Tummy ache/abdominal pain

There are lots of changes to your body that occur during pregnancy which can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Recognising what is normal and when to ask for help is important for you and your baby’s health.

It is common to experience some abdominal discomfort (tummy ache) that gets better by itself or improves with simple painkillers. However, if you experience pain associated with reduced baby movements or vaginal bleeding, you need to contact your maternity team.

Important:  If you are taking paracetamol 2x 500mg tablets (1g) 4-6 hourly not exceeding 4g in 24hours.

What we mean when we say “severe, moderate or mild pain’’:

Severe pain:

  • Constant pain that is always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • You can't sleep because of the pain 
  • It's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress because of the pain

Moderate pain:

  • May be constant or comes and goes 
  • Can be difficult to concentrate or sleep because of the pain 
  • You can manage to get up, wash or dress with the pain 

Mild pain:

  • Comes and goes (not contractions)
  • You can manage to sleep with the pain 
  • Is annoying but doesn't stop you doing things like going to work or eating a meal


For more information on local services please click here.

When should you get help?

If you are over 20 weeks pregnant call your maternity unit immediately if you have:

  • Pain with vaginal bleeding (fresh bleeding like a period, rather than a blood stained mucous show)
  • Severe constant pain that is not eased with paracetamol

You need urgent help.

Contact your maternity unit immediately

If you are over 20 weeks pregnant call your maternity unit if you have:

  • Persistent pain (4-6 hours) that is not eased with paracetamol
  • Pain with any of the following:
    • Reduced baby movements or no baby movements
    • Pain under your ribs on the right side, not associated with baby’s position or movements.
    • Vaginal loss (e.g. offensive discharge, bleeding, fluid) 
  • Pain associated with contractions- call your maternity labour line for triage assessment.

See your GP (or NHS 111 out of hours) if you have:

  • Moderate or severe abdominal pain under 20 weeks pregnant
  • Pain when having a wee
  • Moderate or severe abdominal pain which you do not feel is related to your pregnancy.
  • Stiffness and pain in your pelvis (pelvic girdle pain).Persistent PGP that is not managed with regular paracetamol.
  • Abdominal pain associated with constipation.

For more information click here

You need to contact your: 

  • Maternity Unit
  • GP 
  • NHS111


Self care at home:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions are “practice contractions”. They are usually irregular and either settle by themselves or with paracetamol. They are not usually a sign of the start of labour, unless they are regular, and build in length and strength. 
  • Discomfort from or during physical activity.

Things you can do at home: 

  • 2x 500mg tablets (1g) Paracetamol 4-6hourly. No more than 4g (8 tablets) in 24hours.
  • Warm bath or shower 
  • Warm water bottle 
  • Keeping mobile, but if pain is made worse by physical activity you should rest

Self care

Contact your maternity unit if you are still concerned


This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

Your local maternity unit is staffed 24 hours a day with obstetrician s and midwives to help care for you, your baby and your pregnancy related health concerns. For some AMBER concerns it may be possible to be seen in a midwifery led unit if it is more convenient for you. For health concerns that are not related to your pregnancy you are advised to see your GP, call NHS 111 out of hours, or attend A&E if it is an emergency.To find the contact numbers for your local maternity unit, please click here.

  • Labour line (maternity advice line) - Many maternity units provide women with a central advice line often called “labour line”. You are advised to call this number if you think you might be in labour. The phone is answered by a midwife 24hours a day. They will ask you questions, assess you and give advice. When the time is right they will arrange for you to attend your preferred place of birth, or arrange a midwife to come to you if you are planning a homebirth.
  • Community Midwife- Your community midwife provides you with all routine maternity care from your first “booking in“ appointment in early pregnancy to discharging you to the care of the health visitors when your baby is 2 weeks old. She will give you information on keeping you and your baby healthy during pregnancy and refer you to specialists if required.

Whilst you may have individual contact details for your community midwife, if you are concerned about your pregnancy we advise you call the maternity unit on the numbers provided because staff are available 24 hours a day. Please do not leave urgent voicemails or text on a community midwife’s phone.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and can arrange referral to a hospital specialist should you need it. Whilst pregnant, you will have regular appointments with a midwife but it is still important to continue with any ongoing care from your GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

NHS 111 can ask you questions to assess your symptoms, give you advice or can put you in touch with a GP out of usual working hours.

A&E departments provide vital care for life threatening emergencies, such as suspected heart attack or breathing difficulties. If you are not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.