What are the Causes of Pain When Pregnant?

Geisha A. Legazpi

A woman may experience occasional pain when pregnant. The usual kinds of pain experienced when pregnant are back, abdominal, and pelvic pain. Pain during pregnancy may be due to hormones, nerve entrapment or compression, stretched ligaments, infection, labor, abnormality in pregnancy, and diseases. It may also be associated with other symptoms, such as bleeding, spotting, or fever. When a woman experiences pain when pregnant, it is important for her to consult with a doctor in order to identify the specific cause of the pain and receive appropriate management.

Pregnancy places strain on one's back due to extra weight, hormone changes, or nerve compression.
Pregnancy places strain on one's back due to extra weight, hormone changes, or nerve compression.

Back pain occurs in as much as half of pregnant women. It is usually due to weight gain, the hormone relaxin, or nerve compression. The characteristic of the pain depends on its location. Upper back pain is usually described as burning, whereas lower back pain is usually described as dull. Gluteal pain may also exist, and is usually described as stabbing.

Abdominal pain in early pregnancy could indicate an impending miscarriage.
Abdominal pain in early pregnancy could indicate an impending miscarriage.

Abdominal pain during pregnancy may be due to either a harmless or a serious condition. The most common causes of harmless abdominal pain when pregnant are gas and bloating, constipation, and round ligament pain. Gas, bloating, and constipation are due to the enlarging uterus pressing on the stomach and intestines. Round ligament pain is due to stretching of round ligaments due to the enlarging uterus.

Tubal pregnancy is a serious condition that may cause abdominal pain while pregnant.
Tubal pregnancy is a serious condition that may cause abdominal pain while pregnant.

Serious conditions that may cause abdominal pain when pregnant are miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and preeclampsia. Abdominal pain in miscarriage is characterized as crampy and diffuse, and is often associated with vaginal bleeding. Ectopic pregnancy is a condition when the implantation of a fertilized egg happens outside of the uterus. Preeclampsia is an abnormal condition wherein a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and protein in urine. It may also present with headache, nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances, and swelling around the eyes, hands, or feet.

Appendicitis may cause abdominal pain in early pregnancy.
Appendicitis may cause abdominal pain in early pregnancy.

Pelvic pain during pregnancy is usually due to preterm labor and placental abruption. Miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and round ligament pain may also present with pelvic pain. In preterm labor, pain is characterized as menstrual-like cramping. Placental abruption is an abnormal condition in pregnancy wherein there is partial or complete placental separation from the uterus before giving birth.

Abdominal pain during pregnancy may be due to either a harmless or serious condition.
Abdominal pain during pregnancy may be due to either a harmless or serious condition.

Other conditions that present with pain may coexist during pregnancy. Some of these conditions are rupture or torsion of the ovary, viral gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitis, and urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infection is common among pregnant women because of the compression of the enlarging uterus on the bladder. It usually presents with foul-smelling or bloody urine, pelvic pain, urinary frequency and urgency, and burning pain during urination.

Upper back pain during pregnancy is often described as a burning feeling.
Upper back pain during pregnancy is often described as a burning feeling.

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