6 Common Pregnancy Pains & What They Mean

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Pain is common during pregnancy and can affect your back, head, stomach ligaments, joints and more.

Usually, pain is a normal pregnancy symptom, but sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious that requires treatment.

In this article, we’ll discuss 6 common pregnancy pains, what they mean, and what you can do to get rid of them.

Pregnant Pains

Pregnancy can bring about all sorts of different aches and pains. From back aches to headaches to conditions that require treatment—symptoms can vary.

If you don’t know the cause of any pregnancy pain you’re experiencing, it’s important to talk to your doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment, if required.

In the sections below, we’ll be discussing 6 different types of common pregnancy pains and what you can do to alleviate them.

Pregnant Stomach Pain

If you’re pregnant with stomach pain, it’s hard not to worry. Most likely though, when stomach pain is brief, it’s a normal pregnancy symptom.

Normal early pregnancy stomach pain can be caused by your uterus expanding or your ligaments stretching (called round ligament pain). If you’re pregnant and have pain in the lower abdomen, this is a common cause. You can think of them as growing pains.

When your belly pain is caused by round ligament pain, you can soothe your aches at home by:

  • Taking a warm bath
  • Gentle stretching
  • Resting

At any time during pregnancy, you may get stomach pain from digestive issues, like constipation. You may also experience constipation more regularly as your body changes.

Sometimes stomach pain can be a symptom of a larger problem, like miscarriage. Other symptoms of miscarriage include:

  • Bleeding
  • Tissue expelled
  • Cramping
  • Lower back pain
  • Loss of pregnancy symptoms

If you’re later on in your pregnancy, stomach pains could be a sign of labor. (Read: 6 Near Labor Signs & How to Know When to Go to Hospital).

If you think you’re having a miscarriage or having signs of labor, seek medical attention immediately. You should also seek medical care whenever your stomach pain becomes severe or prolonged.

Also read: Are Cramps During Pregnancy Normal? 11 Causes

Pain in Belly Button During Pregnancy

You might also experience belly button pain during pregnancy. There are a few possibilities:

  • If your navel is rubbing against your shirt or pants, it might irritate your belly button, especially as your stomach gets bigger.
  • Stretching ligaments. Stretching ligaments as your uterus gets bigger can also push your belly button out. Sometimes this can cause pain.
  • Dry skin. Even if your belly button skin isn’t normally dry, it might become dry and painful or itchy during pregnancy as your skin stretches. To prevent this, you can apply moisturizer.
  • Umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is a bulge at the belly button which can sometimes cause pain. Sometimes surgery is needed to repair the hernia if it doesn’t recede after delivery.

Pain in the Inner Thigh During Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant with inner thigh pain, it might be related to a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), which causes stiff joints.

This is thought to happen when the ligaments holding the pelvic bones loosen, allowing them to grind together and cause pain. This might happen because of relaxing, an important hormone during pregnancy that causes your muscles to relax.

Symptoms of SPD include:

  • Inner thigh pain
  • Difficulty walking or standing up
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sharp or shooting pain in the groin or rectum area
  • Radiating pain

SPD usually isn’t a cause for concern and is typically temporary. The symptoms should go away after birth. You can wear a support belt when you need extra stability, like when you go for a walk.

If you think you have SPD, you should contact your doctor or a physical therapist.

Back Pain During Pregnancy

Back pain is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. It can be dull, acting as a coming-and-going annoyance. But it can also be more intense, making it difficult to sleep, sit or stand for long periods of time. Somewhere between 50 to 70% of people experience back pain during pregnancy.

Back pain can affect the neck, hips, back, legs and butt areas. Back pain can start early on as your hormones change. It can also start or intensify later in pregnancy as your belly gets bigger and the extra weight means added pressure.

You can alleviate and prevent back pain by:

  • Stretching
  • Paying attention to your posture
  • Applying heat or cold compresses when your back is aching
  • Having a warm bath
  • Getting a prenatal massage
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Using a support band

Read: 11 Hacks for Pregnancy Back Pain Relief That Work

Pregnancy Headaches

Headaches are another annoying yet common pregnancy symptom. They can happen at any time during pregnancy. According to research, about 39% of women will have a headache during or following pregnancy.

If you don’t typically get headaches, you might start experiencing them while expecting. If you’re already used to headaches, they could get even more frequent or intense.

Early pregnancy headaches are usually normal. Although the cause is unclear, they may be caused by changing hormones, blood volume, congestion, or dehydration from vomiting. If you quit consuming caffeine, first trimester headaches could have another cause: withdrawal.

Read: Early Pregnancy Headaches: 10 Remedies to Stop the Pain ASAP

A third trimester headache may also be caused by blood volume and changing hormones. In addition, the tension from your added baby weight might play a role, which also contributes to poor posture, another common cause of headaches. Third trimester headaches can also be caused by a lack of sleep, which tends to happen as your belly grows and makes it harder to catch some z’s.

Although pregnancy headaches are usually normal, you should seek medical care if they become severe, prolonged or are accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever. A sudden headache starting after the 20th week can be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure condition that requires medical care.

Read: Third Trimester Headaches: Causes and 10 Remedies

Pain While Urinating During Pregnancy

If you have pain while you urinate, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). According to research, about 2 to 10% of pregnant women experience UTIs.

Although anyone can experience a UTI, they pose more of a risk during pregnancy if the infection spreads, so medical care is important. Symptoms include:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Burning while you urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Cloudy or strong-scented urine

If you think you have a UTI, you need to have it confirmed by your doctor. Pain while you urinate can also be caused by other conditions, like a sexually transmitted disease (STI). If your doctor confirms you have a UTI, they will most likely prescribe a course of antibiotics. It’s important to treat UTIs because, if left untreated, they can spread to the kidneys and pose life-threatening risks to your baby.

Read: UTI During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Safe Painkillers During Pregnancy

When you’re having aches while expecting, you might wonder which painkillers are safe during pregnancy. Always ask your doctor before trying an over-the-counter pain reliever during pregnancy. What’s safe depends on your pregnancy and health conditions.

In general, doctors recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) as the safest over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever during pregnancy. You should avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or Advil, because they’re linked to low amniotic fluid and fetal kidney issues.

In some situations, it may be inappropriate to treat pain with acetaminophen and you may require medical attention. Always talk to your doctor about any pains you’re experiencing during pregnancy.

Summary: Pregnancy Pain

Unfortunately, aches and pains during pregnancy are common. From headaches to backaches and round ligament pain as your belly grows, the list of possible symptoms is long. If you’re unsure what’s causing your pregnancy pain, always talk to your doctor. Before taking an over-the-counter pain reliver, make sure to check with your healthcare provider first, too.

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