Is It Normal to Have Pain on Your Left Side During Pregnancy?

Reviewed on 1/26/2021

Left-side pregnancy pain

Many women experience left side pain during pregnancy. Inital pregnancy pain may be due to your body stretching to make room for your baby or digestive issues. Later pain in pregnancy could be caused by the ligaments in your abdomen stretching, kidney infection or a uniary tract infection (UTI).
Many women experience left side pain during pregnancy. Inital pregnancy pain may be due to your body stretching to make room for your baby or digestive issues. Later pain in pregnancy could be caused by the ligaments in your abdomen stretching, kidney infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Many women experience left side pain during pregnancy. Early in your pregnancy, it can be a sign that your body is stretching to make room for your baby, or it can stem from digestive issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or constipation

Later in your pregnancy, it can be caused by the ligaments in your abdomen stretching. It can also be a sign of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) or pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which is a condition that occurs when the ligaments supporting the pelvic bones relax due to a pregnancy hormone called relaxin

Urinary tract infections (UTI) or kidney infections can cause pain in your left side at any point during your pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop urinary tract infections due to hormonal and structural changes during pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of left side pain during pregnancy

Different types of left side pain that can be present in pregnancy include:

  • Cramping pain similar to menstrual cramps
  • Pressure in your pelvic area
  • Cramping in the left side of the lower abdomen
  • Pain in your pubic area
  • Pain in your lower back
  • Pain that goes down your thighs
  • Clicking sensation in your pelvis
  • Pain with urination

Causes of left side pain during pregnancy

First trimester

Left side pain in the first trimester is usually caused by normal bodily changes from pregnancy. It may also be related to digestive issues that tend to be worse during pregnancy, such as GERD. Left side pain in early pregnancy may also be caused by miscarriage. The most serious cause of left side pain in early pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy, which needs emergency treatment. UTIs and kidney infections can cause left side pain at any point during pregnancy. 

Second trimester

Round ligament pain is the most common cause of pain on either side during the second trimester. The round ligaments support the uterus. They stretch during pregnancy to accommodate your growing baby. This is a sharp pain that’s felt in the abdomen or in the hip area, on either side. Any sudden movement that makes these ligaments retract quickly can cause pain. It only lasts for a few seconds and generally gets better in the third trimester

Third trimester

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP), sometimes called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), can occur at any stage in pregnancy but is more common late in pregnancy. The pain may occur in your pubic bone, at approximately the level of your hips, on either side of your lower back, or in the perineum, which is the area between your vagina and anus. It may spread to your thighs as well. You may also have a grinding or clicking feeling in your pubic area. PGP is not harmful to your baby, but it can be very uncomfortable for you.

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When to see the doctor for left side pain during pregnancy

If you have any of the following symptoms accompanying your left side pain, you should call your doctor:

Diagnosing left side pain during pregnancy

Your doctor will take a medical history, listen to your symptoms, and do a physical exam. If necessary, your doctor may order an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the exact cause of your left side pain. They may also order blood or urine tests to check for other issues, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Treatments for left side pain during pregnancy

Treatment for your left side pain will depend on the cause. It may include a combination of home treatments, medication, or therapy

Normal changes of pregnancy

For left side pain that is related to normal pregnancy changes, the following may be helpful:

  • Don’t do any heavy lifting
  • Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees
  • Move more slowly but more often
  • Use a heating pad, but never for more than 10 minutes at a time
  • Rest more often
  • Do Kegel exercises
  • Use a maternity belt for extra support

Round ligament pain

If your left side pain is caused by round ligament pain, try some of these options: 

  • Get extra rest
  • Move and change positions slowly
  • If you know you need to cough or sneeze, bend and flex your hips
  • For persistent pain, your doctor may recommend stretching exercises

Pelvic girdle pain

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) can range from mild to severe. You can try the following options for relief: 

  • Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting
  • Try a heating pad or ice pack on painful areas, but don’t use a heating pad for more than 10 minutes at a time
  • Wear a pelvic support belt
  • Do kegel exercises
  • Sleep with a pillow between your legs
  • Talk to your doctor about pain relievers if the pain is severe
  • Talk to your doctor about physical therapy if home measures aren’t helping 

Urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney infection

UTIs and kidney infections have similar symptoms, and an untreated UTI can lead to a kidney infection. If your doctor suspects one of these conditions, they may try the following treatments:

  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics
  • You may be treated preventatively with antibiotics for recurrent UTIs
  • Kidney infections may require hospitalization for intravenous (IV) antibiotics 

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References
American Pregnancy Association: "Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy."

Insights Into Imaging: "Imaging for Acute Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy."

Merck Manual: "Pelvic Pain During Early Pregnancy."

Office of Research on Women's Health: "Pregnancy Complications."

Pelvic Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy: "Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain."

StatPearls: "Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy."

Urology Health: "What is Kidney (Renal) Infection - Pyelonephritis?"

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