Pregnancy can be amazing, wonderful, magical … and sometimes a little painful. Are you noticing some discomforts, wondering what might be going on, or trying to look ahead at what to expect? Here’s our list of the top 10 things that can cause pain in pregnancy.
- Stretching ligaments in your uterus. Your uterus is held up by ligaments called round ligaments, and these seriously stretch while your baby (and uterus!) grows. Round ligament pain often feels like an aching or sharp abdominal pain that is worse with moving or twisting.
- Ectopic pregnancy. If you are having abdominal pain and have yet to have an ultrasound that confirms your pregnancy is where it should be in your uterus, and not outside it in the fallopian tubes or elsewhere, what you are experiencing could be an ectopic pregnancy. It’s important to be seen right away because this is an emergency that needs to be treated with medicine or surgery.
- A miscarriage. The first sign of a miscarriage may be abdominal pain or bleeding. Women often describe this pain as similar to a bad period or labor pain.
- Contractions. Contractions don’t always just start up shortly before your baby is born. They can be milder practice contractions called Braxton-Hicks contractions, or they can be a sign of preterm labor. If you are near your due date and wondering if it’s time to go in, read here to see how to time your contractions.
- Sciatica. A sharp pain that shoots down your lower back or your legs can be caused when your expanding uterus compresses the sciatic nerve. Thankfully, this can often be treated by changing your position, massage, or taking a mild pain reliever.
- Symphisis pubic dysfunction. Also known as SPD, this is like experiencing the worst form of the pregnancy “waddle.” SPD can make pregnancy really difficult, so read here for signs to recognize it and manage it.
- Rib separation and nerve compression. Pain in your ribs, pain in your back, pain in your shoulders — you can thank that growing baby and enlarging uterus, as well as the hormones of pregnancy that make joints less stable, for all these problems. Again, a few treatment options exist to help you cope with this aspect of pregnancy.
- Placental abruption. This scary — and potentially life-threatening — complication of pregnancy often causes severe abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. Call your doctor or 911 right away if you have these signs.
- Constipation or hemorrhoids. It’s not glamorous, but pregnancy makes you prone to being constipated as well as developing hemorrhoids. Talk to your doctor or midwife about what you can do to manage these symptoms.
- Non-pregnancy related causes of pain. Issues like appendicitis, kidney stones, gallstones, and more can happen to pregnant women just as they can occur in men and women who aren’t pregnant. If your doctor is worried about any of these, he or she can be sure you are tested in ways that are safe for both you and your baby.
Reviewed by Dr. Diana Huang, May 2020
- Pain in the early part of your pregnancy may be caused by an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or round ligament pain.
- Contractions can occur well before your due date, and can be Braxton-Hicks contractions or signs of preterm labor.
- Some causes of pain in pregnancy can be a medical emergency, and if you are worried seek care immediately.