Right-side abdominal pain during pregnancy is often caused by stress on your muscles and ligaments. But in rare cases, it may be a sign of something requiring medical attention.
Pregnancy brings about some major changes to your life and to your body. While most of it is twinged with hopeful excitement, it can feel overwhelming to be going through so many things at once.
And the experience of carrying a baby often means that each unexpected pain or new symptom brings with it questions and concerns, many focused on “is this normal?”
The added pounds, digestive hiccups (that’s putting it mildly), and other physical changes that come along with growing a new life can cause pain in your side.
Right side pain during pregnancy is usually nothing to worry about. This pain can happen for a number of common reasons that are usually easily managed and temporary.
However, sometimes side pain in pregnancy can be a sign of something more serious. You might need medical help. Here’s what to look for if you have right side pain during pregnancy.
As your body adapts to accommodate your growing bundle of joy (and growing breasts and growing feet and growing everything), you’ll put on weight. An average gain of
You need that pregnancy weight to grow and feed a healthy baby. But, the added weight can make it easier to accidentally pull a muscle. This is most common in your second and third trimester.
The added weight, plus too much slouching while trying for a comfortable position for your new shape, or lifting a toddler or something else heavy can cause pain in your right side.
You might feel pain from a muscle sprain or strain in your side. A backache can also sometimes spread and cause pain in your mid to lower right side.
Round ligament pain
During pregnancy, your womb (uterus) expands like a balloon as your baby grows. The round ligaments are like ropes that help to hold your womb in place. They get softer and stretch as your uterus gets bigger.
Sometimes the round ligaments get irritated or too tight. This can often cause pain on your lower right side. You might feel sharp pain or a dull ache. This usually happens in your second trimester as the weight of the baby and amniotic fluids increase.
You might have round ligament pain when you get out of bed in the morning or when you move too quickly. Even a hard cough or sneeze can cause ligament pain.
You can usually relieve this right side pain by getting into a more comfortable position. Gentle stretches, moving slowly and flexing your hips also help.
Uncomfortable digestive issues are impacted by up-and-down hormone levels during pregnancy. Hormonal changes are especially common in your first and second trimester.
Later in pregnancy, the levels of the hormones may not have such an effect. However, in your third trimester weight gain can put pressure on your digestive tract (stomach and intestines). Along with heartburn, this can also cause gassiness and sharp, stabbing pain in the stomach or side.
- fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
- whole-grain bread and pasta
- brown rice
Also avoid foods that cause gassiness, like:
- milk and other dairy foods
- fried foods
- artificial sweeteners
Braxton-Hicks are “false” contractions — kind of like a practice run for when the real thing happens. They usually happen in your third trimester, but can also happen earlier in your pregnancy.
Braxton-Hicks feel like a tightening or cramps in your lower stomach area. They might feel a bit like period cramps. These contractions are normally not painful, but the cramping may cause right side pain.
Unlike real contractions in labor, Braxton Hicks:
- might stop if you change position or move around
- don’t get closer together
- don’t get stronger over time
It doesn’t seem fair to get cramps when you’re obviously not having periods. (Shouldn’t we get the full benefits of period-free life for these months?) However, discomfort from cramping can be a normal part of pregnancy. Cramps can sometimes cause right side pain in your lower to mid stomach.
In the first and second trimester, you might sometimes get cramps as your womb stretches. In your third trimester cramps might be caused by muscle and ligament strain around your stomach and groin area.
Sexual intercourse in your second and third trimester can also trigger cramping pain. Any kind of cramping can cause aches or stabbing pain. Cramps usually go away by themselves.
In an ectopic pregnancy the fertilized egg starts growing outside the uterus. A healthy, normal pregnancy can only happen in the womb. An ectopic pregnancy can be harmful to your health.
This condition can cause severe right side pain and cramping early in your pregnancy and possibly before you even realize that you are pregnant. You will likely also have other symptoms like:
- sharp stomach pain
- light or heavy bleeding
- red or brown bleeding
Let your doctor know immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy has to be removed before it causes damage in your body. You can go on to having a normal pregnancy after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
Severe right side pain in your lower stomach along with other symptoms might mean you are having a miscarriage. See a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:
- spotting, red bleeding, or clots
- serious pain or cramping in your lower stomach
- lower back pain
You are most likely to have a miscarriage in your first trimester. Sometimes they can happen before you even know you are pregnant. Miscarriages are common — up to 15 percent of women who know they are pregnant miscarry — and normally can’t be prevented.
It’s important to seek support after a miscarriage, as it’s totally normal to have intense feelings of grief and loss. Ask for help from your friends and family, or talk to your doctor about local or online support groups or counseling.
Appendicitis — an infection or inflammation in your appendix — happens in about 0.05 percent of pregnant women. While it’s not common in pregnancy, you may not realize that you have appendicitis because some of the symptoms can feel like other pregnancy symptoms.
This can be dangerous because an infected appendix can swell and burst if it is not treated. A burst appendix can spread harmful toxins in your body. You can get appendicitis at any time in your pregnancy.
Appendicitis usually causes lower right side pain. You might feel a sharp pain or a dull ache. You may also have other classic symptoms like:
- stomach pain around your belly button area
- loss of appetite
During pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, you may have less common symptoms of appendicitis:
- mid to upper right side pain
Tell your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
Your gallbladder can get finicky during pregnancy. This pear-shaped sack is on the upper right side of your abdomen. It helps to digest fats from the food you eat. Sometimes, the fluid inside it — bile — can form hard stones.
Gallstones are more common when you’re pregnant because your digestive system slows down. Your risk increases the more pregnancies you have. Gallstones can happen at any time during your pregnancy.
Symptoms of gallstones include:
- upper right side pain
- loss of appetite
Let your doctor know if you have any of these symptoms. Sometimes gallstones can go away by themselves. Avoiding all fatty and fried foods can help stop your symptoms.
Almost 5 to 8 percent of pregnant women get preeclampsia or related hypertensive disorders. It most commonly appears in your second and third trimester.
Preeclampsia can raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels. This can put you at risk of a stroke. It can also damage your liver, kidneys, or lungs.
If you have preeclampsia you might get pain in your upper right side, usually just under the ribs. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms of preeclampsia:
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to bright light
- swelling (especially in your legs)
- shortness of breath
- easy bruising
- little urination
Right side pain that is caused by a muscle or ligament strain can usually be soothed with at-home treatments. Pain caused by gassiness may get better if you watch what you eat.
Ease muscle pain, sore ligaments, and cramps by:
- changing position
- lying down
- walking or moving
- using a hot water bottle or heat pads
- taking a warm bath
- taking over-the-counter pain medication
Most muscle and ligament pain will eventually go away without treatment. See your doctor if:
- your side pain is constant or severe
- your side pain is worse at night or when you lie down
- you have swelling or redness in the area
More serious causes of right side pain during pregnancy may also cause other symptoms. These could be signs of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, gallstones, preeclampsia, and other conditions. You may need treatment including surgery.
You may need treatment including surgery.
Get urgent medical care if you have:
- severe pain
- pain that doesn’t get better or go away
- headache pain
- blurred vision
- difficulty breathing
Aches and pains, including right side pain, are a normal part of pregnancy. Common causes include weight gain, rising hormone levels, and gassiness. The discomfort and pain will usually go away on its own or with at-home treatment.
More serious conditions can also cause right side pain during pregnancy. Don’t ignore severe pain or pain that doesn’t go away. Let your doctor know about any symptoms you have.
Get emergency medical help if you have symptoms like high blood pressure, heavy bleeding, fever, and blurred vision.