Cramping during pregnancy doesn’t only cause discomfort, but they can be scary too, most especially during the early stages. In fact, any type of pain in the abdominal area can cause a pregnant woman to think the worst. Usually, cramping in the early stages of pregnancy is normal, but it will prove helpful to know what’s happening with your body when you experience cramping.
Everything You Need to Know About Cramping During Pregnancy
In this article:
Causes of Cramping During Pregnancy
“Is it normal to cramp at the beginning of pregnancy?” This is just one of the most common questions new mothers-to-be want to be answered. Cramping during pregnancy is generally due to your uterus muscles contracting.
In your first two trimesters, your body is working extra hard preparing for your new baby. Your uterus muscles expand and stretch. They cause a “pulling sensation” on your stomach. You might feel aches mimicking your period cramps during early pregnancy.
You may start to feel aches in your 4th month of pregnancy. These will feel like gentle menstrual cramps. These are called Braxton-Hicks contractions. This is due to your uterus tightening. Think of them as “practice” contractions to get your uterus ready for the big day when you go into labor.
These contractions may last between 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. They’ll also become more frequent and stronger the closer your due date approaches. You may even confuse them with preterm labor. Often shifting your position, lying down or walking around will ease the contractions.
Round Ligament Pain
Pregnant women sometimes experience sharp abdominal pain, often on one side of the tummy. This pain isn’t cramping; it’s where the ligament that surrounds your belly stretches. While it may be uncomfortable, it’s harmless.
Several other causes of normal pregnancy cramps include:
1. Bloating and gas
2. Sexual intercourse
Be concerned if you have serious pain in your abdomen while pregnant. Some of these conditions may include:
- Ectopic pregnancies: It’s a serious medical condition that causes painful cramps.
- Preeclampsia: It is diagnosed due to high blood pressure and intense pain in your upper belly. It is associated with higher levels of protein in the urine.
- Miscarriage: You may feel sharp cramps and have vaginal spotting, but even women with healthy pregnancies may experience these.
- Preterm labor: You may feel abdominal pain. If your cervix starts to dilate before 37 weeks, you may feel increased pressure and cramping.
- Placental abruption: You may feel severe pain in your stomach that doesn’t go away. You may also have vaginal bleeding and back pain as the placenta separates before your baby is born. You need immediate medical attention if this happens.
You shall not ignore more than five contractions an hour or pink discharge. Both of these symptoms can mean you’re going into preterm labor. If you’re feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or bleeding along with the cramps, you may want to have a doctor do an exam. These are signs of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. Also, call your doctor if your cramping doesn’t stop or your pain doesn’t improve. You’ll also want to call your doctor if you’re also experiencing back pain.
Generally, if a serious problem is causing your cramps, you’ll know it. Your cramps will be very painful. You will have other symptoms of abdominal tenderness and pain and bleeding.
Coping with Abdominal Cramps During Pregnancy
There are some things you can do to help you cope if your cramping during pregnancy is mild. The first thing to try to make yourself more comfortable is to rest. Dehydration may also make your cramps more painful. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids. However, a full bladder may worsen the situation too, so make sure you empty your bladder, as well. Some other self-care and cramp prevention tips may include:
- Sitting or lying down
- Changing positions
- Doing relaxation exercises
- Soaking in a warm bath
- Taking a warm shower
- Doing stretching exercises
- Taking acetaminophen
- Reducing physical activity
Don’t place a heating pad on your stomach. It can raise your core temperature, which is harmful when you’re pregnant.
This video by Parents shows when to worry about pain and cramping during pregnancy:
If you’re still wondering if your cramping is something to worry about, give your doctor a call. This is especially true if you’re experiencing continuous or severe abdominal pain. While the Internet is a treasure trove of information, nothing compares to going to your obstetrician for a personal checkup. As always, safety first.
Do you know of other ways on how to ease abdominal pain during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section below.