First Trimester Pregnancy Pains: When to Call Your Doctor
Please note that I am not a medical professional. Always talk to your doctor about any pain you experience during pregnancy. This article is based on my experience through four pregnancies.
Some pain that you may experience during your pregnancy is natural and comes with the territory, while other pain may be concerning and need to be addressed by your doctor or midwife. The purpose of this article is to address those concerns you may have about a pain you are experiencing, and to help you to know when you need to seek attention from a doctor.
While I am not a doctor myself, I have carried and birthed four pregnancies, and I consider myself qualified to provide advice on the subject of being pregnant. I encourage you to discuss any concerning pains with your doctor. Though my goal is to reassure mothers (and in particular first-time mothers) that most of the pain they may experience during pregnancy is natural and normal, the only way to be sure if you are worried is to consult your doctor.
This article acts as a guide to knowing what's normal and what's not, and the best ways to deal with the natural aches and pains which accompany most pregnancies.
Anxiety During Pregnancy is Natural
Especially if this is your first pregnancy or if you have experienced pregnancy loss in the past, the first trimester of pregnancy can be a frightening time. While many aches and pains are natural during this trimester, many new mothers worry about what each one of these pains means. If you are experiencing pain, it doesn't hurt to contact your doctor or midwife.
In most cases, unless you are already bleeding, the pain that you're experiencing is probably natural. If you are bleeding, I recommend calling your doctor or midwife and then reading my article on bleeding in early pregnancy. Very occasionally bleeding and mild cramping (in combination) are normal, but it's best to be cautious.
Otherwise, most aches and pains in your first trimester are normal. I'll guide you through the most natural types of pain you may experience early on, as well as some which require a doctor's attention.
Note that the information provided here is based on my experience as a woman who has been pregnant four times.
Pregnancy Pain Poll
Did You (or Are You) Experience Pains During Your First Trimester of Pregancy?See results without voting
First Trimester Risks
In some ways, the first trimester of pregnancy is the "riskiest." It is during the first three months that a woman is most likely to experience the loss of a pregnancy. I'm here to reassure you that most of the aches and pains you experience are probably a natural part of pregnancy caused by the changes your body goes through during this time. I also ask that women participate in the poll above to help give new and first time mothers an idea of what to expect when they experience some of these pains.
Before I proceed, however, I want to make it clear that miscarriage is a risk of early pregnancy, and so you should contact your doctor if you are concerned about pain that you feel. Any pain which is sharp or which is accompanied by bleeding should prompt a call to your doctor, and possibly a visit to be examined.
Aside from the obvious risk of miscarriage, chemical, or ectopic pregnancy, another risk you need to be warned of is urinary tract infection. If you have additional symptoms accompanying what may otherwise be a normal pain, contact your doctor immediately. A simple urine test can confirm a UTI and you will be prescribed a pregnancy-safe antibiotic to get you through the infection.
Abdominal Pain in the First Trimester
Nausea during early pregnancy may be perfectly normal. You may find natural remedies for morning sickness useful for helping to make the first trimester more pleasant. Most nausea ends in the thirteenth week of your pregnancy, but be aware that morning sickness can continue through your pregnancy depending on hormones.
One of the biggest concerns that new mothers have is cramping during early pregnancy. While cramping may be an indication of miscarriage, in most cases cramping is caused by other factors in early pregnancy. Additionally, there are various types of abdominal pain that a woman may experience in her first trimester.
- Cramping Cramping during early pregnancy can be an indication of miscarriage if it's accompanied by bleeding. You may wish to read my article on this. Alternatively, a similar type of cramping (which generally feels like period pain) may be caused by the stretching and relaxing of the ligaments that support the abdomen.
- Sharp Pains While sharp pains can mean anything, at any phase of pregnancy, I recommend visiting your doctor for a urinalysis in case you have contracted a urinary tract infection (UTI). This can be dangerous for you and for your baby, and your doctor can prescribe a pregnancy-safe antibiotic to cure the UTI.
Abdominal pain during pregnancy becomes more common the further into the pregnancy you get. Strain is unusual during the first trimester because there is so little strain on the body at this point. If you experience abdominal pain, it is recommended that you visit your doctor for more information.
Normal vs. Worrisome Pains in First Trimester
See Your Doctor
Abdominal Cramping + Bleeding
Lower Back Pain
Stabbing Abdominal Pain
Abdominal Cramping + Nausea
Breast pain may be one of the first indicators of early pregnancy. During this period, your breasts are beginning to prepare for a big job: Making milk to feed your baby! In addition, the ligaments that support your breasts will begin to relax (along with the ligaments in other parts of your body), and this will account for some of the pain that you experience in your breasts.
In most cases, breast pain is nothing to worry about, but make sure that you contact your doctor if you experience breast pain with a fever, as this may indicate an infection.
Lower back pain in particular (though upper back pain may also happen) is typical during pregnancy. In fact, it is another possible early indication of pregnancy. Most lower back pain is caused by strain on the back as the uterus expands in order to accommodate your growing baby, but there may be some other causes of back pain. The standard causes are listed below.
- Poor Posture Your body is working hard to support the added weight of your uterus as it expands (yes, even in early pregnancy!) and this can cause a strain on your lower back until you make adjustments to your posture. Make sure to move about regularly (unless you're on bed rest) and stretch your back whenever possible.
- Constipation In part because of the high iron content in pre-natal vitamins, constipation is a normal part of early pregnancy, and it can cause back pain. Make sure that you are consuming plenty of fluids and that you're eating a diet high in fiber and you may be able to relieve some of the pain in your lower back.
- Kidney Infection If a urinary tract infection goes untreated for too long, it may spread into your kidneys and cause a kidney infection. This will also cause lower back pain, and so if changing position doesn't help, and you remain "regular," then you should contact your doctor for advice.
Hip and Joint Pain
As with many pains during pregnancy, however, hip pain may be caused by the sciatic nerve.
It cannot be adequately treated. You will experience this pain throughout your pregnancy, both as a result of sciatica as well as because your hips are expanding to make room for your uterus and baby. The use of a body pillow may help to reduce this pain when used effectively.
Joint pain is most common in the second trimester. It generally tapers off during the third trimester (to be replaced by other discomforts), but it may appear earlier in pregnancy, and is something to watch out for. While joint pain is not generally something to contact your doctor about, it may be an indication that it's time for you to slow down a bit and stop pushing your body so far. If you experience pain in your knees or ankles, it's time for you to rest. Pain in your wrists or elbows might mean that it's time to slow down and reduce the amount of time you spend on the computer.
When you experience joint pain during pregnancy, this is generally caused by the ligaments loosening. All the ligaments in your body will loosen—one of the less desirable effects associated with this remarkable time in your life. Keep up your activity, but go easy on your body.
Please remember that I am not a doctor. Any time you are concerned about your pregnancy, you should contact your doctor or midwife. They are the most qualified to determine if you need to make an appointment.
Particularly if you're a first-time mother, you should contact your doctor when you experience pain during your pregnancy. In most cases, your doctor is going to reassure you. However, if you are experiencing the following, you should consider seeing a doctor immediately via an urgent care facility or your local women's hospital.
- Cramping with bleeding during the first or second trimesters
- Severe leg pain
- Inability to keep foods down due to nausea
© 2014 Becki Rizzuti
More by this Author
Cramping during pregnancy can occur for a number of reasons. Knowing what these reasons are should help you to determine when to call your doctor and help empower you to make good decisions.
Although you cannot have a period during pregnancy, it is possible to bleed while you're pregnant. Regardless of the cause of bleeding during pregnancy, you should consider a visit to your doctor!
Bleeding isn't an uncommon occurrence during early pregnancy, but many women panic when they see those few drops of blood. Know when to worry about the status of your pregnancy and when not to stress.