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During pregnancy, it’s not unusual to experience minor aches and pains. But if you’re experiencing flank pain, there’s a good chance that something is wrong. Flank pain can be caused by many things, including urinary tract infections, miscarriages, and even problems with the baby. So if you’re feeling pain in your flanks, it’s important to see your doctor right away to find out what’s causing it.
But first, how do I know all of this?
Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I am an experienced RN who has seen a LOT of women with flank pain during their pregnancy. It’s VERY normal, and I’m glad to be able to give you this info!
Where is your Flank?
Your flank is the area of your body between your lower ribs and your hip. If you place your hand on your hip and then run it up to your lower ribs, that’s your flank.
What Can Cause Flank Pain in Pregnancy?
There are many different things that can cause flank pain during pregnancy. Some of the more common causes include:
Urinary tract infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI — or bladder infection) is a common cause of flank pain during pregnancy. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and begin to multiply. The most common symptom of a UTI is a burning feeling when you urinate. Other symptoms can include cloudy or bloody urine, a strong urge to urinate, and pain in the lower abdomen or back. This is the most common reasons I have seen. UTI’s can happen very easily during pregnancy.
It is important that you see your provider if you think your have a UTI/bladder infection. This can be an issue for the baby and can cause preterm labor contractions.
Kidney Infection or Kidney Stones
The flank is often where you feel kidney pain. That can be a kidney infection (often accompanied by a fever) or kidney stones. Both need to be seen by your provider, similar to a UTI.
Miscarrying. This can cause severe pain in the flank as well as in the lower abdomen. In some cases, the pain may be accompanied by bleeding. If you think you may be miscarrying, it’s important to see your doctor right away. I haven’t seen this as often, so don’t let your brain go here right away….
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. This can cause severe pain in the flank or lower abdomen. In some cases, the pain may be accompanied by bleeding. If you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy, it’s important to see your doctor right away.
An ectopic pregnancy would most often happen very early in pregnancy. If you’ve had ultrasounds and good prenatal care, they should be sure your pregnancy is in your uterus.
Pregnancy Back Pain
Although most back pain during pregnancy is closer to your spine, some may be felt along the “flank” area. This isn’t uncommon. It would be due to your changing center of balance and how your body adjusts for that. All very normal (but annoying).
Problems with the baby or their positioning
In some cases, flank pain during pregnancy can be a sign of a problem with the baby. For example, if the baby is in breech position (meaning that the buttocks or feet are down instead of the head), this can cause flank pain. If you’re experience flank pain and you’re worried that it may be a sign of a problem with the baby, be sure to see your doctor.
There are so many things to consider during pregnancy. Make sure you’re taking a labor and delivery class.
If you’re wondering more about baby being breech or when baby will likely turn << check out that post.
When to See Your Doctor for Flank Pain
If you’re experience flank pain during pregnancy, it’s important to see your doctor soon. While the cause is often something benign, such as a UTI, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. In some cases, such as with an ectopic pregnancy, timely treatment is essential.
If your pain is persistant or VERY painful, call their office emergency line. It may be best for you to go to the hospital for treatment.
What to Expect at Your Doctor’s Appointment for Flank Pain:
When you see your doctor for flank pain, he or she will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also perform a physical examination. In some cases, your doctor may order tests, such as a urine culture or ultrasound, to help determine the cause of your flank pain.
Treatment for Flank Pain in Pregnancy
The treatment for flank pain during pregnancy will depend on the underlying cause.
If you have a UTI, you’ll likely be treated with antibiotics.
If you’re miscarrying, there’s unfortunately not much that can be done.
In cases of ectopic pregnancy, timely treatment is essential. If the egg has implanted in a fallopian tube, it will need to be removed. This is typically done with surgery.
If it’s back pain you could use a hot water bottle or sometimes physical therapy or chiropractic care could help.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: I know your head immediately goes to ALL the things that could be wrong. Honestly, MOST often it’s baby’s positioning, just normal pregnancy back pain or a UTI.
Flank pain during pregnancy can be uncomfortable and worrisome. But in most cases, it’s not a sign of a serious problem. If you’re experience flank pain, be sure to see your doctor so that the cause can be determined and appropriate treatment can be given.
Flank Pain After Giving Birth
Flank pain can also occur after you have given birth. This is typically due to the fact that your body is going through a lot of changes as it adjusts to being pregnant. In some cases, the pain may be caused by a UTI or other infection. If you’re experience flank pain after giving birth, be sure to see your doctor so that the cause can be determined and appropriate treatment can be given.
If you love information like this, make sure to get a prenatal class. This one helps you get your confident hospital birth in just a few hours. Use code PREGNURSE to save 10%.
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
She is also the curly head behind the website Pulling Curls and is the creator of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — the #1 hospital-based prenatal class on the internet.