A lot of worrying comes with being pregnant — every new symptom brings on so many questions, and even the slightest twinge of pain in any part of your body can send you into a Googling frenzy. Anytime you feel severe, persistent pain, you should seek medical advice from your doctor to rule out a problem. But many moms find that slight to moderate pains come and go, and most of these are just par for the course. Here are some painful problems that are typically normal and part of a safe, healthy pregnancy, plus some tips from readers on how to relieve the hurt.
1. Round Ligament Pain
One of the first pains you might experience as your belly starts to grow is round ligament pain. These pains are felt primarily in the lower abdomen and in your sides, sometimes as a sharp, jabbing sensation. According to WebMD, round ligament pain occurs when the round ligament that connects the front part of your womb to your groin begins to stretch. It is "one of the most common complaints during pregnancy and is considered a normal part of pregnancy."
In discussions about round ligament pain, Maddie B. describes it as "sharp pains in my belly and my back, also sometimes in my bladder." Serena L. found the pains to be worse in her second pregnancy: "I thought it would have been the opposite because logically your muscles have to stretch the first time more, right? Yeah, not so much. My doctor explained it to me that the muscles have to work harder with every pregnancy thereafter because your first baby stretched things out."
Both Sally P. and Lisa M. found that the only thing that really helps is to lay down for a while and rest the ligament: "I went and laid down and took a nap for about a hour and then I was better," shares Lisa.
2. Slight Abdominal Cramping
Obviously, ligaments aren't the only thing stretching and growing in there! Your uterus is going through some feats of strength itself, and that kind of expansion can cause some pain. When a reader who goes by the name "Mommy 2 Be" had cramping at 17 weeks, moms advised her to see her doctor or go to the hospital if the pain became severe. But several members, as well as her own mother, advised that slight to moderate cramps usually happen when the uterus is "growing and stretching."
Abdominal cramps that happen very early in pregnancy can be caused by bloating and constipation, a very common yet uncomfortable pregnancy side effect. This kind of cramping can be one of the first signs of pregnancy, but can also continue well into the second and third trimester. Luckily there are some things you can do to help keep your bowels moving. Melanie T. suggests eating "anything with fiber" and plenty of fluids, especially prune juice and water. Many moms say drinking lots of water works best. Joy B.'s doctor also recommended exercise: "I go for a walk of between 2 and 4 km every day as moving around also helps ease constipation."
If natural remedies don't do the trick, it is safe to try a very gentle over-the-counter stool softener. Amber K. is a nurse and mom of two, and she suggests Colace brand stool softener: "[Colace] is just a stool softener . . . not a stimulant and perfectly safe. . . . They are little red gel-like caps and they are sold over the counter (OTC) at any store."
3. Back Pain
Many moms experience discomfort in their backs during the later stages of pregnancy. Back pain can also be caused by ligaments stretching. Connie R. talked to her nurse practitioner about this type of backache: "She says that it's ligament pain (we have them in our backs, too) and she recommends ice pack/compress [since] heat can only make it worse."
Another source of back pain is your baby's movement and pressure on sensitive areas in your body. Lisa B. is frustrated that with her third pregnancy, it's hard to find relief from all the strain: "I am so sore through my back and pelvis it hurts to lay in bed, it hurts to sit for too long, it hurts to lay in bed for too long and it hurts to walk around too much." She found relief with visits to a chiropractor, where she learned some stretching exercises that help: "One thing that I really like to do is to get down on my hands and knees and just let my belly hang and take all that pressure off my back, then just arch and roll your back (think yoga poses!)."
4. Leg Cramps
Leg cramps and muscle spasms can be common during pregnancy. Several members advise that these pains are almost always caused by dehydration, low potassium, or both. Ashley B. experienced leg cramps with all three of her pregnancies: "Drink plenty of water and make sure you are getting enough potassium (found in bananas and raisins) . . . this really worked for me. Also you could try sleeping with a pillow between your legs."
5. Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Your body has its own way of practicing and preparing for labor, and it's known as Braxton-Hicks. These are "fake" or "practice" contractions that you may experience during the final weeks before your baby is due. Jessica A. describes it beautifully: "That tightening that you feel from time to time in your uterus may feel like real labor, but it is actually a Braxton-Hicks contraction. These contractions happen when your brain sends messages to your body to prepare for labor. In response, your body contracts the muscles in your uterus to help get ready for your baby's eventual arrival."
The good thing about Braxton-Hicks contractions is that they are usually not very painful. Most moms describe them as a "tightening." Donna D. said hers "were very strong but they weren't painful. They took my breath away because my stomach went rock hard . . . You will know the difference when the time comes." Krista H. agrees that you don't have to worry whether you will recognize the difference between Braxton-Hicks and the real thing: "Braxton-Hicks FEEL like contractions, but unlike actual contractions, will go away if you get up and move around. Real contractions don't subside with movement."
This article in no way means to trivialize pain during pregnancy. Uncomfortable, slightly painful aspects of being pregnant come with the territory, but it is always a good idea to contact your doctor if you are worried about any pain you are experiencing. Seek medical treatment right away for any severe pain that does not go away. Persistent pain can be a sign that something is wrong, and only a medical professional can truly rule out a problem. [For more information, see 7 Pregnancy Warning Signs at WebMD.]
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.