Stomach cramps in pregnancy

Discover why you get stomach cramps in pregnancy & find out when you should see the doctor
Should I be worried? -

While they are undoubtedly one of the more 'scary' symptoms of pregnancy, it may reassure you to know that stomach cramps aren't usually a cause for concern. Your body goes through such huge changes while you're growing a baby that cramping is often just an all-too-common side effect.

Occasionally, however, stomach cramps are a sign of a more serious problem so it's important to listen to your body and see your doctor when something doesn't feel right.

What causes stomach cramps in pregnancy? -

More often than not, cramping during pregnancy is nothing more than your body adjusting to the weight of your developing baby. It's important to remember this, to stay calm and to try not to worry unduly. Remember, only occasionally do tummy cramps signify a more serious condition.

Common causes of stomach cramps:
  • Implantation -
    Cramping in very early pregnancy can be caused by the embryo implanting in the wall of your womb and the subsequent changes that need to occur to prepare your body to carry a child.

  • Stretching -
    As your pregnancy progresses, your body needs to find space for your developing baby. Stomach cramps are often just a side effect of your muscles and ligaments stretching to make room. The extra weight that carrying a baby places on your body can also cause cramping but again this is usually nothing to worry about.

  • Indigestion -
    Indigestion, wind and constipation are all common causes of abdominal cramping during pregnancy.

  • Orgasm -
    While you have no need to worry that having sex while you're pregnant is going to hurt your baby in any way, orgasms can sometimes bring on cramping in the lower back and abdomen. This will usually subside after a couple of minutes though, particularly if you get your partner to give you a back rub!!!

  • Stress -
    Stress and tension can sometimes bring on uncomfortable stomach cramps with or without back ache. This is because feeling stressed can cause muscles all over your body to tighten, and this can be most noticeable in areas already under strain.
More serious causes of pregnancy stomach cramps:
  • Ectopic pregnancy -
    A pregnancy is said to be ectopic if a fertilised embryo implants outside of the womb (usually in the fallopian tubes). Symptoms can include severe pain to one side of the abdomen, dizziness and bleeding.

  • Miscarriage -
    Symptoms of a miscarriage can include severe abdominal cramping with spotting or heavy bleeding.

  • Pre-eclampsia -
    Stomach cramps can sometimes be a symptom of the high blood pressure related condition pre-eclampsia, particularly if they are accompanied by a sudden swelling of the hands, feet and face.

  • Premature labour -
    Persistent stomach cramps that occur between week 24 and 36 of pregnancy could be a sign of premature labour, particularly if they are accompanied by regular contractions, back pain, diarrhoea and ruptured membranes (waters breaking).
When should I call the doctor? -

It is a good idea to contact your midwife or doctor if you experience cramping with any of the following symptoms:
  • Spotting

  • Heavy bleeding

  • Heavy discharge with/without clots

  • Tenderness in your lower abdomen

  • Sharp pain, particularly on one side

  • Dizziness

  • Fever

  • Severe cramps that don't subside

That said, you know your body best and if you're worried about what might be causing cramps regardless of whether you have any other symptoms it's always worth calling your doctor for reassurance. NHS Direct (available on 0845 4647) are another advisory resource available to you.

How to soothe pregnancy stomach cramps?

To relieve some of the discomfort of pregnancy stomach cramps you could try:
  • Sitting down, putting your feet up and taking some time out

  • Taking a warm bath or shower

  • Placing a warm compress or hot water bottle on your lower back

  • Getting a back rub

  • Taking a short walk

  • Simply changing how you're sitting or standing

  • Gently rubbing your tummy

Whether you have a question that only another parent-to-be can answer, or simply fancy a chat, why not visit the AskBaby forums.

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thanks for the advicei find it easy to sleep on my back will it cause problems for me in future?
by owame 20th Jun 2013, 3:41pm
I have horrible pain inbetween my breasts in the middle of my diaphram when I lay on my side.. Please tell me there's something I can do to help this pain..
by leeah 18th May 2010, 4:56pm
i am 30 weeks pregnant & for the last 2 days have had what feels like braxton hicks. i know it is a common thing, but this is all on 1 side, every 5 minutes and lasting for about 1 minute. i am a little constipated so thought it could be that causing the cramps. but i am really not sure what to do. i havent slept properly in weeks because i cant get comfy. im wondering if the baby has had a major growth spurt & that could also be the cause for the pain. not sure what to do.
by babylurve 14th May 2010, 5:03pm
I am in my 16th week of pregnancy and for the last 12 weeks i have been experiencing spotting and pain in my tummy. I have had various scans and nothing is wrong but in the last two weeks i have been experiencing severe pain in my lower abdomen the only way i can describe it is its like ive been kicked. My tummy feels so tender. i am a little worried about this but i have visited my doctors so many times recently regarding my pregnancy i feel like a nuerotic pregnant woman. Does anyone think this is anything to worry about and is anyone else experiencing these kind of pains??? please help
by lisa9999999 14th May 2010, 3:56pm
hi guys, no one posts on here if you should worry or not. im not a doctor but you all sound normal to me, i experienced the same and still get them (im 15weeks) i also have a sickness bug now which is making my stomach do somersults, the doc told me not to worry unless i bleed!! hope this puts your minds at rest a bit.
by kym85 14th May 2010, 3:54pm
i am in my 6th week of pregnancy and am suffering peroid type cramping pains, i am worried as i lost 2 babys last year, i have a son of 3 and had no problems with his pregnancy, am i right to worry or is this a commen sign????
by racheyt 14th Jan 2010, 9:25am
Hi, just wondering if someone can help me! I'm 8 weeks pregnant (tomorrow) and very excited, although have been getting period like cramps in my abdomen (and very occasionally one one side) but not necessary when my period is due. The cramps are usually worse when i'm sitting at my desk at work, or if i have trapped seems to be fine when i am at home with my feet up relaxing in my pyjamas! I was trying for a baby for 2 years before i fell pregnant so don't know if i am just worrying about it too much! Has anyone else experienced this? Thanks...x
by MM31 8th Dec 2009, 5:59pm
i am 8 weeks pregnant and when i sleep on my side i start to cramp very bad andi have to ge out of bed walk around for a few minutes inorder for the cramping to go away,
is this normal? has anyone experience this before?
i asked my doc about this and she said it's possible i might miscary! OMG
by 9999999999999 6th Dec 2009, 6:14pm
i am 35 weeks pregnant and have had stomach cramps since early hours of this morning. I also feel sick any one got any advice of what i shud do????
by lisa1987x 6th Nov 2009, 9:19am