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Abdominal or tummy pain is common during pregnancy. In the first trimester (weeks 0 to 12) it is common to feel mild pains in the lower tummy area. These are caused by hormonal changes and by your growing womb.

You need to contact your midwife or GP urgently if:

  • the tummy pain is severe
  • the tummy pain feels like tightening. Tightening of your tummy could be a sign that you are having a contraction and may be going into labour. During a contraction your womb often goes hard to touch, and your abdomen can feel very tight
  • you have any bleeding from your vagina
  • the pain is in your upper tummy area, especially if it is on the right hand side, as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia
  • you have symptoms like pain on passing urine (peeing), high temperature, needing to pee more than normal and cloudy or smelly wee. These are all signs of a urinary tract infection.

What causes severe or sharp tummy pain in pregnancy?

In the first trimester (weeks 0 to 12) sharp or severe tummy pain could be due to:

  • an ectopic pregnancy
  • a miscarriage
  • a urinary tract infection
  • constipation or trapped wind

In the second and third trimester, severe tummy pain could be due to:

  • urinary tract infections or constipation
  • placental abruption
  • premature or preterm labour if you are less than 37 weeks pregnant
  • pre-eclampsia if you are more than 20 weeks pregnant. Other symptoms are a headache, swelling of hands, feet and/or face, blurred vision or seeing flashing lights or spots in front eyes and nausea or vomiting.

page last reviewed: 26/03/2018
next review due: 26/03/2021