Pregnancy Pains

Common Pregnancy Pains

During pregnancy, your body goes through numerous changes as it supports the healthy development of your baby and prepares for delivery. With these changes, you will probably experience various aches and pains, many of which are normal. However, you may wonder which pains are considered normal and which may be a cause for concern.

Below are some common pains experienced during pregnancy:


Image of woman experiencing pregnancy pain from cramping

As your uterus stretches, it is normal to experience cramping. Other causes of cramping may include gas and constipation. If cramping becomes worse than menstrual cramping, especially if it is accompanied with bleeding and lower back pain, it is important to contact your doctor as soon as possible. It is also important to contact your doctor if you experience severe pain on one side during early pregnancy.


Image of pregnant woman with a headache Headaches are also common during pregnancy. However, if they are severe and do not go away after resting or taking Tylenol, or if you notice vision changes or light sensitivity, contact your health care provider immediately. Keep in mind that while you can take Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy, it is important to avoid taking Advil and Motrin (aspirin and ibuprofen).

Back Pain

Image of woman experiencing back pain during pregnancy

Lower back pain is also normal during pregnancy as your body shifts its center of gravity, causing strain to your lower back muscles. Hormonal changes and weakened abdominal muscles can also contribute to lower back pain. Talk with your doctor if the pain persists for more than two weeks or if it is severe. If you experience painful urination and/or bleeding along with the lower back pain, contact your doctor immediately, as these could be signs of complications.

Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatic nerve pain is characterized by numbness, tingling, or pain extending from the lower back down the legs. As the uterus grows, the sciatic nerve–which runs from the lower back down the back of the legs–may have pressure put on it. Your baby and relaxed pelvic joints may put additional pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Certain movements, such as bending, lifting, and walking may exacerbate sciatic pain. While sciatic nerve pain is not generally a reason for concern, you should notify your doctor if you are experiencing such pain, particularly if the pain is persistent or if you have difficulty walking.

Leg Cramps

Image of a woman with leg cramp pains during pregnancy

Leg cramps are fairly common during the second and third trimesters, especially at night. In addition to painful cramping, you may also notice a jumpy sensation in your legs. Such cramping may be due to carrying additional pregnancy weight, pressure from the baby on the blood vessels and nerves that connect to your legs, and changes in circulation that occur during pregnancy.

Make sure to stay hydrated, and try not to sit or stand in the same position for a long time. Stretching, massaging your legs, or taking a warm bath may also help. If the cramping becomes severe, or if your leg becomes red, swollen, or warm contact your physician as soon as possible.

Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain occurs as the uterus grows, causing the round ligaments to stretch. This can cause sharp pain in the abdomen, side, hip, or groin area and can be triggered by certain movements such as turning in bed or standing up. This is not a reason for concern.

However, if the pain lasts for more than a few minutes, contact your health care provider right away.

Braxton-Hicks Contractions

Braxton-Hicks contractions are practice contractions (also known as false labor) that may begin during the second trimester. These contractions help prepare your body for actual labor and may feel like a tightening sensation in your uterus, lower abdomen, or groin area.

Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton-Hicks contractions do not follow a set pattern and may vary in their intensity and length. Such contractions are generally uncomfortable rather than painful. If your contractions are painful or if you have more than six within an hour, this could be a sign of preterm labor, so it is important to contact your doctor to determine if they are true labor contractions.

Other Pain

Other types of pain you should not ignore include sharp stabbing pain that lasts more than a few minutes, burning or painful urination, shoulder pain, and upper right quadrant (URQ) abdominal pain, generally under the right ribs. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these or other severe pain.

Last Update: 08/2015

Compiled from the following sources:

A.D.A.M., Inc. (2015). Aches and pains during pregnancy. Retrieved from

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Easing back pain during pregnancy. Retrieved from Harms, R.W. (Ed.). (2004). Mayo Clinic guide to a healthy pregnancy. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc. March of Dimes Foundation. (n.d.). Leg cramps. Retrieved from March of Dimes Foundation. (n.d.). Abdominal pain or cramping. Retrieved from Murry, M. M. (2014, September 10). Round ligament pain: Understanding this pregnancy complaint. Message posted to Preeclampsia Foundation. (2010). Signs & symptoms. Retrieved from

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