Stomach pain during pregnancy is often expected. However, pregnant women need to be careful if other symptoms follow stomach pain or if the pain is very severe. To not be mistaken, pregnant women need to recognize the difference between average and dangerous stomach pain during pregnancy.
As gestational age increases, the uterus will continue to expand to make room for the fetus to grow. The uterus’ enlargement can pressure the muscles, joints, and blood vessels around the uterus, causing pain in the pregnant woman’s stomach.
Abdominal pain due to this condition is a normal thing and will not endanger the health of pregnant women and the fetus. Even so, stomach pain during pregnancy can also be caused by severe conditions, so medical attention is needed. Apart from the enlargement of the uterus, abdominal pain that is categorized as harmless can be caused by:
1. Excess gas in the stomach
A gas that builds up in the digestive tract during pregnancy can make pregnant women feel upset stomach. This occurs because the hormone progesterone causes the digestive tract muscles to relax and digest food more slowly.
The longer food is in the large intestine, the more gas it produces. The enlarging uterus can also put additional pressure on the digestive tract to accumulate gas in the digestive tract.
When gas builds up in the intestines, symptoms that arise are abdominal pain, chest pain, bloating, more frequent gas, and cramps.
2. Ligament pain
There are two primary ligaments or connective tissue that extend from the uterus to the groin, and both function to support the uterus. When the uterus is stretched, the ligaments also stretch. This makes pregnant women sometimes feel a sharp pain in the stomach, hips, or groin.
The appearance of pain that usually occurs in the second trimester of pregnancy can be triggered by a change in body position, sneezing, or coughing.
Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can trigger constipation. Lack of fiber intake, rarely exercising, or feeling restless can also cause constipation during pregnancy. If you experience it, pregnant women may feel abdominal pain, bloating, and pushing during bowel movements.
4. False contractions
When experiencing contractions, pregnant women will feel the uterus, lower abdomen, or groin tighten, then relax by itself. There are two types of contractions during pregnancy, namely false and genuine contractions. The difference between the two types of contractions is in their intensity.
The false contractions won’t get worse over time. Meanwhile, the original contractions will feel heavier and more frequent, followed by signs of labor.
False contractions are part of normal pregnancy and often occur in the last trimester of pregnancy. Usually, this condition is painless. But in some instances, these contractions may also be painful.
Stomach Pain to Watch Out for when Pregnant
Even though it is expected, stomach pain during pregnancy should not be underestimated, especially if it lasts 30 minutes to 1 hour or is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Discharge of blood in the vagina
- Chills and fever
- Pain when urinating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lower back pain
The following are some of the dangerous pregnancy complications characterized by stomach upset:
A miscarriage is the sudden death of the fetus before 20 weeks of gestation. This condition can be characterized by bleeding from the vagina accompanied by a tissue clot and pain or cramping in the abdomen and lower back.
2. Premature labor
Suppose you experience abdominal pain due to contractions (more than five contractions in an hour) or cramps such as menstruation that occurred before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In that case, pregnant women may experience premature labor.
Other signs of preterm labor are vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of the membranes, and pain in the pelvic area or lower back.
Pregnant women are said to have preeclampsia if their blood pressure continues to increase after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and there is an increase in protein levels in the urine.
Symptoms that need to be watched out for are swelling in certain parts of the body, rapid weight gain, headaches, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
4. Urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infections are characterized by pain in the lower abdomen, painful urination, frequent urge to urinate, and urine that smells or is mixed with blood.
If not treated immediately, this condition can increase pregnant women’s risk of experiencing kidney infections or giving birth prematurely.
Chorioamnionitis is a bacterial infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid that causes the amniotic fluid to fester and smell. Usually, these bacteria come from the vagina or urinary tract and spread to the amniotic sac.
Chorioamnionitis is characterized by pain in the uterus or abdomen, fever, and increased pulse rate in the mother and fetus. If not treated properly, this condition can cause serious health problems for both the mother and the fetus.
6. Ectopic pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside the uterus. This condition can be asymptomatic. However, if it is a problem, an ectopic pregnancy can cause severe pain, such as stabbing. This pain often appears on one side of the lower abdomen, accompanied by bleeding from the vagina.
The pain usually gets worse after physical activity or when coughing. Also, sufferers of ectopic pregnancy may experience sudden fainting.
This condition needs to be treated as soon as possible because it risks causing shock, ending the pregnant woman’s life.
7. Placental abruption
Placental abruption is a condition in which the placenta is partially or entirely separated from the uterus before the baby is born. This hazardous condition can cause symptoms in the form of abdominal cramps or contractions that don’t go away, bleeding from the vagina, and rupture of membranes accompanied by blood in the amniotic fluid.
Suppose pregnant women have difficulty distinguishing whether the stomach pain is normal or not or stomach pain during pregnancy is accompanied by other symptoms and is getting worse. In that case, pregnant women should go to an obstetrician for examination and treatment immediately.