Adoption & Foster CareChildcareEducationFamily RelationshipsHaving a BabyParentingYouth Programs

First Trimester Pregnancy Pains: When to Call Your Doctor

Updated on June 07, 2016

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.

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

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

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

Relax and enjoy your pregnancy. There's generally no reason to stress, even in the risky first trimester. Worry only increases the risk, so if you're worried, please relax first!
Relax and enjoy your pregnancy. There's generally no reason to stress, even in the risky first trimester. Worry only increases the risk, so if you're worried, please relax first! | Source

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.

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.

  1. 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.
  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 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

Normal Pains
Concerning Pains
See Your Doctor
Nausea/Morning Sickness
Abdominal Cramping
Abdominal Cramping + Bleeding
Lower Back Pain
Stabbing Abdominal Pain
Abdominal Cramping + Nausea
Headaches
Severe Headaches
 
Breast Tenderness
Leg Pain
 

Breast Pain

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.

Back Pain

Back pain during early pregnancy is typical due to a variety of factors. While pain medications should be avoided as much as possible, relaxation and water consumption may help to reduce pain in the lower back.
Back pain during early pregnancy is typical due to a variety of factors. While pain medications should be avoided as much as possible, relaxation and water consumption may help to reduce pain in the lower back. | Source

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.

There are some points at which you should contact your doctor if you are experiencing pain during your pregnancy. See the list below to know when to give an immediate call and when you might want to wait.
There are some points at which you should contact your doctor if you are experiencing pain during your pregnancy. See the list below to know when to give an immediate call and when you might want to wait. | Source

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

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Shannon 21 months 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?

    • kaylyn 21 months 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?

    • Shantae 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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.

    • destini 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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.

    • Ericaharden 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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.

    • destini 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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.

    • destini 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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: https://wehavekids.com/having-baby/bleeding-during...

    • gayu 2 years ago

      Hi

      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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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 2 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
      Author

      Becki Rizzuti 2 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 (pregnancynow.tumblr.com). I love watching women grow with their pregnancies. And welcome to Hubpages, too!

    • Wynter Gale profile image

      Wynter Gale 2 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!

    Click to Rate This Article