Mums-to-be ask, “Why is my pregnant belly sometimes hard and sometimes soft?”
From the time you conceive until you have your baby, your pregnancy belly goes through a lot. As your uterus expands over nine months, it forces the stomach to change itself to accommodate the growing baby physically.
One of the most prominent changes is the tightening of your pregnancy belly. This is medically called Uterus Hypersthenia.
When Does Your Stomach Get Hard During Pregnancy?
Usually, it begins by the end of the second trimester and might feel like period cramps. But for some women, it starts as early as 12 weeks. However, the hardening of the belly doesn’t last that long.
For those asking, “Why is my pregnant belly sometimes hard and sometimes soft?” Here are 11 reasons as to why that may be.
Why Is My Pregnant Belly Sometimes Hard And Sometimes Soft?
Once you enter your third trimester, the hard feeling starts to go away, and your pregnancy belly feels normal again. Incidentally, this condition is true for most pregnant women and is nothing to worry about.
But you still can’t help but wonder why that is the case.
As each pregnancy is unique, sometimes the reasons for pregnancy belly hardening are also different. But generally, there are a few reasons other than the abdominal musculature that might force you to feel your pregnancy belly harden.
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
During pregnancy, your uterus grows along with another important organ – the placenta. It acts as life support for your growing baby and provides all the necessary nutrients and food for his development.
In rare cases, the placenta detaches itself from the uterine wall. When this happens, the uterus starts to harden. If the pregnant belly feels tight and heavy, and the hardening becomes more consistent and doesn’t go away, it’s time to rush to the doctor.
Ideally, the placenta should detach itself from the uterine wall during childbirth. But if it happens before then, it can seriously harm the baby. This is quite rare, though and happens in just about 1.5 per cent of pregnancies worldwide.
Also, in some cases, a tight belly could signify an ectopic pregnancy (in sporadic cases) where the fertilised egg starts growing inside the fallopian tube.
Uterus brushing against the pregnancy belly
As your uterus grows from the size of a peach to a watermelon during the nine months, it pushes against your pregnancy belly to accommodate its growing size.
By the end of the second trimester, your uterus reaches between the belly button and the pelvic bone, pushing out your abdominal musculature.
As the uterus further expands, it starts to press against the walls of your stomach. This internal growth makes you feel that your belly is tightening even more. Along with the feeling of a hardened belly, some women also have nausea and feel bloated.
It isn’t much you can do about such a case. So it’s best to incorporate fibre into your diet to relieve yourself from bloating and constipation. Also, make sure you exercise regularly.
It is not a secret that you gain considerable weight during pregnancy. While it is the good fat that no expecting mum should mind, it does change how your body looks and cause your pregnancy belly to feel tight.
That’s because as you gain weight during your first two trimesters, your body has to identify areas where it can distribute excess fat cells. The first place it goes is the belly and perhaps your thighs.
Fat cells also accommodate the growing uterus when you start showing your pregnancy belly. This can happen early in pregnancy. And in some women, it can happen during the second trimester. You might even feel period cramps due to this accumulation of fat cells in your belly.
A combination of a healthy diet filled with fibre as well as an adequate amount of water can ease the hardness in your belly. | Image courtesy: Dreamstime
Diet imbalance and digestion troubles
During pregnancy, you do not “eat for two,” but just yourself. However, that diet has to be rich in nutrients, essential fats and minerals needed to help your baby grow. But in most cases, even a healthy diet cannot stop a pregnant woman from feeling constipated.
Constipation is just one of the many discomforts during pregnancy that you are sure to notice. However, constipation may not necessarily be because of an unhealthy diet. It could be because your uterus is constantly pressing against your bowels.
In addition, the constant release of progesterone slows down the gastrointestinal tract in your body.
But why is this related to how a pregnant belly is sometimes hard and sometimes soft? All these factors make the pregnant belly feel tight and heavy. But a combination of a healthy diet filled with fibre and an adequate amount of water can ease this problem.
Bouncy castle in your belly
Aside from asking, “why is my pregnant belly sometimes hard and sometimes soft,” you might also be wondering if your little one is alright inside your growing belly.
Your pregnancy belly is like a bouncy castle for your growing baby. You might experience his kicks inside your womb, which is a good sign that he is growing and healthy.
But as your baby becomes active, your belly takes a serious hit. Each time your baby kicks inside, the stomach becomes tighter as a response to that stimulus. Although this reaction only accommodates your baby’s activities, it can be quite uncomfortable for the mum.
You may not feel the pain like a period cramp, but you may feel bloated or complete as you do after a meal. This discomfort doesn’t last long, and you can breeze past it.
Just because you are pregnant, you do not have to eat for two. Your baby’s digestive system isn’t properly formed yet, so eating for him makes no sense. However, sometimes your pregnancy cravings can force you to overeat. But how does this answer why my pregnant belly is sometimes hard and sometimes soft?
This is because it can lead to your pregnancy belly feeling tight and complete. This can also make you gassy and bloated, resulting in more hardness of the belly. The best way to avoid feeling bloated is not to overeat.
Put as much food on your plate as you usually eat. And if you have any cravings, do not go overboard with the entire tub of ice cream. Take it slow, and let your belly get some rest.
Because of the stretch of the round ligament during the final trimester, the pregnancy belly becomes quite hard. | Image courtesy: Dreamstime
You may feel this sharp pain in your lower belly or groin. Although it is a normal part of pregnancy, it is also one of the most common complaints during the second trimester.
You may know that some thick tissues and ligaments surround your uterus and belly. One of them is the round ligament, which stretches from the front part of the womb towards the groin. This can be linked to why you might wonder, “why is my pregnant belly sometimes hard and sometimes soft?”
As your uterus grows, this ligament stretches to accommodate the growing baby. But because of that stretch, the pregnancy belly becomes quite hard. Pain caused by the round ligament stretch can feel like somebody is jabbing you in the tummy. It usually affects the right side of the pregnancy belly, but it can happen on either or both sides for many women.
The best way to deal with this is to exercise to strengthen the core, avoid sudden movements, and flex your hips before you sneeze or cough. To relieve the pain, use a heating pad.
When Does Round Ligament Pain Start
Round ligament pain usually starts around week 20 and lasts until delivery, but it can start earlier if you’re carrying multiples or have a large baby. It may also occur later in pregnancy if you’re carrying twins or triplets.
How Does Round Ligament Pain Feel
Round ligament pain feels like a dull ache in your abdomen or groin. You may have noticed it during pregnancy and wondered what it was. Round ligament pain is actually caused by the round ligament of the uterus pulling on its attachment to the pelvic bone during pregnancy.
It can be worse if you’re carrying more than one baby, or if you’ve given birth before.
It’s usually most noticeable when you lie down, so try putting a pillow between your legs when you sleep to relieve some of the pressure on your lower abdomen.
If you’re pregnant, make sure that the pillow isn’t too high—it should only be enough to relieve pressure, not add any new pressure.
How Long Does Round Ligament Pain Last
The short answer is: it depends.
Round ligament pain, also known as pelvic girdle pain, is a common condition affecting women during pregnancy and postpartum. It’s characterized by a sharp or dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin area.
The pain often increases when standing up and decreases when you lie down or move around. It may accompany other symptoms like nausea or vomiting, swelling, and difficulty urinating.
The good news is that round ligament pain usually goes away in time—usually within three months after delivery. But if it lasts longer, you should talk to your doctor about what it could mean and whether any treatments are available to help relieve your symptoms.
Pregnant woman having Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions
As you enter your final trimester (about 30 weeks), you will feel Braxton Hicks contractions. These are false contractions, and in a way, they give you a small preview of what’s to come on the big day.
Expectant mums ask, “What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?”
When you feel these contractions (30 seconds to a minute), the muscles around your belly contract, which is why your baby bump feels tight and hard, but compared to real contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and will last for a minute or less.
More importantly, they do not lead to a dilation of the cervix, which is what you will go through during the actual process of childbirth.
Although these contractions go away after some time, they feel quite real and are even painful. Prepare yourself for these contractions if you haven’t reached this stage of your pregnancy.
Around the final trimester, one of the significant reasons for tightening your pregnancy belly is potential problems in the womb. Although tightening the belly is not a symptom, it can indicate an underlying issue.
Tightening your belly could also be a sign of preeclampsia, where your body’s blood sugar levels are high. In some cases, it could even indicate a miscarriage.
You must consult your doctor immediately if the tightening is accompanied by spotting or bleeding, fever, cold flashes, nausea or even vaginal discharge.
Body pain during pregnancy
As you go deeper into your pregnancy and reach your due date, your entire body may feel restless or tired. You might feel like your whole body aches.
Back pain, as you know, is a common symptom of pregnancy. That’s because it supports the growing belly. But this is also the cause of the tightening of your pregnancy belly.
Pain in the thighs and hips is also common because they are connected to tissues around the groin and the uterus, which are stretched to their maximum to accommodate the growing baby.
The best way to alleviate the pain is to rest when you feel uncomfortable. You can also use heat therapy or ask your husband to give you a back massage using soothing essential oils. You will have to take good care of yourself during pregnancy. That also means taking adequate rest, especially when you feel uncomfortable.
Because your baby is on its way!
Yes, it is time to rejoice. But it is also the time when your pregnancy belly feels extremely tight and hard. The tightening sensation indicates that your baby is on its way out.
When you are about to go into labour, just know that your belly will not stop being tight. As the contractions become more regular and closer, your baby will start the journey to being born. Your belly will tighten with each contraction until your little one is out of your womb.
What do contractions feel like? How will I know when I’m having contractions?
Mums, trust us. You’ll know it when you have it. But to explain it in a little more detail, contractions differ from person to person. Some mums report feeling like a wave of pain that starts from the lower back reaching to the front of their belly. Others describe it as intense menstrual cramps.
Do early contractions feel like you need to poop? Some women liken labour to diarrhoea cramps, where they feel some rectal pressure. However, it’s already during the active phase of labour when mums feel an urge to push that they feel like they’re about to poop.
Image Source: iStock
Pregnancy contractions are a series of uterine muscle cramps that cause the uterus to contract. During pregnancy, these contractions help the baby get ready to be born. They also help the cervix open so the baby can pass through it during labour and birth.
What Do Contractions Feel Like
Contractions are the most common symptom of labour and can begin as early as two to three centimetres, or about 30 minutes, after your water breaks. They usually start as a tightening sensation in your abdomen that lasts five to 20 seconds and then goes away. Contractions will become longer and more painful as you get closer to delivery.
When you’re having contractions, you may also experience Braxton Hicks contractions. These are irregular uterine contractions that feel similar to menstrual cramps. They don’t cause any damage to your baby or your body, but they can be uncomfortable. If you experience these contractions while pregnant, they’re typically more intense in the evening or early morning hours.
What Causes Contractions in Pregnancy
There are a few different things that can cause contractions in pregnancy.
The contractions you experience during pregnancy are caused by an increase in the production of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone that helps with uterine contraction, and it’s released during orgasm. It also helps with breast milk production and the bonding between mother and child.
The increased production of oxytocin during pregnancy is part of why women tend to feel more connected to their babies during this time.
One cause is preterm labour when your baby starts to come before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you’re having contractions that are too close together or getting them for the first time after 37 weeks, it’s important to see your doctor immediately.
Another thing that can cause contractions is cervical effacement, which means that your cervix starts to thin out and open up before birth. This usually happens around the 36th week of pregnancy, but it can happen earlier or later.
Lastly, you may have Braxton Hicks contractions without any other symptoms. These normal tightening of your uterus muscles don’t mean anything bad is happening—they only last a few seconds long and can feel like mild menstrual cramps.
Image Source: iStock
How Will I Know When I Am Having Contractions
You might think that you’ll feel a contraction as soon as it starts, but they often start slowly and then build in intensity. So, how do you know if the cramps you feel are just gas or something more?
- They last for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Contractions are usually longer than most of your other abdominal pains, like indigestion or menstrual cramps.
- The pain comes in waves and gets stronger each time. Contractions will also get closer and closer together. For example, suppose it starts with 10 minutes between contractions. In that case, the next one will come 8 minutes later (instead of 10), then 6 minutes later (instead of 8), etc., until they become regular and constant enough to be called labour contractions.
- You may feel some pressure or pull in your abdomen just before or during a contraction—this is called “back labour.” It happens because the baby’s head is moving down into your pelvis at this point in pregnancy (usually near 38 weeks). The pain can be intense!
Uterine Contractions During Pregnancy
Uterine contractions during pregnancy are a sign that labour is near. They are similar to menstrual cramps but stronger and more frequent.
When a woman feels uterine contractions during pregnancy, she should call her doctor or midwife, who will check on her and ensure she is ready for childbirth.
How to Time Contractions
There are two ways to time contractions: a stopwatch or an app on your phone that tracks them for you. If you use an app, remember that it may not be accurate because some phones aren’t as sensitive as others (and some apps are more reliable than others).
Here’s how to time contractions:
- Start timing when the contraction starts (not when it ends).
- Count the number of seconds between each contraction. Three minutes equals 300 seconds or 5 minutes (600 seconds).
- Write down how many seconds there were between each contraction on a piece of paper so you can keep track of their happening.
Why Is My Pregnant Belly Soft When I Lay Down
Stomach tightness during pregnancy is normal, especially when nearing your due date. This is why it’s a complete mystery how your baby bump seems to become soft at certain times, for example, when lying down.
Our theory is that when a woman is lying down or comfortable, the abdomen’s muscles also relax, leading to a soft and squishy tummy. So if you are trying to fight the contractions, one good idea is to sit down and relax to fight or lessen the pain of contractions.
Just remember that tightening of your pregnancy belly is entirely normal. It can happen because of any of the reasons we discussed. So the best thing is to listen to your body. We hope this answers many of you asking, “Why is my pregnant belly sometimes hard and sometimes soft?”
And if at any point the pain is too sharp or your tight belly feels extremely uncomfortable, seek medical advice without delay.
Updates by Pheona Ilagan
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