the 28th week of pregnancy. By this time, your baby's movements are usually well established and some health care providers recommend keeping track of these movements.
- Track kick counts at about the same time each day when your baby is active.
- Track kick counts shortly after you've eaten a meal (when your baby may be most active).
- Sit or lay on your side, place your hands on your belly and monitor baby's movement.
- Mark every movement down on a piece of paper. Don't count baby's hiccups.
Keep counting until you've felt 10 movements from baby. If baby doesn't move 10 times within 1 hour, try again later that day. Call your health provider if your baby's movement seems unusual or you've tried more than once that day and can't feel baby move 10 times or more during 1 hour.
When will I start feeling my baby move?
Popcorn popping. A little fish swimming. Bubbles. Butterflies. Tickles. These are common words used by women to describe their baby's first movements. Also known as "quickening," it's a reassuring sign that your baby is OK and growing. This milestone typically starts sometime between 18 to 25 weeks into pregnancy. For first-time moms, it may occur closer to 25 weeks, and for second- or third-time moms, it may happen much sooner.
At first it may be difficult to tell the difference between gas and your baby moving. You might not feel movement as early as you are expecting to feel it, but you'll notice a pattern soon. You'll start to learn when the baby is most active and what seems to get her moving.