Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy - What to do?

Determining The Cause

It is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to experience abdominal pain. It can be caused by the same things that cause abdominal pain in women who are not pregnant. On the other hand, it can be caused by hormonal changes and conditions that are peculiar to pregnancy alone. Since the causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy are myriad, it is important that a woman who is experiencing such pain be taken very seriously and checked out thoroughly to discover the cause.

Frequently, the causes of most abdominal pain during pregnancy are minor conditions. Such events as Braxton-Hicks contractions, stretching ligaments and pubic symphysis, are the most common culprits. They are effectively treated with a pregnancy-safe pain killers. The kinds of conditions that require immediate diagnosis and treatment include ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, urinary tract infections and threatened miscarriage, to name a few.

Upper Abdominal Pain

Upper abdominal pain is pain experienced in the region between the ribcage along the front and sides and extending downward to the belly button. This is a very common site for pain that is usually caused by indigestion, trapped wind, gastritis, kidney stones or gallbladder issues. Additional reasons for upper abdominal pain involve pancreatitis, liver disease, spleen infections, and heart problems. Since the majority of major organs are located in the upper abdomen, any pain there is immediately suspect. Treatment for this kind of pain can only be determined by knowing exactly what is happening, which means the doctor must be contacted and the proper tests run.

Lower Abdominal Pain

Serious and constant abdominal pain in the early stages of pregnancy, especially during the first twelve weeks, is often indicative of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. If a woman is experiencing cramping, similar to menstrual pain, and is bleeding vaginally, the indication can be a miscarriage. If the bleeding is profuse, with the passing of clots, there has probably been a spontaneous abortion. It is important a woman be assessed to determine whether the pregnancy is ectopic (tubal), a condition that is inherently more dangerous. If there is a tubal pregnancy, it can be treated surgically via laparoscopy, or, if caught early in the pregnancy, with drugs.

What Was That?

A sharp jab or stabbing pain in the lower abdomen experienced when a pregnant woman suddenly stands up, changes positions, or even coughs, ending in a dull ache that lasts most of the day, can be attributed to round ligament pain. Round ligaments surround the uterus and it is necessary that they stretch and thicken in order to support the size and weight of the growing womb. The natural changes that have to take place in order to accommodate the growth can cause pain on either or both sides of the abdomen.

Left, Right, Center-What's What

Frequently, abdominal pain on the left side is caused by constipation. Hormones, pressure from the growing womb, and a slowing of the digestive system all contribute to difficulty having bowel movements. Eating foods that help with elimination without causing diarrhea are one of the better ways to handle this problem. Heartburn and gastritis are additional causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy. There are several medications available to handle the pain and discomfort associated with dyspepsia, heartburn, and gastritis in pregnant women. They are obtainable over-the-counter, but it is always a good idea to check in with the doctor before purchasing any type of medication.

When abdominal pain strikes on the right side, the most common cause is appendicitis. It is, in fact, the most common cause of non-pregnancy-related abdominal pain during pregnancy. Appendicitis accounts for nearly 25% of surgeries performed on pregnant women. Pain that hits in the upper right abdomen is usually caused by gallbladder stones, just as it is in women who are not pregnant. Fatty foods trigger the assault of pain and it may be accompanied by vomiting. This can sometimes be accompanied by fever and inflammation, indicating an infection. The doctor will be able to assess the condition and determine a safe mode of treatment.

Practice Makes Perfect

When there is abdominal pain on the left during pregnancy, the common cause is Braxton Hicks contractions. These "practice" contractions often occur throughout the pregnancy, especially after the first trimester. Even though they are normal, they are a cause for discomfort and abdominal pain.

Sometimes The Pain Just Means You're Pregnant

Abdominal pain can also be a symptom of pregnancy. As previously mentioned, ectopic pregnancies present with acute pain on one side or the other. A missed pregnancy is also identified by abdominal pain. In a normal pregnancy, when the embryo implants into the uterus, there is lower abdominal pain and sometimes bleeding. Menstrual-like cramping in the very early stages of pregnancy is a common symptom. As the uterus begins to grow, ligaments that support the uterus stretch, causing pain and discomfort.

The wonder of it all is that women gladly endure the pain and discomfort associated with pregnancy for the sheer joy of giving birth to their babies.

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