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Lower Abdominal Pain While Pregnant

By Maria Magher ; Updated April 18, 2017
Pregnant woman laying on bed.

Your rapidly changing body can cause all manner of pains and discomforts throughout your pregnancy. While lower abdominal pain may be cause for concern at any stage of your pregnancy, it is actually a common side effect of the changes your body is going through, such as expansion of your uterus. Getting enough rest and using other comfort measures can help you find relief from this common discomfort.

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Potential Causes

Normal lower abdominal pain during pregnancy has a number of causes. In the first trimester, the expansion of the uterus can cause cramping or dull aches, as can gas and constipation. In the second and third trimester, the most common cause of lower abdominal pain is the stretching of round ligaments, which connect and support your womb and groin. These thick ligaments are strained as your uterus grows and more pressure is placed on your pelvis. Braxton Hicks contractions can also cause lower abdominal pain in the second and third trimester. These so-called "practice contractions" involve the tightening of your stomach muscles, and they can be very uncomfortable.

Contributing Factors

Several activities can trigger lower abdominal pain in pregnancy or make it worse. For example, sharp movements like sneezing, coughing or laughing can exacerbate round ligament pain. Even simple movements like rolling over in bed or standing up quickly can trigger round ligament pain. Dehydration can contribute to Braxton Hicks contractions, as well as to gas and constipation, all of which can cause lower abdominal pain.

Comfort Measures

If you feel lower abdominal pain during pregnancy, you may find some relief by increasing your water intake or eating more fiber to reduce your risk of gas and constipation. Eating small, frequent meals can prevent cramping that can aggravate lower abdominal pain, as can using the bathroom frequently to keep your bladder and bowels empty. Sit down or change positions to take pressure off your pelvis, or lie down to give your body a rest. Light exercise such as a walk may also help, as can taking a warm bath or doing some breathing exercises.

Serious Problems

Many serious issues may also cause lower abdominal pain during pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm labor, placental abruption, preeclampsia, UTI, appendicitis and gallstones. Call your doctor if you have severe lower abdominal pain in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or if you have any abdominal pain accompanied by bleeding at any time during the pregnancy. Call your doctor if you have severe abdominal pain or if you have more than four contractions per hour for two hours. Other signs of a serious problem include severe headache, swelling in the arms or legs, fever, chills, dizziness, nauseua or vomiting, change in vaginal discharge, problems walking and problems urinating.

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About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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