Managing pain during pregnancy


Pregnancy demands a lot from women's bodies so aches and pains are common. It's helpful to be aware of what these might mean and how they can be managed.


Some pregnant women get a lot of headaches – especially during early pregnancy. Drinking lots of water, reducing everyday stress and getting plenty of sleep can help to reduce the frequency or severity of these headaches. You can consider taking paracetamol, as it is generally considered suitable for use in pregnancy, but ask your pharmacist for advice if you're unsure.

In rare cases, headaches are a sign of a serious pregnancy complication called pre-eclampsia. Seek medical advice immediately if:

• Your headache is severe

• Your vision blurs or you see flashing lights

• You have a pain just below your ribs 

• You're vomiting

• You notice a sudden increase in swelling in your hands, face, feet or ankles 

Stomach pains

Constipation is a common cause of stomach pain in pregnancy. Eating a fibre-rich diet, drinking plenty of water and taking gentle exercise can help prevent and relieve constipation. Not all laxative medicines are suitable for use in pregnancy, so ask your pharmacist for advice if you're considering a laxative.

In later pregnancy, you may experience Braxton-Hicks contractions – irregular, mostly painless, tightenings of the womb, thought to be 'practice' for labour. These are natural and not a cause for concern, but contact your midwife or Doctor if you're worried.

You may also experience occasional sharp stomach cramps as your ligaments stretch to accommodate your growing baby. While most stomach pains during pregnancy are nothing to worry about, there are some symptoms that may require attention. Seek medical advice immediately if you experience stomach pain alongside any of these symptoms:

• Bleeding or spotting

• Regular cramps or tightenings

• Unusual vaginal discharge

• Lower back pain

• Pain or burning when you urinate

You should also contact your doctor or midwife if your stomach pain is severe, and doesn't go away after 30 to 60 minutes of rest.

Back pain

During pregnancy, your ligaments become softer and stretchier. This may cause increased strain on the lower back and pelvis, which can lead to backache.

You can help reduce the strain on your back by:

• Avoiding heavy lifting

• Wearing flat shoes

• Taking plenty of rest – especially during the later stages of pregnancy

• Having a gentle massage or taking a warm bath

• Keeping your back straight and well supported – for example, using back supports on your chair

• Making adjustments to your working environment if your job puts strain on your back. Your employer should be able to help you with this

You can consider taking paracetamol, as it's generally considered suitable for use in pregnancy.

Pelvic pain

Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) causes pain across your pubic bone, your lower back, in your perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) and down into the thighs. You may also be aware of a clicking or grinding sensation in your pelvic area.

PPGP can be intensely painful and cause difficulties in everyday activities such as getting dressed, climbing stairs or getting in and out of the car. Early advice and treatment can greatly reduce the impact of PPGP and make your pregnancy much more comfortable. If you think you may have PPGP, talk to your Doctor or midwife straight away.