Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy: Causes and Symptoms

Why do you have abdominal pains, especially in the first and the third trimester? Let’s take a look at abdominal pains in these trimesters, the reasons, the treatment methods and when you should go to the hospital.

Abdominal pain during pregnancy in the first trimester

woman abdominal pain

The expectant mom’s body goes through the most changes in the first trimester, and thus this could make you more sensitive to changes. Slight pains in your abdomen might make you wonder if they’re signs of a miscarriage and make you feel uneasy. However, these pains could be a result of the embryo growing in the uterus and the uterus becoming bigger.

Your uterus starts to change in the first trimester, and you might continue to feel pain until your body is used to the changes arising in your body.

Abdominal pains in the first trimester are usually tingling or prickling sensations in your body, but could also be in the form of abdominal tightness. Your abdomen might also suddenly contract suddenly. How the abdominal pains are like differ from individual to individual, but the pains usually aren’t very serious.

So, why are there prickling or tingling sensations? There are 3 reasons why – let’s find out.


Reason #1: The uterus is growing bigger

The size of your uterus pre-pregnancy is about the size of an egg. When you’re pregnant, the placenta and the baby continue to grow, and so, your uterus will slowly grow as well. In Month 2 of pregnancy, the uterus will be about 1.5 times the original size it was. The uterus is mostly made of muscles, so when the uterus expands, the process can be painful.


Reason #2: The organs and ligaments around the uterus are compressed or pulled tight

The expanding uterus causes pain because the muscles constituting it are stretched. You might feel pain also because the ligaments around the uterus are pulled and the organs around the uterus are pushed out of their original alignment. The abdominal pains are similar to menstrual cramps.


Reason #3: Bowel movements slow down

The uterus grows bigger and the intestines become compressed. Progesterone, a female hormone secreted during pregnancy, slows down the movements of the bowels. The function of the bowel system decreases and you might feel constipated more often. Constipation also adds to abdominal pains.

Abdominal pain during pregnancy in the third trimester

pregnant woman abdominal pain

When you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, small movements might make you feel pain in your abdominal region. This is especially so once you’re past Week 37 and your pregnancy reaches term. What kinds of abdominal pains you will have and what you must look out for in the third trimester of pregnancy?


Abdominal pains that arise spontaneously in the third trimester

  • Abdominal pains while taking a walk, receiving an ultrasound test

  • Braxton Hicks contractions: False labor contractions that give your uterus the practice it needs, nausea, menstrual-like cramps, pain in the uterus, feeling that your insides are being squeezed and irregular contractions

  • Contractions: Slightly regular contractions

  • Constipation can make you feel pains in your abdominal region


Abdominal pains that you should be careful about in the third trimester

Threatened preterm labor: Contractions in the uterus that threaten to cause the cervix to open early.

  • Symptom – Pregnancy hasn’t yet reached term, but there are continuous pains in your belly.
  • Treatment – Medicine can be taken to stop the contractions, and there might be a need to be hospitalized.

Uterine fibroids: Benign tumors that grow outside the uterus.

  • Symptom – There are no symptoms in half of such cases. However, there are some women who experience strong menstrual cramps, abnormal bleeding, anemia, shortness of breath and palpitations.
  • Treatment – Early detection will help with the treatment process. Many take painkillers, are hospitalized, and have surgery done on them as well. The treatment for fibroids changes depending on the size and condition of the fibroids, so have a talk with your doctor to see what’s the best treatment for you.

Ovarian cyst, torsion and bleeding: A corpus luteum cyst that bleeds can be the cause of abdominal pain


Abdominal pains that should be treated urgently in the third trimester

Placental abruption: The placenta becomes separated from the uterine lining even though the baby has not yet been delivered. (In normal cases it separates after the baby is delivered.)

  • Symptom – Strong abdominal pains that are accompanied by bleeding. In some cases, bleeding can be mild or heavy, and the abdominal pains might not be very painful at times.
  • Treatment – As the baby has to be delivered as soon as possible, a C-section will be performed. Go to the hospital right away if you spot anything that might suggest you have had a placental abruption.

Abdominal pain during pregnancy: When should I go to the hospital?

pregnant woman ultrasound scan


In the first trimester

In the first trimester of pregnancy, it’s only normal to feel some pains in your belly, but when the pains become stronger than usual, this could actually be a sign of a pregnancy loss. The kinds of pain you have to take note of are pains that continue even when you’re at rest, pains that become stronger over time, or pains so strong you feel that you can’t bear them any longer.

When the abdominal pains you feel are due to a pregnancy loss, there will be other symptoms present. Symptoms include abnormal bleeding, the disappearance of morning sickness, or a drop in basal body temperature.

If any of the aforementioned symptoms are present, first calm down and confirm which symptoms are present, then go to the hospital to get yourself checked. You don’t have to have all the other symptoms present – if only one other symptom besides abdominal pain is present, that is reason enough for you to call your practitioner and go for a check up.


In the third trimester

The causes of abdominal pains in the third trimester might be difficult to differentiate because they all seem similar. There is no need to worry, but please go to the hospital right away if you experience any one of the following symptoms:

  1. 1 to 2 periods of contractions or abdominal tightness in a 30-minute interval
  2. Abdominal pains of different intensities in different places
  3. Breaking of waters
  4. Bleeding
  5. No fetal movement

Symptoms and signs like these mean that you have to go to the hospital without delay, and this is regardless of how far along you are in terms of pregnancy weeks. Acting fast can save your fetus’ and your lives.

Don’t think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill

pregnant woman doctor

Knowing why there are abdominal pains but not knowing how to tell the differences can make it worrying. What you can do is to think positive, reduce your stress levels and make sure your health doesn’t take a blow from any mental stress.

Be it the first or the third trimester, there are many reasons why you might be having abdominal pains. As this concerns both your and your baby’s lives, make sure you go to the hospital when you have to. Don’t think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill and stop yourself from going to your practitioner. It’s really better to be safe than sorry.