Tummy Pain

Tummy Pain under 20 weeks

There are lots of changes to your body that occur during pregnancy which can leave you feeling uncomfortable. It is very common to experience abdominal pain, often related to your ligaments stretching to support your growing bump. This usually gets better by itself or improves after taking paracetamol 2x 500mg tablets (1g) 4-6 hourly not exceeding 4g in 24hours.  Do not take NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen when pregnant)

However, if you experience pain associated with vaginal bleeding, you need to contact your GP surgery (NHS 111 out of hours).

Causes of abdominal pain in early pregnancy


The hormonal changes in your body may cause you to become constipated very early on in your pregnancy.


Most abdominal discomfort is caused by the normal changes within your body adjusting to pregnancy. This can be abdominal muscles and uterine ligaments stretching, or aches within your pelvis.


If a pregnancy ends before the 24th week, it's called a miscarriage. Around 1 in 4 pregnancies ends this way.

Many early miscarriages (before 14 weeks) happen because there is something wrong with the baby. There can also be other causes of miscarriage, such as hormone or blood clotting problems.

Most miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks (3 months) of pregnancy and, sadly, most cannot be prevented. 

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants outside the womb – for example, in the fallopian tube.

It can cause bleeding and is dangerous because the fertilised egg can't develop properly outside the womb. The egg has to be removed, which can be done through an operation or with medicines.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy tend to develop in the 6th week of pregnancy but can happen later.

What we mean when we say “severe, moderate or mild pain’’:

Severe pain:

  • Always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk

  • You can't sleep

  • It's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain:

  • Always there

  • Makes it hard to concentrate or sleep

  • You can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain:

  • Comes and goes

  • You can manage to sleep

  • Is annoying but doesn't stop you doing things like going to work or eating a meal

Call 999 immediately if you have:

  • Severe constant pain that is not eased with regular paracetamol

  • Bleeding heavily (soaking through a sanitary pad in less than an hour).

Contact your GP surgery (or NHS 111 out of hours) if you have any of the following: (On the IOW contact your maternity unit)

  • Moderate abdominal pain that doesn’t improve after taking paracetamol, which may be on one side

  • A brown watery discharge from your vagina

  • Semi solid material discharged from your vagina

  • Pain in the tip of your shoulder

  • Abdominal pain with a temperature of 38 °C or over (or feel hot to touch)

  • Pain when having a wee (passing urine). Or if you notice blood in your wee

  • Abdominal pain associated with constipation

  • Mild pain/ discomfort that goes by itself or is eased with paracetamol

  • Discomfort associated with physical activity


Pain relief

Paracetamol 2x 500mg tablets (1g) 4-6 hourly not exceeding 4g in 24hours. Do not take NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen whilst pregnant.

Have a warm bath.

If pain is made worse by physical activity- rest

Contact your GP surgery if you are still worried

Preventing constipation

Speak to a pharmacist if diet and lifestyle changes are not helping. They can suggest a laxative suitable during pregnancy. These are medicines that help you poo more regularly. Most laxatives work within 3 days. They should only be used for a short time.

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