First Trimester Pregnancy Pains: When to Call Your Doctor

Updated on April 11, 2018
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Becki Rizzuti has had four natural pregnancies and childbirths. She is an advocate of natural pregnancy and natural birth.

Many of the aches and pains of pregnancy are perfectly normal. Unfortunately, they are also mostly unavoidable. Keep reading for information on relief.
Many of the aches and pains of pregnancy are perfectly normal. Unfortunately, they are also mostly unavoidable. Keep reading for information on relief. | Source

While I am not a doctor myself, I have carried and birthed four children, and I consider myself qualified to provide advice on the subject of being pregnant. Though my goal is to reassure mothers (first-time mothers in particular) that those pains are usually natural and normal, the only way to be sure is to consult your doctor.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. This advice is based on my experience through four pregnancies. Always talk to your doctor about any pain you experience.

Is Pain Normal During the First Trimester of Pregnancy?

The short order is yes. Mostly, the pain that you may experience during early pregnancy is natural and comes with the territory, but there are some kinds of pain that may be concerning. The purpose of this article is to address your concerns about pain you are experiencing, and to help you to know when you need to see a doctor.

This article is a guide to knowing what's normal and what's not, and the best ways to deal with the normal early pregnancy aches and pains. 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.

Which Early Pregnancy Pain Is Normal and Which Is Something to Worry About?

In some ways, the first trimester of pregnancy is the "riskiest." Although it is true that the loss of a pregnancy is most likely during the first three months, I'm here to reassure you that most of the aches and pains you experience are natural and normal.

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.

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
  • Severe leg pain
  • Inability to keep foods down due to nausea
  • Pain during urination

If you have additional symptoms accompanying what may otherwise be a normal pain, contact your doctor immediately. Aside from the obvious risk of miscarriage, or chemical or ectopic pregnancy, another risk you need to be warned of is a urinary tract infection. A simple urine test can confirm a UTI and you will be prescribed a pregnancy-safe antibiotic.

Normal vs. Worrisome Pregnancy Pains in First Trimester

Normal Pains
Concerning Pains
See Your Doctor
Nausea/Morning Sickness
Severe Abdominal Cramping
Abdominal Cramping + Bleeding
Lower Back Pain
Stabbing Abdominal Pain
Abdominal Cramping + Nausea or Vomiting
Severe or Persistent Headaches
Bleeding With Fever, Pain, or Chills
Breast and Nipple Tenderness
Leg Pain
Frequent and Painful Urination
Achy Joints
Pain During Urination
Whenever you're worried, to allieve anxiety!
Each of these is explained in detail below.

Is Lower Back Pain Normal in Early Pregnancy?

Lower back pain in particular (although 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 to accommodate your growing baby, but there may be some other causes. The standard causes are listed below.

  • Implantation Bleeding When the embryo first attaches to the wall of the uterus, some women report feeling a brief twinge of pain in their uterus or lower back.
  • 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 get some relief.
  • 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 your bowels remain "regular," then you should contact your doctor for advice.

Is Breast Pain Normal During Early Pregnancy?

Breast pain may be one of the first signs of 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.

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.

There's usually no reason to stress, even in the first trimester. Worry only increases the risk, so if you're anxious, please relax!
There's usually no reason to stress, even in the first trimester. Worry only increases the risk, so if you're anxious, please relax! | Source

Is Hip and Joint Pain Normal During the First Trimester?

As with many pains during pregnancy, these pains are normal.

  • Hip pain may be caused by the sciatic nerve, and you may experience this pain throughout your pregnancy, both as a result of sciatica and because your hips are expanding to make room for your uterus and baby. The warm baths and the use of a body pillow may help.
  • 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 also happen earlier in pregnancy. This pain is generally caused by the ligaments loosening—one of the less desirable effects associated with this remarkable time in your life. Keep up your activity, but go easy on your body. 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.
  • Knees, ankles, and wrists. 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.

What Kinds of Abdominal Pain Might You Feel in the First Trimester?

Note: 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.

There are two main types of abdominal pain that a woman may experience in her first trimester:

  1. Cramping It is common to experience cramps that feel like period pain, which are caused by the stretching and relaxing of the ligaments that support the abdomen. 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 it is caused by other factors.
  2. 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.

Abdominal pain becomes more common the further into the pregnancy you get. Strain is unusual during the first trimester because there is less weight gain. If you experience abdominal pain, it is recommended that you visit your doctor for more information.

What If I Have Cramps With Bleeding or Spotting?

  • About 20% of women experience some bleeding during the first three months of pregnancy. Light spotting (less than a dime-sized amount) is not usually a cause for concern, but moderate or heavy vaginal bleeding, especially if accompanied by fever, chills, cramping, or pain, are all reasons to call your doctor immediately. Your doctor will want to know what your temperature is when you call.
  • Any pain which is sharp or which is accompanied by bleeding should prompt a call to your doctor.
  • Occasionally, bleeding and mild cramping (in combination) are normal, but it's best to be cautious.
  • I also recommend that you read my article on bleeding in early pregnancy, where I go into detail about things to look for in the blood—what color it is, for example, and how much there is.

Is Leg Pain Normal During Early Pregnancy?

Leg Cramps: Although leg cramps are most common in the third trimester, many newly-pregnant women report that their thighs, calves, and feet might feel cramped. An expanding uterus can put pressure on certain nerves and blood vessels, causing poor circulation, cramps, or spasms of pain.

Sciatic Pain: The growing weight of your uterus might push on the sciatic nerve, sending a jolt of pain down the back of your leg.

Other Causes of Leg Pain: Both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and uterine fibroids also cause leg pain, so it's best to call your doctor or midwife.

Are Headaches Normal in the First Trimester?

Headaches are a common complaint during the first trimester, triggered by a surge of hormones and an increase in blood volume. Here's a list of reasons you might have a headache:

  • dehydration
  • caffeine withdrawal
  • low blood sugar
  • changes in posture
  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • changes in vision

What medication can I take for a headache if I'm pregnant?

Acetaminophen is safe to take as directed but many other medications (ibuprofen, aspirin, most prescription migraine drugs) aren't, so talk with your doctor first.

Other ways to get relief include making sure you drink lots of water, taking a warm bath, having a nap, and massage.

Pregnancy Pain Poll

Did You (or Are You) Experience Pains During Your First Trimester of Pregancy?

See results

Anxiety During Pregnancy is Normal and Natural!

Especially if this is your first pregnancy or if you have experienced pregnancy loss in the past, the first trimester can be a frightening time. While many aches and pains are natural during this trimester, some new mothers worry about what each one of these pains means.

In most cases, unless you are bleeding, the pain that you're experiencing is probably natural. But it's always a good idea to consult your doctor if you're feeling anxious. There's usually no reason to stress, and getting relief for your worry and anxiety by talking to someone is just as important as getting relief for pain.

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.

© 2014 Becki Rizzuti


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    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 14 hours ago from Central Indiana

      Best wishes to you, Heather!

    • profile image

      Heather 28 hours ago

      My last pregnancy was 2 months ago I was a month and 1 week. I experienced hip and lower back pain real bad as if I was in labor. I took a pregnancy test it was a line and a faded line so I knew I was loosing my baby. Long story short I am now pregnant again and very nervous but all is well. Having hip and back pain along with very sore breast. I took another test to ease my mind and had a doctor's visit I'm a month and 3 days but I'm high risk but doing great so far. On bed rest and my mind is at ease.

    • profile image

      Kate 12 days ago

      Back pain at 7weeks pregnant

    • profile image

      Jo 4 weeks ago

      I’m 7 weeks pregnant and since today I have upper back and shoulder pain is it normal?

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 2 months ago from Central Indiana

      This is a question to consult your doctor! They are the one that can tell you whether there's a problem if you've not heard or seen a heartbeat yet.

      The heart begins to beat around six weeks gestation.

    • profile image

      trinimom 2 months ago

      I have been experiencing a lot of lower back pain as well as pelvic pains I do worry about the fact that I have done a U/S and still no heart beat from my baby should I be worried?

    • profile image

      mee 8 months ago

      Hi,im having lower and upper and also belly pain.. is it probably because im pregnant.. as i have not done a pregnancy test yet?

      Im also getting a severe headache everytime and nausea and i have taken some weight..

      Plz help me ..

    • profile image

      Kelsey 9 months ago

      Hello I'm 9 weeks pregnant today and I've been getting these really bad pains in my ribs and my back they just keep coming and going

    • profile image

      Reshay 14 months ago

      I am about 9 weeks and I'm having BAD hip pains....I feel like I'm 6 months pregnant...Is this normal??

    • profile image

      Shannon 3 years ago

      Hi, I'm 8 weeks pregnant and have been randomly getting a quick sharp pain in my upper back ribs... It goes away quickly but scares me, I've never felt it before. Is this normal? Or has anyone felt this before?

    • profile image

      kaylyn 3 years ago

      Im 3 weeks pregnant is it normal for my level to be 92 and my lower back aches but it isn't a sharp pain is this normal?

    • profile image

      Shantae 3 years ago

      Hi I have an irregular cycle and I missed my period last month .. I am now using the bathroom often, get really hungry, sore boobs on and off, horrible headaches, fatigue just to name a few irregular things that has been happening since however at about 2am on Friday I noticed when I wiped I saw a pink col on the tissue then it started to get heavier during the day where a pad was needed but on Saturday it stopped like I saw some old blood like wen a period is about to finish I am really confuse because I am New to this .. I am now haviNg hip pains and neck and upper back pain I am really concern because I don't know if I might be pregnant .. Last month I tested twice and both home test were negative .. I am 18 and as I said before I av an irregular cycle so I dint really keep track of it .. What ur opinion?

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      @destini: In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure.

      A woman is born with all of the eggs her body will ever produce, with roughly half of them in each of the ovaries. Every cycle, some eggs die, with the rate of ovum death increasing with age.

      I would *guess,* based on what I know of women's health, that your chances are as good now as they were before.

      Your doctor has better answers than I can give you. A phone call will get you the answer that you need, but I think your chances of getting pregnant are still high.

      I'm terribly sorry for your loss.

    • profile image

      destini 3 years ago

      So my pregnancy turned put to be ectopic friday september 12 at 9 i had to have surgury to remove my right tube the mass was the size of a golfball they gave me 2 days till it rupsured so it was emergancy surgury now i only have a left tube are my chances of getting pregnant decresed

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      Probably not, but you should contact your doctor about ANY non-standard pains that you have. He or she is the best person to diagnose.

    • profile image

      Ericaharden 3 years ago

      I'm 8 weeks and when I move a certain way I get a quick sharp pain in my lower left abdominal. It doesn't last but a second and does not happen very often. Should I be concerned?

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      @destini: I'm here for support, so don't ever be sorry for commenting and asking for support. That's the whole reason I'm here.

      Bedrest is scary and it's not a happy thing to have happen, but it may mean that your doctor believes there's hope of the pregnancy "sticking." Try to take it easy and not to worry too much. I bled heavily during my fourth pregnancy and my youngest daughter is six years old now, so unless I'm mistaken, there's still hope.

    • profile image

      destini 3 years ago

      Well I'm sorry for bumbarding u with questions i called my doctor and she put me on bed rest I'm still having bleeding now it mostly havey brown bleeding heavyer than before

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      @destini: If you're bleeding, call your doctor to be absolutely sure.

      Brown blood is usually "old blood" which is on the cervix. It may be from past periods, but to be on the safe side, I'd call my doctor if I was bleeding.

    • profile image

      destini 3 years ago

      Im almost 6 weeks pregnant and i experience for the last 2 day a change from pink blood to brown blood is this normal??

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      @ebere: I'm not sure what you want me to tell you. I have no way of diagnosing the source of the bleeding. It could be that you're pregnant and bleeding, or it could be a normal period. The only way to know for sure is to have your doctor do a blood test, which are more reliable than home pregnancy tests.

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      No. Brown discharge is generally old blood on the cervix from a previous period and can be the result of sexual activities. See here:

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      gayu 3 years ago


      I am 11weeks 4 days pregnant i mastubated and started brown discharge please tell me am i going to miscarry i am really scared pls any one experienced this.

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      I have an article on natural remedies for acid indigestion during pregnancy that you might want to check out. It's not a problem in early pregnancy as much as it is in later pregnancy, but if you start preventative measures now, you'll get the best results as time goes on throughout your pregnancy. It also gives a general idea of foods to avoid in order to avoid getting heartburn in the first place, and some of these may be helpful for overall nutrition in pregnancy.

    • Wynter Gale profile image

      Wynter Gale 3 years ago

      Thank you! I don't have a Tumblr account at this time. I'm a little slack on social media, but I'm trying new things. I see you have an article on natural remedies for morning sickness. I think it would be great to have an article on natural remedies for other pregnancy ailments, as well, if you don't already. Perhaps even safe exercises. I'm trying to get as healthy as possible (something I've been a little lax in lately).

    • Pregnancy Now profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 3 years ago from Central Indiana

      It sounds perfectly normal. If you're bleeding but not cramping, you're *probably* okay and if you're cramping but not bleeding, it's most likely round ligament pains, so you should be just fine. Implantation can also cause some mild cramping, if you're that early in your pregnancy.

      Best of luck to you in your pregnancy! I'd love it if you're on Tumblr and wanted to keep in touch ( I love watching women grow with their pregnancies. And welcome to Hubpages, too!

    • Wynter Gale profile image

      Wynter Gale 3 years ago

      I recently found out I am pregnant, and I have been extremely paranoid about the menstrual-like cramps I have been having off and on. Part of the reason for that is I have lost two pregnancies in the past two years (one ectopic that had to be terminated). This is my third pregnancy, and I hope everything goes well. I have not been spotting any, and with both of my other pregnancies I was spotting since before my missed menstrual cycle. I will be going to the doctor soon, so maybe that will give me a little more peace of mind. It's comforting to know that other mothers experience cramping and that it's usually a normal sign of pregnancy. My husband and I are ready to be parents!