Causes of Upper Stomach Pain During Pregnancy

Aches and pain are a part of pregnancy. Upper stomach pain during pregnancy is not a thing to worry about but sometimes would require a doctor’s attention. Whether or not the discomfort is normal can be known from its cause.

Causes of Upper Stomach Pain During Pregnancy

Numerous causes can lead to upper stomach pain during pregnancy and that includes:

  1. Gas

    During pregnancy, high levels of progesterone may relax the intestinal muscles. This may lead to gas which can cause upper stomach pain.

    Gas is experienced even more by the end of pregnancy, as the uterus gets enlarged and puts a strain on the muscles and slows digestion.

    Those experiencing gas during pregnancy should try eating smaller meals and eating often. Also, avoid the foods that can make you feel gassy.

  2. Constipation

    Constipation is the most common complaint during pregnancy(1) and this can lead to upper stomach pain.   

    The cause of constipation during pregnancy can be:

    • Hormonal shift
    • Low dietary fiber
    • Iron supplements
    • Lack of sufficient fluids

    There might be a vague feeling of fullness in the abdomen due to constipation.

    Simple changes can be made in the lifestyle to get rid of this condition such as:

    • Increasing water intake
    • Exercising
    • Eating small frequent meals
  3. Acid Reflux

    17-45 percent of women experience heartburn during pregnancy(2)

    Progesterone can lead to acid reflux or heartburn which can cause upper stomach pain during pregnancy. Another reason being, the pressure put by the growing uterus on the stomach that spills out acid and slows digestion.

    Eating smaller meals, taking over-the-counter heart medication, and opting for a less acidic diet can help.

    Before taking any medication it is good to speak with the doctor.

  4. Stretching Skin

    Few pregnant women can experience stretching of the skin as the abdomen expands. This sensation extends to the upper abdomen.

    If the skin itches and feels tight and the stretch is felt on the outside of the abdomen rather than deep inside, the stretching of the skin could be a reason.

    In such a case, massage the stomach gently and apply lotion to it. Sometimes a warm shower can also prove to be of help.

  5. Muscle Pain and Strain

    As the uterus grows the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate the growth. The pressure of the uterus on the lower body changes the way a person walks and there is a likelihood of sustaining an injury.

    Pain on bending or lifting may lead to injury to the stomach or chest muscles. Minor injuries can be solved with resting or stretching. If the injury persists, consider getting advice from a doctor.

  6. Gallbladder Problem

    Pain in the upper, right side of the stomach or abdomen may indicate a problem with the liver or gall bladder.

    Pain coming in waves along with nausea and vomiting would indicate gallstones. If not treated, gallstones can block the bile duct and lead to liver problems.

  7. Contractions

    Braxton-Hicks contractions are most commonly felt in the third trimester of pregnancy, although many women report them in the second trimester as well.

    They can cause abdominal discomfort and upper stomach pain during pregnancy but are not of a major issue and can be reduced by changing position and drinking water.

    If the contractions do not stop and increase in frequency, length, and pain, it is good to consult a doctor to avoid preterm labor.

  8. Miscarriage or Ectopic Pregnancy

    Excessive cramping and pain in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy would indicate the end of pregnancy or miscarriage. It may also indicate ectopic pregnancy.

    The symptoms are:

    In such a case, it is important to contact a doctor immediately.

  9. Preeclampsia

    Those with a history of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or late pregnancy (above 35 years) are at risk of developing preeclampsia. Upper stomach pain during pregnancy can also be caused due to Preeclampsia.

    The condition usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy but can occur earlier as well.

    The symptoms include:

    • Change in vision
    • Sudden weight gain
    • High blood pressure
    • Lightheadedness
    • Frequent headaches
    • Swelling on hands and face 
  10. Other Illness

    There are a few other illnesses that can lead to pain in the upper stomach that is not related to pregnancy such as:

    The pain in the upper abdomen can be a sign of the body asking you to slow down, change diet, or seek medical assistance.

    It is important to get a proper diagnosis for the pain in upper stomach to carry on the pregnancy smoothly.

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