Upper Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

Though pain in the upper abdomen is common during pregnancy, it can also be an indication of a serious problem. Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to know about the problems like preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, cholelithiasis, Braxton Hicks contractions, etc. which can cause such a pain.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Though abdominal pain in pregnancy is often restricted to the lower part, it is not rare for women to experience pain in the upper area also. In most cases, such a pain is not a serious issue. However for some, it can also be a symptom of a severe problem. Hence, it is crucial for women to know about the connection between pregnancy and upper abdominal pain.
Let us take a look at some of the medical problems that can give rise to abdominal pain in the early as well as later stages of pregnancy.
Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants itself outside the uterine cavity. In most cases of ectopic pregnancy, the implantation occurs inside the fallopian tubes. However, it can also occur in cervix, ovaries or abdominal area. If unnoticed, there could be bleeding and other complications due to the rupturing of the area of ectopic pregnancy. This condition poses a threat to the life of the woman and calls for immediate medical intervention.
Many women miscarry in the first few months of the pregnancy. If a woman feels sharp pain in her abdomen followed by weakness and passing of blood, consult a doctor immediately.
One of the key causes of this pain is preeclampsia which occurs during the second or third trimester. It takes place when the pregnant woman is suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure along with the passage of significant traces of protein in the urine. This disorder leads to changes in the blood vessels, due to which certain organs of the body including the brain, kidney and liver can get affected. It may also adversely impact the placenta.
HELLP Syndrome
HELLP syndrome is a disorder which usually occurs during the last three months of pregnancy. The full form of HELLP syndrome is 'Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count'. A woman is most likely to experience severe pain and tenderness on the upper right side of the abdomen. HELLP syndrome can lead to the development of preeclampsia, because the former can increase blood pressure levels and protein in the urine. Pregnant women may also suffer from blood clots as well as anemia due to HELLP syndrome.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
Sometimes, a woman may feel contractions in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. These are not 'near birth' contractions, and are the result of tightening of the uterine muscles for a very short duration. They usually disappear in some time; but if they persist, it is advisable to consult your doctor.
Preterm Labor
If the cervix of a pregnant woman gets dilated or she starts to have contractions before completing 37 weeks, one of the symptoms will be severe pain in the upper part of abdomen. This symptom will be an indication of a preterm labor and will require immediate medical attention.
Kidney Infection
Usually, this condition gives rise to pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen and pelvic area, but if the infection spreads towards the kidneys, one can experience pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen as well.
The gallbladder is a small organ which stores bile (a digestive juice which aids in breaking down fats) in the body secreted by liver. Therefore, it plays an important role in the digestion of fat. However, during pregnancy, this organ does not work so effectively, and the bile can solidify to form gallstones or cholelithiasis.
A woman may also feel acute pain in the upper side of her stomach during pregnancy because of inflamed appendix caused by the enlargement of uterus. Unfortunately, it is difficult to detect appendix problems during pregnancy. It can be fatal if not treated in time. Hence, if you feel any kind of pain in your stomach, it is better to bring it to your doctor's attention right away.
Stretching of Ribs
When the fetus grows in size, the ribs also increase, so as to help the baby to fit in the mother's tummy. It is natural for the mother to experience pain in that area due to this bodily change.
Gas and Digestion Problems
Excessive gas and bloating due to improper or slow digestion during pregnancy can cause such a pain. The extra pressure exerted by the uterus on stomach and intestines is also one of the causes of pain in the upper part of the stomach.
A pregnant woman's digestive tract takes more time to process food which results in constipation leading to pain in the abdomen.
During pregnancy, the body goes through rapid changes in a short time. Therefore, it is not easy to decide if the bodily changes you are experiencing are normal or not. That's why, it is best to seek the help of a medical professional if discomfort persists.
Disclaimer ~ This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
Pregnant woman relaxing at a park