Logo femininebook.com
General Practice 2023

Tough belly in pregnancy: what it can be and what to do (by trimester)

Table of contents:

Tough belly in pregnancy: what it can be and what to do (by trimester)
Tough belly in pregnancy: what it can be and what to do (by trimester)

A hard belly is a relatively common sensation during pregnancy, which can have different causes, depending on the trimester the woman is in and other symptoms she may have.

Causes of a hard belly in pregnancy can range from a simple stretching of the abdomen muscles, common in early pregnancy, to labor contractions or a possible miscarriage, for example.

The ideal thing is that whenever a woman feels some kind of change in her body or in the process of pregnancy, she consults the gynecologist or obstetrician, to understand if what is happening is normal or if it may indicate some type of risk for pregnancy.


The most common causes for a hard belly feeling during pregnancy are:

During the 1st trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy is the period between the 1st and 13th week of pregnancy and, in this interval, the most common causes can be:

1. Stretching the abdominal muscles

As the uterus grows and the baby develops, the belly can start to feel hard early in pregnancy, mainly due to the overstretching of the abdominal muscles.

This usually happens around 7 or 8 weeks of pregnancy and, at this stage, it is normal for a woman to notice that the lower part of the belly button, also popularly known as 'belly foot', is more swollen and tougher than before getting pregnant.

What to do: Since this is a normal body response, there is no specific treatment. However, if the sensation is very uncomfortable, it is recommended to consult the gynecologist or obstetrician.

2. Constipation

Constipation is another very common problem throughout pregnancy, but especially in the first weeks of pregnancy, as the rapid hormonal changes of this period slow down the intestinal transit, facilitating the formation of gases and making the belly harder and bloated.

Also, some women need to supplement with iron during pregnancy, which can make stools even harder.

What to do: to reduce the discomfort of constipation, it is important to drink a lot of water during the day, in addition to eating a diet rich in fiber, that is, betting on the consumption of foods such as vegetables, fruits with skin and cereals, for example. See some natural tips to fight constipation during pregnancy.

3. Miscarriage

A hard belly during the first trimester can still be a sign of miscarriage, which is more common before 12 weeks. But in these situations, in addition to having a harder belly than normal, the woman may also have other signs and symptoms such as severe pain in the lower back and vaginal bleeding with pieces, for example.

What to do: whenever there is a suspicion of miscarriage it is very important to go to the hospital for an abdominal ultrasound and to understand if the baby and the placenta are ok. Understand what can cause a miscarriage.


During the 2nd trimester

In the 2nd trimester, which takes place between 14 and 27 weeks, the most common causes of a hard belly are:

1. Round ligament inflammation

As pregnancy progresses, it is normal for the muscles and ligaments of the abdomen to continue stretching, making the belly increasingly hard. For this reason, many women may also experience inflammation of the round ligament, which results in constant pain in the lower belly, which can spread to the groin.

What to do: to relieve inflammation of the ligament it is recommended to rest and avoid staying in the same position for a long time. One position that seems to greatly relieve ligament pain is lying on your side with a pillow under your belly and another between your legs.

2. Training Contractions

This type of contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, usually appear after 20 weeks of pregnancy and help the muscles prepare for labor. When they appear, contractions make the belly extremely hard and usually last about 2 minutes.

What to do: Training contractions are completely normal and therefore no specific treatment is required. However, if they cause a lot of discomfort, it is recommended to consult the obstetrician.

During the 3rd trimester

The third trimester represents the last three months of pregnancy. During this period, in addition to continuing to have training contractions, as well as inflammation of the round ligament and constipation, there is another very important cause of a hard belly, which is childbirth contractions.

Generally, labor contractions are similar to training contractions (Braxton Hicks), but tend to become increasingly intense and with shorter spacing between each contraction. In addition, if the woman is going into labor, it is also common for the water bag to break. Check out which signs may indicate labor.

What to do: if labor is suspected, it is very important to go to the hospital to assess the rhythm of contractions and cervical dilation, so that to confirm if it's really time for the baby to be born.

When to go to the doctor

It is advisable to go to the doctor when the woman:

  • Feels a lot of pain along with a hard belly;
  • Suspected onset of labor;
  • Has fever;
  • Has blood loss from the vagina;
  • You feel the baby's movements decrease.

In any case, whenever the woman suspects that something is wrong, she should contact her obstetrician to clarify her doubts and, if it is not possible to talk to him, she should go to the emergency room or maternity hospital

Popular topic