Lower abdominal pain in early pregnancy can be a frightening experience, especially for women who are pregnant for the first time. In many cases, natural changes in the body are behind the discomfort, which may pass as the pregnancy progresses. However, in some cases, the pain can indicate a more serious complication; it is important to report lower abdominal pain and allow your obstetrician to determine the cause.
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Implantation and Uterine Changes
Changes in the uterus and cervical area during early pregnancy can cause lower abdominal pain, sometimes even before a positive test confirms pregnancy. Approximately two weeks after fertilization, the fertilized egg burrows into the uterus and implants itself into the wall, according to KidsHealth. Mild cramping similar to menstrual cramps can accompany this journey. Gas, bloating and an ever-expanding uterus can also cause mild pain or discomfort and is rarely cause for concern, although your physician will need to confirm this.
Urinary Tract Infection
The American Pregnancy Association explains that women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections during pregnancy because the increased weight of the uterus on the bladder can block urine drainage. Symptoms include pain or tenderness in the bladder area, lower abdominal cramps, discomfort when urinating and an increased urge to urinate. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to kidney infection, which may cause premature labor and low birth weight. Antibiotics usually clear up the infection. Prevention tactics include drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding tight clothing, cleansing the genitals thoroughly after elimination and urinating as soon as you feel the urge.
Round Ligament Pain
The round ligament connects the front part of the uterus to the groin, stretching to support the uterus throughout the pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Round ligament pain is most common during the second trimester, around the time your belly starts to show; however, it can begin earlier for some women. The pain occurs in the lower abdomen and may extend into the hip region. It is usually fleeting, lasting only a few seconds at a time and is aggravated by sudden movements such as coughing, laughing or standing up quickly. Moving slowly or performing daily stretching exercises may help the pain.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines early pregnancy loss as a miscarriage occurring during the first 20 weeks, with more than half occurring during the first 13 weeks. Although bleeding is the most common symptom of miscarriage, lower abdominal pain can also occur. The pain may increase and feel similar to menstrual cramps. Other symptoms include a painless gush of fluid from the vagina and passing of fetal tissue. Tests to confirm miscarriage include an ultrasound and pelvic exam.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus forms outside the womb and continues growing. Although ectopic pregnancies most often occur in the fallopian tubes, in rare cases a fetus can grow in the ovaries or cervix, according to Medline Plus. Ectopic pregnancies cannot proceed to full term and can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include lower abdominal pain, back pain and bleeding. Seek emergency medical help if you experience sudden sharp pain in the lower abdominal area, as this can be a sign of rupture.