Right Side Pain During Pregnancy: Is Right Side Pregnancy Pain Serious?

Right Side Pain During Pregnancy: Is Right Side Pregnancy Pain Serious?
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Right side pain during pregnancy is a common occurrence for many pregnant women. Fluctuations in hormone levels, changes in your uterus, and muscle cramps can all be harmless causes of right side pregnancy pain. Mild cramping in the early stages of pregnancy can be normal; however, mild to severe abdominal pain in the later stages of pregnancy could be a sign of a more serious condition.

Some common causes of right-sided pregnancy pain in the second and third trimester could be round ligament pain, Braxton-Hicks contractions, or hormonal changes. Pregnant women also suffer from more gastrointestinal issues like constipation and heartburn which can cause both lower abdominal pain and lower back pain.

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Even if you think that right side pain in pregnancy is not serious, you should always report sharp severe pregnancy pains to your obstetrician or doctor. Severe pelvic and abdominal cramping pains can be indicative of potential serious pregnancy complications. For example, an ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, or miscarriage can all cause bad pelvic pains. These stabbing cramps may be accompanied by abnormal vaginal bleeding, nausea and vomiting, and chills.

It is normal to be concerned if you have right side abdominal pain and cramps during pregnancy. This article explores the many reasons for pain on the right side while pregnant. You will find out what kind of pregnancy is harmless and when right side pregnancy pain is serious.

Causes of Right Side Pain During Pregnancy

First, we will look at some of the harmless causes of right-sided pains during pregnancy that can be felt in your abdomen or lower back.

Mild right side abdominal cramping as your baby grows

As your baby grows in the uterus you might feel some mild abdominal cramping on your right side.

Many changes take place in your pelvic area and abdomen to make room for your growing baby. As your uterus expands, muscles and ligaments stretch and pull to keep it supported.

The American Pregnancy Association reports that mild uterine cramping in the early stages of pregnancy is normal. You may feel short mild aches and discomfort when you sneeze, cough, or change position. In fact, mild occasional cramps that are harmless can happen during each trimester as your baby grows.1

Although some spotting can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, you should speak to your obstetrician about any abnormal vaginal bleeding that accompanies mild to severe cramping.

To ease the pregnancy cramps and discomfort, you could try changing position or placing a heating pad on your abdomen. Doctors also recommend keeping yourself well-hydrated to ease abdominal pregnancy cramps and look after you and your baby’s health.1

Right-sided pregnancy pain caused by round ligament of uterus

Short, sharp right-sided pregnancy pains in your second or third trimester could be caused by the round ligaments that support your uterus stretching.

Ligaments hold your uterus in place and support it during pregnancy. As your uterus stretches and grows, the round ligaments can pull on nerve fibers in the pelvis.

According to registered nurse-midwife Mary Murry from the Mayo Clinic, pregnancy pains caused by round ligament pain usually happen on the right side. This can cause sharp pains in your abdomen that feel like a pulled muscle. The right-sided uterine pain can also radiate to your groin. Simple movements like getting out of bed, rising from a chair, or exercising can trigger short excruciating right side pain during your pregnancy.2

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Some ways to prevent round ligament pain causing discomfort in pregnancy is to move slower and avoid sudden movements. Soaking in a warm bath can also help to relax the ligaments and muscles around your uterus.

If you have severe pain that lasts longer than a few minutes and you also have vaginal bleeding, fever, or pain when urinating, you should speak to your obstetrician or gynecologist.

Hormonal changes result in pregnant pains on right side

Increases in certain hormones during pregnancy can result in pregnancy pains on the right side and in your pelvic area.

During pregnancy, your body produces more hormone called relaxin. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, relaxin affects the pelvic area and can be a leading cause of pelvic and lower back pain in pregnant women.3

One of the reasons that relaxin is responsible for increased back pain in pregnancy is the fact that it affects the pelvic joints. For example, Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD reports that relaxin can cause the joints at the base of the spine to become loose. You may feel right-sided pelvic pain during pregnancy if your right sacroiliac joint is painful.4

Dr. Pagano recommends ways to prevent back pain during pregnancy such as improving your posture, exercising regularly, and using heat treatments to ease discomfort.

Right side pains and Braxton Hicks contractions

You may experience right side pregnancy pains or left-sided pain in your third trimester due to Braxton Hicks contractions.

Braxton Hicks contractions are not true labor pains and are sometimes referred to as “false labor.” In fact, because Braxton Hicks contractions cause sharp cramps near the end of pregnancy, many women mistake them for the start of giving birth.

Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD explains that Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal part of a healthy pregnancy. They may feel like your abdomen tightens and cause discomfort in the abdomen. These sharp uterine cramps come at irregular intervals and are nothing to worry about.5

There are a few ways to tell Braxton Hicks contractions apart from the start of labor. For example, Dr. Pagano says that unlike true labor, Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and don’t get closer together, may stop if you change positions, and don’t get stronger.

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, touching your abdomen, increased physical activity, or dehydration could trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. There are a few ways of getting pregnancy pain relief if you have these labor like contractions. You could try changing position, going for a walk, soaking in a warm bath, or drinking a few glasses of water.6

Heartburn during pregnancy and right-side pains

Heartburn is a common cause of upper right abdominal pains and chest pains towards the end of pregnancy.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth, nearly 50% of all pregnant women suffer from the symptoms of heartburn in their second and third trimester. This happens because pregnancy hormones relax the valve which is located between the esophagus and the stomach allowing stomach acid to escape. The result can be a painful burning sensation in the chest.7

To help relieve discomfort caused by heartburn during pregnancy, doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend eating small frequent meals throughout the day. You should also avoid acidic and spicy foods.8

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One way to get rid of heartburn naturally is to take drinks of baking soda and water. This helps to neutralize the acid in your esophagus and reduce the painful discomfort that heartburn in pregnancy causes. However, Dr. Charles Patrick Davis says that you should discuss with your doctor before using any home remedies for heartburn during pregnancy.7

Constipation pain during pregnancy

Constipation is another condition that affects pregnant women and could cause right-sided abdominal pains during pregnancy.

According to the journal Canadian Family Physician, hormonal changes, the uterus pressing on the bowels, and changes in the gut movements can all cause constipation and its associated symptoms. In fact, around 40% of women who are pregnant experience constipation during pregnancy.8

Dr. Roger Henderson on Patient.info reports that a common symptom of constipation is crampy pains in the lower abdomen. These can happen on one or both sides of your abdominal area. Dr. Henderson says that often the uterus pushes to one side and you could feel pain on that side.9

One way to help get rid of pregnancy pain in your left or right abdomen that constipation causes is to consume lots of fluids and eat plenty of fiber. Fiber can help to soften stools and act as a natural laxative. Also, some other foods for relieving constipation are prunes and figs. These are natural and safe ways to relieve hard stools while pregnant.

Urinary tract infections resulting in lower right pains during pregnancy

If you have abdominal pains on your right side or left side and a burning sensation when you pee, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD says that changes in the uterus put pregnant women at more risk of a urinary tract infection. A bacterial infection in your urinary tract could cause cramps in your lower back or belly, turn your urine a strange color and odor, or create a burning sensation when you pee.10

It’s important to treat a UTI as early as possible to prevent pregnancy complications.

Right Side Pregnancy Pain – Serious Causes

Severe cramping or abdominal pain in any stage of pregnancy could be a sign of something more serious. Let’s look in more detail at serious complications in pregnancy that can cause pain on the right side.

Ectopic pregnancy and right sided pain during pregnancy

Severe uterine cramping on one side in the early stages of pregnancy could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are serious complications that can cause internal bleeding.

Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD says that ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the fallopian tube rather than inside the uterus. However, it’s impossible for the fetus to grow outside the womb.

Dr. Johnson says that the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy are pelvic pain or cramping without a period and light vaginal bleeding. Usually, the abdominal pregnancy pain is felt on one side. So, if the fetus is growing in your right fallopian tube, you will experience sharp pains on your right side. Other signs are nausea and vomiting, weakness, and pain that spreads to your shoulder or rectum.11

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Very often, you may not know you are pregnant when you show signs of an ectopic pregnancy. That is why severe one-sided abdominal cramping without a period is one of the types of pain you should never ignore.

Preeclampsia causes right-side pregnancy pains

Preeclampsia is a serious cause of right-sided pregnancy pain that occurs in the second or third trimester.

Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition caused by high blood pressure and damage to the liver or kidneys. According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, preeclampsia usually causes upper abdominal pain on the right side. Other symptoms include excess protein in your urine, low blood platelet level, severe headaches, and nausea and vomiting.12

Preeclampsia can threaten your and your baby’s life, so it’s important to seek prompt medical attention. Speak to your doctor if you have signs of high blood pressure, severe abdominal pains under your ribs, and blurred vision. You may also notice swelling in your face and hands.

Uterus pains during pregnancy as signs of miscarriage

Miscarriage can cause sharp abdominal pains in your right abdomen or severe cramping on both sides of your stomach along with vaginal bleeding and/or discharge.

According to Dr. William Blahd on WebMD, light vaginal bleeding or spotting in the first trimester is common among pregnant women and is usually nothing to worry about.13 Doctors from the National Health Service warn that severe cramping in your lower abdomen with vaginal bleeding could be a sign of miscarriage.14

It can be difficult to distinguish between harmless pregnancy cramping and pains that are a sign of miscarriage. According to Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD, painful miscarriage symptoms could be pelvic pain, lower stomach pain, or a constant dull ache in your lower back. You may also notice discolored discharge and have light to heavy vaginal bleeding.15

If you have any vaginal bleeding along with abdominal pain in pregnancy, you should seek medical care as soon as possible.

Placental abruption and severe pregnancy pains

A placental abruption (abruptio placentae) could be a reason for right-sided pregnancy pains or left side pains during your third trimester.

According to obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Shad Deering, uterine contractions and pain can occur if the placenta separates from the uterus prematurely. Apart from uterine pain, a placental abruption causes vaginal bleeding and may affect the growing baby. If there is only mild bleeding and no signs of distress to the baby, doctors may recommend plenty of rest in bed.16

However, severe placental abruption can become a medical emergency that can have fatal consequences. Therefore, if you have any vaginal bleeding with abdominal pain, you should speak to your obstetrician as soon as possible.

Other Reasons for Pregnancy Pain on Right Side

Apart from right side pain that some pregnancy-related conditions cause, there are other reasons why you might have pain on the right side while you are pregnant. Here are some common reasons.

Digestive issues and right-sided pregnancy pain

Certain digestive issues can cause you right-sided pain in your abdomen while you are pregnant.

For example, diverticulitis is inflammation of the colon. According to the journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice, right-sided diverticulitis can cause acute and frequent bouts of right-sided abdominal pain.17

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According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, a buildup of excess gas in your intestines can cause sharp, jabbing abdominal pains on either side of your abdomen.18 In fact, too much intestinal gas can cause chest pains that feel as if they are cardiac-related pains.

Right side flank pain in pregnancy caused by kidney stones

Kidney stones can cause right sided flank pain during pregnancy just as they can cause pain in any man or woman.

According to information published in the journal Obstetric Medicine, pregnancy doesn’t usually cause kidney stones. However, if you already have kidney stones, they can cause severe flank pain or abdominal pain if they start to move through your urinary system.19

There are many ways to treat and get rid of kidney stones naturally. One way is to drink apple cider vinegar to dissolve the mineral deposits. However, as with all types of abdominal or flank pain during pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor before using home remedies.

Ovarian cysts causing right side pains while pregnant

Another reason for right side pelvic pains during pregnancy that is related to your reproductive system is a cyst on your ovary.

One study in France found that ovarian cysts can form while a woman is pregnant. These can cause varying degrees of pelvic pain. Doctors usually assess each pregnant individual to decide on the best course of treating ovarian cysts during pregnancy.20

Painful bowel movements, pain during intercourse, dull aches in the lower back and thighs, and breast tenderness are all symptoms of ovarian cysts.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis can also happen in pregnancy which can cause excruciating pain in your lower right abdomen.

The symptoms of appendicitis usually start off as pain around the belly button before spreading to your lower abdomen on the right side. However, sometimes, the position of the uterus can affect the location of the appendix and you might have cramping aches in other places in your abdomen.21

How to Treat Right Side Pain During Pregnancy

Most pregnancy pains on the right side or left side that are associated with a healthy pregnancy can be treated using a heating pad.

According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, heating pads are great to relieve pregnancy pains in your abdomen, lower back, and getting rid of leg cramps.

It is very easy to ease right-sided pains, cramps, and aches during pregnancy by using a hot water bottle. This is what you should do:

  1. Fill a hot water bottle with hot (not boiling water) and secure tight.
  2. Wrap the hot water bottle in a towel and place on your right abdomen for 20 minutes to get rid of pregnancy pains.
  3. Apply the hot water bottle 3-4 times a day or at any other time you need rapid relief from mild pregnancy pains.

Pregnancy Pain on Right Side – When to See a Doctor

Any kind of abdominal pain that is more than occasional mild cramping could be a sign of something serious. Pregnancy complications usually result in sharp and intense pains or dull aches that are constant and don’t go away.

According to Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD, you should call a doctor at any time during your pregnancy if you have any of the following symptoms:22

  • Severe headaches along with vision problems and sudden swelling of your hands, feet, or face.
  • Abdominal pains or cramping along with vaginal bleeding.
  • An increase in vaginal discharge or discharge that has a bad-looking color.
  • Any kind of pelvic pain that doesn’t go away.
  • Feelings of nausea and vomiting with or without chills and a fever.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. AmericanPregnancy. Cramping during pregnancy.
  2. MayoClinic. Round ligament pain.
  3. Am J Obstet Gynecol.1996 Nov;175(5):1342-7.
  4. WebMD. Back pain during pregnancy.
  5. WebMD. Braxton Hicks contractions or true labor?
  6. MedicineNet. Braxton-Hicks contractions.
  7. eMedicineHealth. Heartburn during pregnancy.
  8. Can Fam Physician. 2012 Aug; 58(8): 836–838.
  9. PatientInfo. Constipation.
  10. WebMD. What if I get a UTI when I’m pregnant?
  11. WebMD. Ectopic pregnancy.
  12. MayoClinic. Preeclampsia.
  13. WebMD. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
  14. NHS. Miscarriage symptoms.
  15. WebMD. Miscarriage symptoms.
  16. Medscape. Abruptio placentae.
  17. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2009; 2009: 359485.
  18. MayoClinic. Gas and gas pains.
  19. Obstet Med. 2014 Sep; 7(3): 103–110.
  20. J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod (Paris).2001 Nov;30(1 Suppl):S100-8.
  21. Curr Probl Surg. 2012 Apr; 49(4): 195–251.
  22. WebMD. Pregnancy – when to call a doctor.
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