Pregnancy accustoms you to minor discomfort all over, from tender breasts to an achy back. However, if you experience abdominal cramps and pain while pregnant, you should be concerned. Some abdominal discomfort is normal during pregnancy, but it can sometimes indicate a problem that requires medical attention. Here’s how to tell if your pregnancy cramps are normal — and when they could be a sign of something more serious.
Are Cramps a Sign of Pregnancy?
Vaginal cramps are not typically recognised as a specific sign of pregnancy. Pregnancy is commonly associated with various changes in the body, but vaginal cramps are not commonly listed among the typical symptoms.
It is important to note that individual experiences may vary, and some pregnant individuals may report experiencing vaginal cramps. However, if vaginal cramps are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider for an accurate evaluation.
What are Pregnancy Cramps
Pregnancy cramps refer to the discomfort or pain experienced by pregnant individuals in their abdominal region. These cramps can vary in intensity and may be caused by a range of factors.
Pregnancy cramps can result from normal physiological changes, such as the stretching of ligaments and muscles to accommodate the growing uterus, or from conditions that require medical attention.
While some cramping during pregnancy is considered normal, it is essential to be aware of warning signs that may indicate a potentially worrisome condition, such as severe pain, bleeding, or changes in foetal movement.
Causes of Minor Pregnancy Cramps
Cramping that is minor and occurs on a regular basis is probably not cause for concern. Some other causes of normal pregnancy cramps include:
During pregnancy, your body sends more blood to your uterus than usual. This can cause a sense of pressure in the area. Pregnancy pains can be relieved by lying down to rest or soaking in a warm bath.
Cramping can be caused by common early-pregnancy side effects such as constipation. You may also experience pregnancy cramps while continuing your regular exercise routine. This can put extra strain on your muscles. Cramping during exercise is a warning sign that you should take a break.
Braxton Hicks contractions, or practice contractions, are common during pregnancy and can be caused by dehydration. Being thirsty is usually not a big deal, but extreme dehydration may potentially increase the risk of preterm labour, according to some research.
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Cramping can also be caused by yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTI). UTI in pregnancy can quickly progress to kidney infections. This increases your chances of having preterm labour. At each appointment, your doctor should test your urine to ensure that there are no signs of infection.
Due to increased levels of progesterone, a hormone that relaxes the smooth muscles in your digestive tract, gas and bloating are common pregnancy complaints.
As a result, your digestion becomes slower. This can cause pregnancy-related bloating and constipation, both of which can cause cramping in your abdomen.
Cramping during and after orgasm (occasionally accompanied by a lower backache) is normal and safe in a low-risk pregnancy. In this case, pregnancy cramps are caused by increased blood flow to the pelvic area and normal uterine contractions during orgasm.
When Should I Worry About Pregnancy Cramps?
When it comes to pregnancy cramps, knowing when to be concerned is really important to keep both you and your baby safe. So, here are some helpful guidelines to help you figure out when it’s time to reach out to your healthcare provider:
Severe or Prolonged Pain: If you experience intense or persistent pain that is not relieved by rest or changes in position, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider. Severe or prolonged pain could be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Bleeding: If you notice any vaginal bleeding along with cramping, it’s crucial to contact your healthcare provider immediately. Bleeding during pregnancy can indicate a serious problem, such as an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage, and should not be ignored.
Changes in Foetal Movement: If you notice a significant decrease in your baby’s movements or if you no longer feel any movement at all, seek medical advice. Changes in fetal movement, coupled with cramps, could be a cause for concern and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Fever or Chills: If you experience a fever or chills along with cramps, it could be a sign of an infection. Infections during pregnancy can pose risks to both the mother and the baby, so it’s important to get medical attention promptly.
Preterm Labour: If you’re experiencing regular contractions before 37 weeks of gestation, it could be a sign of preterm labour. Cramps accompanied by a tightening sensation in your abdomen, lower back pain, or a change in vaginal discharge should be reported to your healthcare provider immediately.
Early Pregnancy Cramps
Cramping is often caused by normal changes that occur during your baby’s development during the first trimester. Early pregnancy cramps can be described as pulling sensations on one or both sides of the abdomen.
Although it is not considered a symptom for early pregnancy detection, it is a symptom that occurs in many pregnancies. Cramping is a normal part of pregnancy in most cases.
However, early pregnancy cramps can be a problem in some situations. Here are some causes of pregnancy cramps during the first trimester:
Ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilised egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, usually a fallopian tube, can cause cramps in the first trimester, usually in the lower abdomen.
It could start as a dull ache and progress to spasms or cramps that worsen over time. Ectopic pregnancies frequently result in vaginal bleeding, shoulder pain, lightheadedness, and fainting.
Consult a doctor right away if you suspect you have an ectopic pregnancy. Ultrasounds and blood tests are used to detect ectopic pregnancies around weeks 5 to 6 of pregnancy.
So, if you’ve already had your first-trimester ultrasound and everything appears to be normal, an ectopic pregnancy isn’t the source of your cramping.
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You may experience menstrual-like cramping early in your pregnancy. These implantation cramps occur around the time your period is due before you even know you’ve conceived.
Slight twinges and light implantation bleeding are caused by a fertilised egg attaching to the uterine wall, which occurs 6 to 12 days after fertilisation and usually lasts only a day or two. A little rest usually helps to alleviate the discomfort.
Cramping during the first trimester of pregnancy that is linked to a miscarriage can be dull or similar to bad period cramps. It typically occurs in the abdomen, lower back, and/or pelvic region, and is accompanied by bleeding.
It can be difficult to determine whether your early pregnancy cramps are the result of a miscarriage or simply implantation or your uterus expanding. Bleeding is the most important miscarriage symptom to watch for. Miscarriage cramping, unlike implantation cramping, is usually accompanied by bleeding that lasts several days and often becomes heavier with time.
Although most miscarriages occur during the first trimester, they can also occur during the second trimester.
Cramps During Pregnancy – Second Trimester
Round ligament pain is a common cause of cramping during the second trimester. When the round ligament, a muscle that supports the uterus, stretches, you may experience a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache in your lower abdomen.
Round ligaments are tissue bands that keep the uterus in place. These ligaments stretch as the pregnancy progresses, causing aches and cramps or sharp pain on one or both sides of the lower abdomen.
Round ligament pain is most common during the second trimester, but it can occur at any time during the second half of pregnancy. It usually happens when you exercise, get out of bed, sneeze, cough, or laugh, or move suddenly. This kind of pregnancy cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes during pregnancy.
When it happens, get plenty of rest and try to change positions slowly for relief.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
These “practise contractions” can start around 20 weeks of pregnancy and are your body’s way of getting ready for actual labour. Braxton Hicks contractions are brief (a few seconds to a few minutes) and irregular.
Change positions if you have Braxton Hicks cramps during the second trimester of your pregnancy. Sit or lie down if you’re standing, for example, and it should go away.
Remember that placental abruption, preeclampsia, and preterm labour can all occur in the second trimester. Continue reading for more information on these conditions.
Pregnancy Cramps During Third Trimester
Labour contractions occur at regular intervals, last 30 to 70 seconds, become closer and stronger over time, and do not stop when you change positions. Other signs of labour include pelvic pressure (as if your baby is pushing down) and a change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or light bleeding).
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If you are feeling severe abdominal pain that you believe may be labour contractions, do not hesitate to call your gynae. Always call if you are bleeding, your water breaks, or you have preeclampsia symptoms such as sudden swelling or blurry vision.
If you have intense stomach cramps during pregnancy before 37 weeks, you could be in preterm labour. Even if you are unsure, contact your doctor or go to the hospital right away if you believe you are in preterm labour.
If the placenta separates (partially or completely) from the uterine wall before the baby is born, it can cause severe and persistent abdominal pain, back pain, and vaginal bleeding.
Placental abruption is most common during the third trimester, but it can happen during the second. If you are experiencing abdominal pain and bleeding during the second half of your pregnancy, seek immediate medical attention.
Preeclampsia occurs in the second half of pregnancy, typically in the third trimester, and is characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
It can cause upper abdominal pain, severe headaches that don’t go away with pain relievers, severe swelling in the face and hands, unrelated weight gain, vision changes, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath.
If you have any of the above symptoms, you should see your doctor right away. Preeclampsia is dangerous for both you and your baby if left untreated because it reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrition that a foetus receives and increases the risk of placental abruption. If it is detected early and treated, you have a good chance of having a healthy pregnancy.
How To Relieve Pregnancy Cramps
Pregnancy cramps can be a discomforting experience for expectant mums. However, there are several methods and techniques available to help alleviate the discomfort and find relief. The following suggestions can help relieve the most common causes of abdominal cramps during pregnancy:
- Apply a or apply a heating pad or warm water bottle wrapped in a towel to the ache.
- Drink plenty of water to relieve cramping caused by dehydration, bloating, or constipation.
- Lie down and relax for a while to relieve implantation-related pregnancy cramps, increased blood flow to the uterus, and round ligament pain.
- Take a warm bath to relieve pregnancy cramps caused by increased uterine blood flow.
- Try relaxation and breathing exercises.
- Try sitting, lying down, or changing positions.
- Wear a belly band in the second half of your pregnancy to help relieve abdominal cramps caused by round ligament pain
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