Reasons of Cramping during Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, you get used to a small amount of discomfort all over — sore feet, tender breasts, an achy back. But if you’re experiencing abdominal cramps and pain, you might feel a bit concerned. Here’s what you need to know.
Is abdominal cramping and pain normal during pregnancy?
Cramping during pregnancy is often scary, but it’s a common symptom through all trimesters. Most cramps aren’t dangerous; in fact, cramping is the uterus’s response to just about anything that’s happening to it. The uterus is a muscle, and the only thing a muscle knows how to do is contract, and a contraction feels like a cramp.
Reasons You’re Cramping During Pregnancy
Things that can cause your uterus to contract or cramp at any time during pregnancy include a full bladder, an orgasm, exercise, or a urinary tract infection. Trimester by trimester, here’s what you can expect:
Cramping in Early Pregnancy: First Trimester
For some women, cramping is the first sign that they are pregnant, as it’s common to experience cramping when a fertilized egg makes its home in the uterine wall. This is called implantation cramping, and it can feel like your period is about to start. The rapid uterine growth in the first two trimesters of pregnancy can also lead to cramping.Plus, changing hormone levels can lead to increased gas, bloating, and constipation. The majority of pregnancies will have some mild (light) cramping intermittently during the first 16 weeks.
One concern many women have when they experience cramping during early pregnancy is that it’s a sign of miscarriage. But cramping in itself is not usually a sign of miscarriage. Miscarriages often happen when there is abnormal development in an egg or embryo (usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities) and the body responds by eliminating the pregnancy. The cramping associated with miscarriage is actually caused when blood and tissue leaving the uterus irritates it, causing it to contract.
Second Trimester Cramping
The middle trimester of pregnancy may be the time when you’re least likely to experience cramping or other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. One exception is with women who are pregnant with multiples, since the uterus grows more rapidly and will reach third-trimester proportions in the second trimester. (This is one reason women carrying multiples are at greater risk for preterm labor.)
Another common exception is round ligament pain, which occurs around week 13 when the ligaments that support the uterus are stretched as the uterus grows upward. This kind of benign pain is usually quick, sharp one-sided pain. Mild urinary tract infections can also cause cramping in a pregnancy.
A more serious, but rare, cause of cramping in the second trimester is uterine fibroids. These harmless overgrowths of tissue (which are more common in African American women) can start to break down in the second trimester, because there is not enough blood to sustain their growth. When they do, the pain is severe and almost always happen between 15 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. Any woman who has a history of uterine fibroids should be alert to cramping at this stage of pregnancy, because she may need hospitalization to manage the pain effectively until it passes.
Third Trimester Cramping
It is very common for women in their third trimester to experience cramping, which is often in the form of those famous Braxton Hicks contractions. These are the same contractions that you will experience when labor begins, but the difference is that they will not progress into labor. Of course, when cramping occurs in the third trimester or even in the second, it’s important to determine whether you could be experiencing preterm labor. Make sure that the doctor checks your cervix to see if it has dilated, which can be a sign of early labor. If it’s not early labor, drinking a couple of glasses of water or juice and resting should help quiet your pregnancy cramps. However, if it persists, let your doctor know.
When is Cramping During Pregnancy not a Concern?
Gas and bloating often make an appearance during pregnancy due to elevated levels of progesterone, a hormone that relaxes the muscles in your digestive tract. As a result, digestion slows down, leading to bloating as well as constipation — both of which can bring on crampy feelings in your abdomen. Your discomfort is probably digestion-related if passing gas or having a bowel movement provides some short-term relief. You can help prevent gastrointestinal issues by eating fiber-rich foods, having several small meals a day instead of larger ones, taking your time when eating, and drinking plenty of water. If these changes don’t help, your doctor may recommend a stool softener for constipation.
Cramps After Orgasm
Cramping during and after orgasm (sometimes paired with a lower backache) is common and harmless in a low-risk pregnancy and is absolutely not a reason to stop enjoying sex, if you’re feeling up to it. The problem can be psychological (if you’re worried about hurting the baby during sex — which you can’t). It can also be due to increased blood flow to the pelvic area or normal uterine contractions during orgasm.
Blood Flow to the Uterus
During pregnancy, your body sends more blood than usual to your uterus, which can result in a feeling of pressure in the area. Lying down to rest or soaking in a warm bath may help relieve these aches.
Changing position of the body
It may get better or worse with the changing positions of your body. This is generally a sign that what you’re experiencing is related to stretching of the uterus or its supporting ligaments.
When to call your doctor?
You should always feel free to contact your doctor with your cramping concerns.
If you experience the following type of cramping, you must call your doctor immediately:
- Severe pain that does not go away.
- Lower abdominal pain, accompanied by contractions.
- Vaginal cramping, bleeding, discharge, gastrointestinal symptoms, and dizziness.
- Cramping, along with pain in the shoulder and/or neck.
Also read – Know what are Braxton Hicks Contractions