Pain during pregnancy is inevitable. But which pains are normal and which ones aren’t?

In early gestation – the first few weeks of pregnancy – gallstones or biliary colic, back pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen are all normal. By the tenth week of your pregnancy, you’re likely to start experiencing pains related to fluctuating hormones and the expanding of your uterus.

The transformation of the uterus

The uterus is an incredibly elastic organ with a strong muscular layer. It’s usually around the size of a closed fist in most women. As a pregnancy progresses, the uterus begins to expand and the rest of the body has to go through several changes in order to accommodate this.
One of the first things that happens to the body during pregnancy is a change in hormones. The body produces increasing levels of both progesterone and hCG in order to maintain the viability of the fetus. This can cause cramps, discomfort and other mild aches and pains in the abdomen.

Another potential side effect of increased levels of progesterone is the possibility of getting gallstones, also known as biliary colic. In some cases, especially if you are already prone to getting gallstones, the relaxing of the muscles caused by progesterone can mean that your gallbladder relaxes. This slows the release of bile, and the build-up left behind can turn into gallstones. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of getting gallstones either personally or in your family, and they can do an ultrasound to check for any.

After the initial phase of general discomfort passes, you will move into the period where your organs begin to move inside your body. The intestines, stomach, liver and even the heart have to move out of the way of your expanding uterus and the baby growing inside it.

It’s important to remember that pains during pregnancy are transient. They generally come and go as the baby grows and you reach different stages of the process. If you’re ever unsure or the pain becomes too much, seek medical advice. Your doctor will be able to help you through the bad periods.

And the stronger pains?

As you reach your second trimester, it’s quite common to feel more intense pain in the abdomen. The muscles start to relax even more during this phase in order to accommodate the new weight you are now carrying around as the baby gets even bigger.

Most women feel a general discomfort in the abdomen and pelvic or groin areas as things shift to make even more room and the weight of the baby increases. However, some do experience a stronger pain in specific places due to intense relaxation of the muscles. Women who were skinny at the start of their pregnancy tend to feel these pains more acutely. If the pain doesn’t subside, it’s best to ask your doctor about it.

Pain in the vagina

Many women report feeling twinges or the sensation of pins and needles in their vaginas. It may seem frightening but these sensations are due to the weight of the baby pushing down. These twinges or sensations can intensify momentarily when the baby moves within the uterus.

Sciatica or nerve-related pains

Some of the pain you’ll feel during your pregnancy isn’t specific to any particular stage of the process. Something like sciatica or nerve-related pains can come and go throughout, or you may be lucky and not experience this at all.
Essentially, the weight of your growing baby can lead to pressure on the sciatic nerve. Depending on where the nerve is getting pinched, you can feel pain or a tingling sensation in the lower back, your outer thigh or your outer shin area. It’s very common for pregnant women to experience this, especially if the woman has an existing problem with her back and sciatic nerve.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Another pain-causing problem that is incredibly common in pregnant women is that of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is when the median nerve that runs through the wrist is pressed or pinched, and leads to quite intense pain in the forearm and hand. In some cases, this syndrome can lead to the loss of strength in the hand affected. Thankfully, there is treatment available for the bad cases. Your doctor may recommend physiotherapy or even prescribe medication that is safe for you to take during your pregnancy.

Urinary tract infection

Pressure on the bladder is quite normal during pregnancy. The weight and size of the growing fetus will likely lead to you needing to urinate more often. However, if you feel a constant or excessive urge to go to the toilet, and very little urine actually comes out each time, you may have a urinary tract infection. This is quite normal and can be sorted out by a doctor and prescribed medication in no time.

Be aware of your body

Remember, pain in the abdomen during pregnancy is very common. Your body is changing dramatically and it would be highly unusual if this didn’t lead to any pain or discomfort.
Be aware of your body and the sensations you are feeling. If you aren’t sure or the pain is too much, it’s best to talk to your obstetrician. They will be able to determine the cause of the pain and how best to deal with it.

Readers’ questions:

What should I do if I get a toothache during my pregnancy?

Toothache can be quite a tricky thing to alleviate in a pregnant women because most pain medications are restricted during these nine months. Paracetamol is usually safe to take in small doses, as well as herbal remedies such as propolis. In extreme cases, it’s best to consult both a dentist and your obstetrician to get a well-rounded medical opinion.

What can I take for throat pain during my pregnancy?

As with any inflammation or infection during pregnancy, extra care needs to be taken in order to find a solution that is safe for both mother and baby. For a sore throat, it’s best to try natural remedies first, if the problem isn’t too severe. Gargling with lukewarm water and salt is a good, safe option that has excellent success rates for sore throats. You should also increase your intake of vitamin C to help boost your body’s natural defenses. Only in extreme cases will your doctor prescribe antibiotics.

How do I relieve pain in the ribs during pregnancy?

Pain in your ribs is very common when you reach the third trimester. It results from a range of things, including: expansion of the uterus, the size of the baby and even the weight of your breasts as they increase, ready for milk production. The best way to alleviate these problems is to practice simple breathing exercises. This will help to relax your body and the muscles around your rib cage. You should also ensure that you are wearing the correct bra if your breasts have increased in size. Additionally, it’s important to find a sleeping position that works for your changing body – being propped up on lots of pillows is quite normal. If the pain gets too much, paracetamol can be used to relieve it.

How do I relieve pain in the pelvis during a pregnancy?

By the third trimester, your whole body is now getting ready for childbirth. This means that your pelvis is going to start shifting to allow for the baby to move through the birth canal. It’s important to try doing light exercises such as walking or pilates to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area. You can also try control underwear that has been designed for pregnant women. This will give you some support in your pelvis. You can also get abdomen support straps that have been specifically designed for to be worn while pregnant.