Mild Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Patterns and Treatment

Mild abdominal pain is relatively frequent during pregnancy and in most cases it poses no danger to the mother or fetus. However, when faced by a pregnant woman with abdominal pain, we should first exclude the possibility of ectopic pregnancy or threatened miscarriage.


There are several potential causes of mild abdominal pain during pregnancy, including:

  • Blood deficiency
  • Stagnation of Qi
  • Empty-Cold
  • Blood stasis

Identification of Patterns and Treatment

The treatment principle for abdominal pain during pregnancy is essentially to move Qi and invigorate Blood, adjusted according to the respective predominance of deficiency or excess. In any case, during pregnancy one must avoid using too many pungent, warm, drying herbs or herbs that strongly invigorate Blood.

Prognosis and Prevention

The prognosis depends largely on the Western differentiation. If abdominal pain in pregnancy is not due to an ectopic pregnancy or threatened miscarriage, it responds well to treatment with acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs. The pattern from deficiency of Blood is the easiest to treat while those from Empty-Cold and stagnation of Qi are the most difficult because the pregnant state of the patient imposes several restrictions on the choice of acupuncture points or herbs.

Western View

When seeing a pregnant woman with abdominal pain, we must first of all establish whether there is uterine bleeding or not because this sign may indicate either a threatened miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. A ‘simple’ abdominal pain during pregnancy is not uncommon and Western medicine has no explanation for it. For example, a textbook on obstetrics says of abdominal pain during pregnancy: “Very few women manage to experience an entire pregnancy without an episode of abdominal pain. Most of these are harmless and cause no damage to the pregnancy”.

Ultrasound image of a pregnant woman with mild abdominal pain