- When to See the Doctor
What are sharp stomach pains during pregnancy?
It can be difficult and stressful for pregnant women to tell the difference between normal pregnancy pains and signs that something is wrong. As your body adjusts to accommodate the fetus, some discomfort or pain is natural.
While some abdominal pain can be normal, it can sometimes be a symptom of pregnancy complications. If you’re experiencing unfamiliar, sharp abdominal pain, contact your doctor who can help you tell the difference. During routine check-ups, you also should update your healthcare provider on any pains you’re experiencing.
Symptoms of stomach pain during pregnancy
The location, severity, and intensity of your stomach pain can all help determine its cause. It is also important to know how far along in your pregnancy you are.
Normal pregnancy cramps may start as early as implantation. After that, they are most common during the first trimester as your body begins to change. You may experience occasional cramps later in the pregnancy. It can feel like an aching or pulling feeling on either or both sides of the abdomen. They often resemble menstrual cramps and are rarely severe.
Starting in the second trimester, many women experience sharp pain in the uterus, groin, or either side of the lower abdomen. This may or may not be accompanied by a dull ache in the lower abdomen or sides.
As your uterus grows, it can stretch the supporting ligaments, creating what is known as round ligament pain. The pain is often described as sharp or shooting. Sudden movement or exercise may make it worse. It should go away after a few minutes of rest.
Causes of stomach pain during pregnancy
In addition to round ligament pain and cramps, other conditions may cause stomach pain during your pregnancy. Many women who are pregnant can experience:
Any of these conditions can cause sharp stomach pain. In addition, women may experience completely unrelated issues. For example, kidney stones occur as frequently in pregnant women as in women who are not.
While plenty of stomach pains are normal during pregnancy, if the pain is sharp and sudden, call a doctor. Sharp stomach pain is also one of the primary symptoms for the following serious pregnancy complications:
In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg implants outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable. If they are not caught in time, the eggs may cause the fallopian tubes to rupture, which can cause severe abdominal pain. A ruptured fallopian tube is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical treatment.
Early pregnancy loss
Also known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, early pregnancy loss can occur during the first trimester. The fetus may be damaged, have an abnormal number of chromosomes, or fail to develop correctly. Early pregnancy loss affects about one in ten pregnancies.
Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can also produce sharp stomach pains. This condition can pose a threat to a healthy pregnancy, so it’s important for your doctor to help you manage it carefully.
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus during pregnancy. It can be life-threatening to both mother and child. Doctors don’t always know why it has happened, but it sometimes occurs during trauma, such as a car accident.
Preterm labor also may cause abdominal pain if your cervix starts dilating before 37 weeks.
When to see the doctor for stomach pain during pregnancy
If you’re experiencing sharp and worrisome stomach pains, it’s best to check with your doctor as soon as you can. Keep your doctor informed of all symptoms, but watch out for these warning signs in particular:
- Continual (rather than intermittent) pain
- Pain accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Heavy or continual bleeding
- A change in vaginal discharge
- Severe pain that makes it difficult to walk, speak, or breathe
Diagnosing stomach pain during pregnancy
Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, check your blood pressure, and perform a physical exam. They will most likely look at the fetus with an ultrasound as well.
Additional tests will depend on what the doctor suspects may be causing the pain but may include blood tests and other imaging.
Treatments for stomach pain during pregnancy
There are several things you can do to help ease stomach pain. If you are experiencing round ligament pain, it should subside if you rest on your side with your stomach supported by a pillow.
The following exercises may also help with pregnancy pains:
- Stretches that are safe for pregnant women
- Controlled breathing
- Experimenting with different positions for sleeping and sitting
If the pain persists, talk to your doctor about finding other methods to manage it.
- Women's Gymnastics Brings High Risk for Concussion
- Going Solo: Masturbation May Give Humans an Evolutionary Edge
- Longer Breastfeeding in Infancy, Better School Grades for Kids?
- Kids With ADHD, Behavior Issues Have Poorer Trajectories as Adults
- FDA Finalizes Limit on How Much Arsenic Can Be in Apple Juice
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Pregnancy Association: "Pregnancy Cramps."
American Pregnancy Association: "Sharp Pain During Pregnancy."
American Pregnancy Association: "What Is Implantation Bleeding?"
American Urological Association: "Pregnancy and Kidney Stones."
Cedars Sinai: "Placental Abruption."
Marshfield Clinic: "Abdominal Discomfort During Pregnancy."
NorthShore University Health System: "Pregnancy-Related Problems."
Top Sharp Pains in Your Stomach During Pregnancy Related Articles
Abdominal PainAbdominal pain can have many causes that range from mild to severe. Some of these causes include bloating, gas, colitis, endometriosis, food poisoning, GERD, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ovarian cysts, abdominal adhesions, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and cancers. Signs and symptoms of the more serious causes include dehydration, bloody or black tarry stools, severe abdominal pain, pain with no urination or painful urination. Treatment for abdominal pain depends upon the cause.
What's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?In general, abdominal pain, which may be in the lower left or right of your abdomen, is a symptom of many possible conditions including appendicitis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and others. It may accompany constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms. Find out the potential causes of pain in the abdomen and learn when you should see a doctor.
Pregnancy Discomforts: Common CausesDuring pregnancy, most women will experience discomforts during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimesters. Common causes of discomforts during pregnancy include nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), fatigue, breast swelling and pain, hemorrhoids, stretch marks, mood swings, dizziness, migraines, tooth pain and bleeding gums, and pica. Common causes of pregnancy discomforts include constipation, heartburn, indigestion, reflux, varicose veins, abdominal pain, problems sleeping, congested or bloody nose, and flu like body aches.
When Should I Be Concerned About Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy?Pelvic pain in pregnancy is a common issue that affects many women. Learn what causes pelvic pain in pregnancy, how doctors diagnose pelvic pain in pregnancy, and what you can do to treat pelvic pain in pregnancy. Pelvic pain is common in women and can have a variety of causes. Some of the possibilities include inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and endometriosis.
Indigestion (Dyspepsia, Upset Stomach Pain)Indigestion (dyspepsia, upset stomach) can be caused by problems related to, or not related to the gastrointestinal tract. Signs and symptoms are upper abdominal pain, belching, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and abdominal distention. Treatment depends upon the cause.
How Soon Before Labor Do You Have Diarrhea?Diarrhea may be a sign that your labor will start within 24-48 hours, but there are other more reliable signs that labor is approaching.
Is It Normal to Have Pain on Your Left Side During Pregnancy? Why and When to WorryLeft side pain and back pain are common symptoms that affect many women during pregnancy. Learn what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat left side pain and back pain during pregnancy.
Is It Normal to Lose Appetite in 2nd Trimester Pregnancy?What to know about losing your appetite in pregnancy. Learn about the risks and how you can make sure you're eating a healthy diet.
Pelvic Pain (in Women and Men)
Pelvic pain is described as pain, usually in the lower pelvic area. Causes of acute and chronic pelvic pain in women include endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts, tumors, or fibroids, ovulation, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or congestion syndrome, vulva pain, and rarely cancer. Pelvic pain during pregnancy may be caused by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy), preterm or premature labor, and placental abruption. Causes of pelvic pain in men include prostate problems, testicular pain, and groin pain. Causes of pelvic pain in men and women include kidney stones, appendicitis, UTIs, IBD, and STDs.
Signs and symptoms associated with pelvic pain depend on the cause, but man include pain during or after sexual intercourse, abdominal pain, distension, and tenderness, diarrhea, constipation, vaginal discharge or bleeding, blood, pus, in the urine, cloudy urine, blood in the stool, stool color changes, and low back pain. The cause of pelvic pain is diagnosed by a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging procedures. Treatment for pelvic pain depends on the cause.
Pelvic Pain SlideshowThere are many causes of pelvic pain and pain in the lower abdomen in women. Pelvic pain near the female lower abdomen has symptoms that can be uncomfortable, but luckily, there are treatments for pelvic pain if you can identify the cause.
Stages of Pregnancy: Week by WeekSee pictures on the various stages of pregnancy. See and learn what changes a woman's body goes through and view fetal images of how her baby grows during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Swollen Ankles and Swollen FeetSwollen ankles and swollen feet is a symptom of an underlying disease or condition such as edema, medications, pregnancy, injuries, diseases, infections, lymphedema, or blood clots.
Tummy Trouble QuizTummy Troubles? Get a better idea of what's causing the nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, pain, and other gastrointestinal discomforts and problems. Take the Tummy Troubles Quiz!
Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Every Meal?Stomach pain after meals is a symptom of many conditions. Learn the signs of stomach pain after every meal, what causes stomach pain, how doctors diagnose stomach pain, and what you can do to treat stomach pain after every meal. Your digestive system breaks down food into nutrients your body needs to function properly. Here are 6 ways to improve digestive health and promote healthy gut bacteria.