It’s not unusual to feel movement in your lower abdomen, given all the digestive processes going on under your skin. If the sensation doesn’t go away on its own or is accompanied by other symptoms, talk with a healthcare professional.
Tugs and twists, pulls and plucks. Your belly can experience all kinds of sensations on a daily basis. Most are completely normal, but sometimes, an unusual movement or feeling may stand out.
In this article, we’ll explore what causes you to feel movement in your lower abdomen.
We’ll look at the more obvious causes, like pregnancy and digestion. We’ll also look at less common causes and when that unusual movement may be a sign of something more concerning. Read on.
|Causes of abdominal movements when pregnant
|Causes of abdominal movements when not pregnant
Pregnancy is a time of new experiences. One of those includes the commotion happening in your abdomen. As babies develop, their movements, however small, can be increasingly felt by the person carrying them.
Quickening is the term used to describe the flutters and sensations of movement that pregnant people experience. Most people will experience these first fetal movements between 16 and 25 weeks. This is during the second trimester.
By the third trimester, you should be feeling movement regularly. In subsequent pregnancies, you may be able to feel those movements earlier as your body knows what to expect, but the timelines for movement can be different for each person and each pregnancy.
What movements may mean if you’re pregnant
If you feel movement while you’re pregnant, your baby may be:
- turning over
- stretching limbs
When you might need to see a doctor
Movement in your abdomen while you’re pregnant is expected and most likely normal. However, sometimes, other sensations in your abdomen can be signs of a potential problem.
If you notice any of these following signs and symptoms, don’t wait for your next checkup — contact your doctor right away:
- severe diarrhea
- dizziness or fainting
- a fever higher than 100°F (37°C)
- feeling pain or burning while urinating or having problems urinating
- vaginal bleeding
- unusual vaginal discharge, such as a gray or white discharge that smells foul
- blurred vision or seeing spots in your eyes
- cracked and bleeding nipples
- swelling in your hands, face, or fingers
- chronic, severe headaches
- pain in your arms, chest, or legs
Pregnant people aren’t the only ones who may experience unusual movements or sensations in the lower abdomen.
Common body functions like digestion can cause these feelings. Even gas or indigestion can be responsible. Understanding the likely cause for these movements can help you decide if they need to be treated or if they may warrant a trip to the doctor.
When you eat, the muscles in your digestive tract start moving to bring food through your stomach and into your intestines. You may feel these muscles moving immediately after you eat or even a few hours later.
On the flip side of digestion is indigestion. Indigestion can cause:
- stomach pain
Less commonly, you may experience a gnawing sensation in the stomach, which can feel like muscle movement.
Indigestion can be treated at home with over-the-counter antacids. But if you experience chronic indigestion, or begin to experience severe vomiting, black stools, or unexplained weight loss, seek treatment from a healthcare provider.
During a menstrual cycle, you may experience a variety of sensations and feelings. Cramps at the start of a menstrual period may make muscles in your lower abdomen feel tighter. This may feel like movement.
During ovulation, you may also experience jumps or pops in your lower abdomen. This is usually caused by the ovary stretching to release the maturing egg. Often, this sensation is mild and temporary.
Just as you can have muscle spasms in your arms or legs, you can have muscle spasms in your abdomen. These involuntary contractions can be the result of muscle strain or overuse. But they can also be a sign of dehydration.
Most muscle spasms are mild and will pass on their own. If you continue to have them, or if they worsen and become severe, you should talk with your doctor. They may want to look for contributing factors for these muscle spasms.
People who’ve been pregnant may experience phantom kicks, or a sensation that a baby is in their abdomen. This feeling is most common soon after delivery, but some people experience it even years later.
Likewise, people who have had a miscarriage or abortion may experience this sensation.
A feeling of fluttering or twitching in your abdomen may be a sign your digestive tract is experiencing an allergic reaction to something you ate. It’s uncommon, but these feelings can be related to celiac disease, or an abnormal reaction to gluten.
Avoiding foods with gluten can help prevent these movements and any accompanying symptoms of celiac disease. These may include:
- abdominal bloating or pain
- persistent diarrhea
- weight loss
Digested food particles travel from your stomach through a long line of intestines and organs before they exit your body as stool. Sometimes, that digestive path can become blocked.
The blockage may be partial or total. When the blockage occurs, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including muscle cramps that can feel like movement.
Other symptoms of an intestinal obstruction include:
- severe bloating
- inability to pass gas or stool
- abdominal swelling
An intestinal obstruction should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor as quickly as possible. No home treatment will be able to remove the obstruction.
Diverticulitis is a condition that affects the digestive tract. It causes uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. It can also cause pain and muscle cramps in your abdomen, which may feel like movement.
Without treatment, diverticulitis can lead to symptoms like:
- nausea and vomiting
- blood in stools
- constant pain in the abdomen
- bleeding from the rectum
If you have any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
Feeling movement in your abdomen isn’t an unusual experience. Jolts and jabs can be caused by a developing fetus. It can also be the result of normal digestion, muscle spasms, or ovulation.
A more serious issue like intestinal obstruction isn’t a common cause of movement in the abdomen, but the sensation can be a sign of it.
If the feeling of movement in your abdomen becomes chronic or you begin experiencing additional symptoms, make an appointment to see a doctor.
Even if it’s the result of indigestion, a doctor can help you find relief. If the sensation is caused by something else, treatment may help prevent worsening symptoms.