Abdominal pain or cramping

Some short-term pain 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.

Early 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 
  • Fever 
  • Lightheadedness or faintness 


Last reviewed: December, 2013

Some short-term pain 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.

Early 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 
  • Fever 
  • Lightheadedness or faintness 


Last reviewed: December, 2013