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Pains in your third trimester of pregnancy (week 28 onwards)
Find out what can cause stomach pain in the third trimester of pregnancy and when to get medical help. Contact your maternity hospital if you think you are in labour.
Skip to main contentPains in your third trimester of pregnancy (week 28 onwards)
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Stomach pain and cramps in pregnancy
It is common to feel uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy. By the third trimester you may feel pains, like contractions, called 'Braxton Hicks'. These do not happen at regular intervals. They tend to be short. They are not labour pains and they are not usually very intense. You might feel discomfort rather than pain.
Contact your midwife, maternity unit or hospital if you have contractions that are:
intense and painful
less than 10 minutes apart
not going away
Braxton Hicks contractions
When to get medical help in your third trimester
You should contact your GP, maternity unit or hospital if:
you have pain passing urine (when you pee) - this could be a sign of a urine infection
you have blood in your urine or smelly or cloudy urine - these could be signs of a urine infection
you have severe pain, or if your tummy feels tender when you touch it, or you have any bleeding from your vagina - these could be signs of a problem with your placenta
the pain is higher up in your stomach or chest, or you have a headache, swelling of your hands, feet and face or blurring of your vision - these are signs of pre-eclampsia
you notice any change in your baby’s movements
you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and feel a gush of fluid - this could be a sign that your waters have broken prematurely (preterm rupture of membranes)
you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and getting regular contractions that are not going away or are getting stronger - this could be a sign of premature labour
Contact your midwife, maternity unit or hospital if you are more than 37 weeks pregnant and:
you think you are in labour
your contractions are 5 minutes apart and getting stronger
If you live a long distance from the hospital, you may be asked to come in before this.
Contractions and other signs of labour
Heartburn or indigestion during pregnancy
Constipation in pregnancy
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.
Page last reviewed: 20 May 2019
Next review due: 20 May 2022
The Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Pain and Insomnia
The third trimester is a time of great anticipation. In a few short weeks, your little one will finally be here. Some of the symptoms during the third trimester can include pain and insomnia. Find out why these symptoms occur. Also learn how to manage them and when to seek treatment from your doctor.
The Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Pain and Insomnia
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA on September 5, 2018
The third trimester
The third trimester is a time of great anticipation. In a few short weeks, your little one will finally be here.
Some of the symptoms during the third trimester can include insomnia and pain. It’s important to know what’s normal and what’s not, particularly when it comes to the discomfort you may feel over the course of the third trimester.
Pain can occur in seemingly every part of your body during this time. From your back to your hips to your stomach, there are many places that may be sore and uncomfortable.
Though insomnia and pain certainly aren’t pleasant, there’s an end in sight. Soon, you’ll be welcoming your new baby to the world.
Stomach pain in the third trimester can include gas, constipation, and Braxton-Hicks contractions (false labor). While these can cause some abdominal discomfort, they shouldn’t cause excessive amounts of pain.
Abdominal pain that’s more severe and concerning can be caused by:
urinary tract infection (UTI)
preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy
placental abruption, a condition that occurs when your placenta separates from your uterus too early
Call your doctor if you experience:
vaginal bleeding a fever chills dizziness nausea vomiting
Lower back and hip pain
As your body goes through further changes in preparation for childbirth, hormone levels increase so your connective tissue loosens. This enhances flexibility in your pelvis so your baby can pass through the birth canal more easily.
However, women frequently experience hip pain as the connective tissue loosens and stretches. Lower back pain can also occur along with hip pain, as posture changes may cause you to lean more toward one side or another.
Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs may help to relieve this pain because it opens the hips slightly.
Try these tips
Take a warm bath.
Apply warm compresses or an ice pack, but avoid the abdomen.
Get a prenatal massage.
Sit in chairs with good back support.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce soreness and discomfort.
Call your doctor if the pain becomes severe or if you feel pressure radiating toward your thighs. These could be signs of preterm labor.
You should also contact your doctor if your pain is accompanied by stomach cramping, contractions that occur roughly 10 minutes apart, or vaginal discharge that’s clear, pink, or brown.
Your sciatic nerve is a long nerve that runs from your lower back all the way down to your feet. When pain occurs along this nerve, the condition is known as sciatica.
Many women experience sciatica during pregnancy because the enlarged uterus presses down on the sciatic nerve. This increased pressure causes pain, tingling, or numbness in the lower back, buttocks, and thighs. It may affect one side or both sides of the body.
While the pain of sciatica is uncomfortable, it shouldn’t hurt your growing baby.
You may be able to ease the pain by stretching, taking a warm bath, or using pillows to position yourself as comfortably as possible.
Vaginal pain during your third trimester can make you feel anxious and stressed. You may wonder if your baby is coming or if the pain is a sign that something’s wrong.
The answer depends on the severity of the pain. Some women experience sharp, piercing pain in the vagina. This could potentially indicate that the cervix is dilating in preparation for delivery.
You should call your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the following:
severe vaginal pain
intense pain in the vagina
intense pain in the lower abdomen
Even if these symptoms turn out not to be cause for concern, it’s best to get a confirmation from your doctor.
Why does insomnia occur during the third trimester?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep on a regular basis. Chances are, both of these symptoms may affect you at some point during your third trimester.
There are several factors that can contribute to insomnia in the third trimester:
Baby’s growing size
During the final trimester, your baby is getting much larger. This can make it harder to breathe while sleeping and more difficult to find a comfortable position.
The lower back pain you may experience during pregnancy can also affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Your sleep may also be impacted by snoring. Nasal congestion occurs in up to 42% women
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during pregnancy and can cause snoring.
The baby’s increased size also puts additional pressure on the diaphragm, or breathing muscles. While some moms-to-be can sleep through the snoring, others may wake themselves up with their snoring.
Leg cramping and restless legs
You may start to develop leg cramping and restless leg syndrome (RLS) in the third trimester.
Cramping can occur as a result of too much phosphorus and too little calcium in the body.
Low belly pain when pregnant: Is it serious?
Low belly pain when pregnant is a common experience and usually harmless. However, severe and ongoing pain may indicate a more serious condition. Learn more here.
Low belly pain when pregnant: Causes and treatments
Medically reviewed by Carolyn Kay, M.D. — Written by Amanda Barrell on July 29, 2020
It is perfectly normal to experience low belly pain when pregnant. The body goes through many changes as the fetus grows, and this can cause various types of discomfort throughout the pregnancy.
There may be several explanations for lower belly pain. Most are harmless and perfectly normal.
However, severe pain or cramping that does not go away might be a sign of a serious issue.
This article will look at some of the most common causes of lower belly pain during pregnancy, how to treat them, and when to see a doctor.
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While lower belly pain in pregnancy is normal, severe pain or cramping may signal a more serious issue.
Some causes of low belly pain can occur at any time during pregnancy:
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
UTIs are relatively common
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during pregnancy, but doctors can usually treat them easily. They can occur at any time while pregnant. Symptoms include:
pain or pressure in the lower belly area
pain or burning while urinating
feeling extremely tired
needing to urinate more often
reddish or cloudy urine
Doctors can test a urine sample to diagnose a UTI, while treatment usually involves antibiotics.
Learn more about having a UTI during pregnancy.
Trapped wind is a possible cause of lower belly pain in pregnant women. This happens because:
pregnancy hormones can slow digestion
the growing uterus puts pressure on the digestive system
pregnancy-related constipation disturbs the balance of the digestive system
Learn more about gas pain during pregnancy.
During the first trimester, the following are potential causes of low belly pain:
In the early stages of pregnancy, many women experience period-like pain or cramps, usually low down in the belly. This is normal, as the egg settles into the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancy is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition. It occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. As the egg develops, it can burst the tube, which can cause serious internal bleeding.
Early signs of ectopic pregnancy include:
mild pain in the lower belly or pelvis
pain in the lower back
mild cramps on one side of the pelvis
These symptoms can worsen as the egg grows. Signs of a ruptured fallopian tube include:
sudden, severe pain in the belly or pelvis that does not go away
pain in the shoulders
weakness dizziness fainting
A ruptured tube is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
Doctors will normally use a combination of medication and surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy. Treatments will aim to trigger the body to reabsorb the egg, and repair the ruptured fallopian tube.
Learn more about ectopic pregnancy here.
Low belly pain during the second trimester could commonly be caused by:
Stretching muscles and ligaments
Later on in pregnancy, the muscles and ligaments that support the uterus stretch as the belly expands. Women might feel a dull ache across the belly, or a sharp pain on one side. It might worsen when they stand up, get out of bed or the bath, or cough.
Round ligament pain is a common complaint during pregnancy. Learn more here.
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The following causes of low belly pain are more common during later pregnancy:
A potential cause of belly pain later on in pregnancy are Braxton-Hicks contractions. Doctors sometimes call this false labor.
Braxton-Hicks contractions are part of the body’s preparations to give birth, and usually occur in the week before delivery. They help make the cervix softer and thinner. Many women will find the pain goes away if they go for a walk, or change position.
Learn more about Braxton-Hicks contractions or false labor here.
Belly pain that does not go away when the woman moves around may be a sign of pre-term labor. This means giving birth before week 37 of pregnancy.
Signs and symptoms of pre-term labor include:
pain or pressure in the lower belly
a dull backache that doesn’t go away
belly cramps diarrhea contractions
a change in vaginal discharge quantity or consistency – it might be more watery, mucusy, or bloody
Anyone who experiences any labor symptoms too early should call a doctor straight away.
Mild belly pain during pregnancy will usually go away on its own. Women can also try taking acetaminophen to ease discomfort.