Lower abdominal pains in early pregnancy

Stabbing pains in the lower abdomen during early pregnancy are fairly common - but what's causing them? And are there times when it might be worth getting checked out by a doctor?

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Any pains when you’re pregnant can be a bit scary, and we’ve noticed in our forum quite a few mums chatting about having stabbing pains in their lower abdomen in the very early stages of their pregnancy.

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For example, smudgesmith, nearly 5 weeks pregnant says: “Had a bit of a worry today at work when all of a sudden got shooting/stabbing pains in my lower tummy – was really quite sore.

“I called the midwife and she said hopefully just stretching pains but to go straight to a&e if start bleeding heavily or it gets severe.

“It eased off after about an hour and half, however every time I go to the toilet and (sorry tmi) strain (to see if it’s wind etc) it feels really tender in my lower stomach is sore for a minute or two after.”

Kelby1978 is in a similar situation, revealing: “I’m nearly 10 weeks and I’ve been getting sharp stabbing pains down the front of my tummy that go up inside me, is this normal?

“I’ve had an ectopic pregnancy and 3 miscarriages but never got this far before, I’m also on aspirin this time round, I’m trying not to panic!!”

So, what’s going on? And if you get similar pains – what should you do?

What’s likely to be causing lower abdominal pains in early pregnancy?

We spoke to our consultant GP, Dr Philippa Kaye, who advises that it’s quite common for there to be some pain in the lower tummy in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

This is because pregnancy hormones kick in early and cause the ligaments and tissues around the uterus to start to stretch, which can cause discomfort. 

“Another cause in early pregnancy is related to the corpus luteum in the ovary,” she says, explaining:

“Normally when you release an egg from a follicle in the ovary and it isn’t fertilised the corpus luteum which is left behind breaks down.

“But when you are pregnant the corpus luteum stays and produces hormones to help support the pregnancy up until about week 10 when the placenta takes over.

“A corpus luteum cyst can occur which can cause pain.”

When should you see a doctor with lower abdominal pain in early pregnancy?

Another common cause includes a urinary tract infection. So, if you feel stinging/burning when urinating or are going for a wee more frequently than usual, then Philippa advises seeing a doctor.

She adds that although having some discomfort is common and can be normal, it’s also worth seeing a doctor if:

  • you are having bleeding with the pain, even if it is light
  • the pain is more on one side or the other rather than central
  • it is severe pain
  • you feel dizzy/lightheaded.

Docs will then (most likely) arrange a scan to check for miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

Dr Philippa Kaye is a London GP who has written several books on pregnancy and childcare including The First Five Years. Visit her official site or follow on Twitter.

Image: Getty Images

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