The 5 Most Common Kinds of Stomachaches During Pregnancy, and How to Stop Them
There's absolutely zero doubt that pregnancy does some wacky things to a woman's body, especially when it comes to her stomach. In other words, if you're expecting a little one in the future, get ready for a whole lot of changes that range in severity from a few weeks of cramping to full-on, gut-wrenching morning sickness.
According to experts, there are several common causes of stomachaches during pregnancy, so you can get them during any trimester for a variety of reasons. Most of the time they're totally harmless, but just to be sure, we asked Iffath Hoskins, MD, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Health, to explain the most prevalent types of stomach pain. Ahead, she explains the most common reasons for getting a bellyache when you're pregnant and the best ways to remedy them. And if you're experiencing abdominal pain regularly, make sure you consult a doctor ASAP.
Believe it or not, stomach pain can hit you as soon as six to 12 days after you conceive. "Expect this in early first trimester. In general, there is spotting and bleeding, but rarely actual pain," Dr. Hoskins explained. What's causing this? It's actually the fertilized embryo physically burrowing into the uterine wall.
It's no joke, but thankfully there's an easy fix. "To help relieve discomfort, increase fluids and apply heat to the lower abdomen. Avoid taking pain medication unless absolutely necessary," Hoskins recommended. "If bleeding accompanies this discomfort, call your doctor to get a proper assessment and treatment plan."
Usually when it comes to stomach pain during the second trimester, ligament stretching is the main culprit. It's characterized by sharp, shooting pains in the lower belly or groin area on one or both sides of the body. Hoskins said that the cause is pretty straightforward: "This pain is due to stretching of the uterine wall and stretching of the ligaments (especially the round ligament) that support the sides of the uterus. It occurs because the pregnant uterus is enlarging and growing out of the pelvis."
The best way to treat it? By applying an ice pack to the area in 20-minute intervals every two to three hours as needed.
Heartburn is the gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to the types of stomach pain pregnant women deal with. Some expectant mamas get it as early as the first trimester and have to battle until they give birth. Yikes.
Hoskins explained that a pregnancy hormone called progesterone causes the relaxation of the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach — and that makes the stomach acids reflux back into the esophagus. And while the lining of the stomach can resist the effects of these acids, the lining of the esophagus cannot, thus causing heartburn.
"When it comes to treating it, sleep propped up with extra pillows, drink liquids like milk, take Tums (which are also an excellent source of calcium!), and suck on frozen things, such as ice. Women with heartburn can also use Pepcid," she added.
Gas or Constipation
If you've ever been pregnant before, you know that you can get a little, ahem, backed up from time to time over nine months. But according to Hoskins, that's actually perfectly normal. "This is caused by the pregnancy hormone progesterone, causing the smooth muscle of the bowel to become more relaxed, so the contents don't 'move' along the bowel as fast. Taking iron supplements? That can also lead to an internal traffic jam because they can lead to constipation or gas.
To make matters more confusing, it's also important to note that the "feeling" of having gas doesn't necessarily mean you have it at all. "Patients may do more mouth breathing as there is increased effort in taking a deep breath (due to hormonal changes of pregnancy), so there is swallowing of air, which may cause sensation of gas."
Put the discomfort behind you by heading to the produce section of your grocery store. "Constipation can be relieved by eating roughage and drinking lots of liquids, including water and hot teas, and walking."
Braxton Hicks Contractions
In the second and third trimesters, expectant mamas might feel contractions or an irregular tightening of their uterine muscles, called Braxton Hicks contractions or false labor. "This happens because the body is preparing to give birth because the uterine muscle is preparing for the contractions of true labor, or early prodromal labor," Hoskins said. "These are usually painless and tend to increase in the weeks leading up to your due date," she said, adding that "it's probably false labor if the contractions stop when you walk, are irregular, and don't get more intense or rapid over time."
"Nip Braxton Hicks contractions in the bud by resting and applying mild heat to the stomach and lower back if they feel painful. If any cramping feels painful and/or lasts over approximately two hours, give your doctor a call."