The aches and pains of pregnancy are all too real for most moms-to-be. But while a pain in the butt might be just that, there are other areas of your body (like your tummy) that might make you terrified and fear for the worst. That’s why understanding upper stomach pain during pregnancy can help assuage some fears so you can rest assured that your fetus is doing just fine in there.
Although no two pregnancies are the same, you can potentially expect some upper tummy troubles from time to time during your nine months. After all, all of your inner organs (think your stomach and intestines), which have all had their own space up until now, are now being smashed into a super small space and are still expected to function fine. But depending on the stage of your pregnancy, upper stomach pain might be a nuisance, and in other cases, a cause for concern.
Read on to find out what can be producing stomach pain, how to solve it, and when to potentially seek medical help.
Upper Stomach Pain During Your First Trimester
You’re feeling queasy and your stomach is hurting. So what gives? During your first trimester, it’s very likely that you’ll feel uncomfortable, and there’s a good reason why: hormones. “Your hormone levels are changing and progesterone is an interesting hormone that causes some important changes in your body,” Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, MD, an OB/GYN and senior medical director with Babyscripts tells Romper. “Progesterone relaxes your intestinal tract and your esophagus, which then allows acid from your stomach to reflux into your esophagus causing that annoying heartburn.” And your intestines? They tend to slow down a bit, which causes you to feel more bloated, gassy, and yes, constipated, too.
That said, there are times when you might have stomach pain and it’s not just from those greasy fries you just ate. “Outside of normal pregnancies in the first trimester, there are situations in abnormal pregnancies that may cause upper abdominal pain,” says Dr. Demosthenes. “The main one here is a ruptured ectopic pregnancy; in this situation, bleeding may occur from the ectopic pregnancy in your fallopian tube and this blood can irritate a nerve on your diaphragm which can cause upper abdominal and shoulder pain.” Although it’s not common, it could be a cause for concern. If you have pain that won’t go away, you can ask your OB/GYN for an ultrasound to ensure that the embryo has safely implanted in the uterus.
How To Treat Stomach Pain During The First Trimester
Even if you’re feeling ravenous, you should still try to slow your eating down, advises Dr. Demosthenes. “For heartburn, you may find relief by eating smaller but more frequent meals, taking over the counter antacids, sleeping with the head of your bed elevated and not lying down after meals,” she says. “If these measures do not help you, your midwife or OB/GYN may prescribe a stronger antacid.” Unfortunately, you may experience heartburn throughout your pregnancy.
Upper Stomach Pain During Your Second Trimester
Thankfully, the risk of an ectopic pregnancy is over once you sail into the second trimester. But if you had heartburn during your first trimester, there’s a chance that it could continue well into your second trimester, too, according to Dr. Sharon Smith, MD, an OB/GYN. “In the second trimester, acid reflux can still be the issue that causes pain,” says Dr. Smith. “As the pregnancy progresses, the uterus pushes up on the stomach, so you'd get that mass effect in addition to the hormonal effect that dilates the esophageal junction.”
Acid reflux might not be the only cause for your cramping and uncomfortable feelings — it might be your gallbladder acting up during your pregnancy. While it’s not incredibly common, it’s also not entirely rare, either. “This can happen during any trimester and can show up as upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and fever,” says Dr. Demosthenes. “An ultrasound is generally very helpful in looking at the gallbladder but be aware that persistent and worsening upper abdominal pain can be a sign of worsening gallbladder disease.”
How To Treat Stomach Pain During Your Second Trimester
If you’re dealing with acid reflux, pregnant women can take Pepcid, Prevacid and Nexium to alleviate some of the indigestion, Dr. Smith reports. Dr. Demosthenes adds: “For gas and constipation, drink more fluid, avoid carbonated beverages and caffeine, don’t smoke and add some fiber to your diet,” she says. “Your prenatal vitamin also has some iron in it which may also add to constipation. You can often find a stool softener in your vitamin or take one separately to help with constipation.”
Upper Stomach Pain During Your Third Trimester
In the third trimester, you might finally feel like you’re in the home stretch. Thing is, come the latter part of pregnancy, your tummy issues could be attributable to acid reflux, or in some instances, something more serious. “In the third trimester, stomach pain can be due to reflux, gall bladder disease or a sign of preeclampsia,” Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN, tells Romper. “Called epigastric pain if it is due to preeclampsia or gall bladder disease and tends to be more right sided, gall bladder disease can cause nausea and vomiting after meals while preeclampsia pain would be present continuously — and is a sign of liver damage and is very serious.”
How To Treat Stomach Pain During Your Third Trimester
Don’t be so quick to reach for the antacids during your third trimester. If it’s indeed preeclampsia, you’ll need to know the signs and symptoms of it. “This is a condition of pregnancy that includes elevated blood pressure and symptoms that may include headache, facial and hand swelling, vision changes, nausea and vomiting and upper abdominal pain,” Dr. Demosthenes explains. “After 20 weeks, any of these signs and symptoms should prompt evaluation to determine if you are developing preeclampsia.”
If you have some of the symptoms of preeclampsia, you should bring it up to your doctor right away. “Some doctors and midwives provide home blood pressure monitors for patients which allows them to track their own blood pressures,” says Dr. Demosthenes. “This may be particularly reassuring for women.”
And if it’s still acid reflux that’s affecting you, there are ways to banish that burning sensation. “We would treat with antacids, sometimes Tums, or liquid Mylanta,” says Dr. Smith. “I would recommend nonacidic food, non-fatty foods, non-greasy foods and sitting up at least 30 minutes to an hour before you go to sleep and that will help.”
Stomach pains are part and parcel of pregnancy. But you should definitely speak with your OB/GYN about any indigestion or other digestive issues you’re facing. Tests can be done to ensure the health and wellness of both you and your baby.
Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, MD, an OB/GYN and senior medical director with Babyscripts
Dr. Sharon Smith, MD, an OB/GYN
Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN