During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of changes to make place for your baby. While you might not give a second thought to some of these changes, others, such as cramping, might prompt you to immediately turn to Google for answers.
Early pregnancy cramps are a common source of anxiety and concern that something is amiss with the pregnancy. Sometimes it's hard to tell if the cramps you're experiencing are the result of your uterus expanding and extending normally, or if they're actually a warning sign of an imminent miscarriage. It's not always easy to figure out why you're cramping, especially when your body goes through so many changes throughout pregnancy.
Mild, fleeting cramping in the early stages of pregnancy is common and is not necessarily an indication of a miscarriage, however it can be a warning sign of a more serious problem.
(An important note before you proceed: stop reading this and go see a doctor immediately if you're experiencing severe cramping, whether or not it's accompanied by blood.)
When is cramping in pregnancy considered normal?
Mild cramping in the lower abdomen at irregular intervals is a common symptom of early pregnancy as your body adjusts to the needs of your growing baby.
Your uterus swells in proportion to your expanding abdomen. A sensation similar to that of menstruation cramps of minor pulling, tugging, or stretching may be experienced.
The tightening of the uterus in later pregnancy can cause some modest lower abdominal discomfort. As long as they don't get much worse and return at regular intervals, they're fine. Late-term pregnancy pain is often caused by the round ligament, a muscle that helps maintain the uterus. Some discomfort or soreness may be experienced as a result of the stretching.
What Is the Average Duration of Early Pregnancy Cramping?
In the early and second stages of pregnancy, it's not uncommon to have cramping that feels a lot like period pain. Depending on the individual, the cramping that is common in early pregnancy can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Mild cramps are common, and some people find relief by changing their position. Pain in the crotch, or lightning crotch, is another frequently experienced ache. Many pregnant women feel a sudden, acute pain in the vagina, although this usually doesn't cause any complications.
If your pain isn't severe, localized, or followed by bleeding, it's probably nothing to worry about right now. If you're experiencing cramping throughout pregnancy or have any other concerns, it's important to contact your OB/GYN.
What About Cramps During the Third Trimester?
Constant abdominal cramping from stretching and expanding is a common pregnancy symptom, especially as the uterus continues to expand until birth. The second trimester is typically the time of pregnancy when you feel the fewest cramps. The round ligament is a supporting muscle for the uterus, and it will stretch at this time. Sharp or mild pains in the lower belly are common around this time as well.
Expect some extra pain or cramping in the second half of your pregnancy if you're carrying multiples. Your body will be expanding to accommodate the growing babies. The third trimester of a single pregnancy is often when the baby experiences its final growth spurt (and the resulting increase in pelvic pressure).
It's normal to experience some cramping, but you should watch out for signs of preterm labor. Intense pelvic pressure, vaginal blood or fluid loss, a gradual increase in the strength and frequency of cramps or contractions, or more than five contractions or cramps in an hour should all be considered labor-related symptoms.
What Can You Do About Mild Cramping During Pregnancy?
Normal cramping throughout pregnancy can be addressed. Quite frequently, all that's required is a shift in position, a drink of water, or a few minutes of sitting or lying down. Try timing your cramps to get an idea of how often and how regularly you're experiencing them. Unless the circumstances are really unusual, there are steps you can take to improve your condition.
- Muscle cramps can indicate overexertion or anxiety. Taking some time out for yourself can have a calming effect on your body and mind. Consider meditating, having a shower, using a heating pad, watching feel-good movies, or simply practicing controlled breathing to help you recover or calm down. Try meditating, doing yoga, or just taking some deep breaths to calm down.
- Pregnant women often find that taking a bath before bed helps them relax and sleep better. In addition, a hot water bottle applied gently to sore muscles and joints can provide welcome comfort.
- A maternity belt is also highly recommended. It reduces strain on the lower back, hips, and knees. Belly bands and belts may be useful in preventing premature contractions because of the support and stability they provide.
- Acetaminophen can also be taken to relieve pain. While pain relievers and fever reducers like Tylenol are widely used by pregnant women, it is important to discuss their use with their doctor beforehand.
- Water intake during pregnancy increases by 50%. Never leave home without bringing along some water to drink.
When Should You Worry About Cramps?
While cramping is the most common cause of abdominal pain, there are dangerous conditions that can manifest as similar symptoms. Don't put off seeing a doctor if you're experiencing severe or ongoing cramps. If something doesn't seem quite right, it's preferable to double check than to risk overlooking a potential problem.
Cramps that are extremely painful, recur at predictable intervals, and worsen with time are not typical. Increased discharge , pelvic pressure, or vaginal bleeding of any severity are all causes for concern.
Causes for abnormal cramping include:
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Bladder or Urinary Tract Infection
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants in a place other than the uterus, usually show during the sixth and eighth weeks of pregnancy. Typical symptoms include cramping on one side of the body, pain in the neck or shoulder, and a persistent need to poop.
Go to the emergency department immediately if you experience symptoms that could indicate a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, as this condition is potentially fatal. In addition, even if your cramping is mild, you should still call your doctor if it appears to be localized to one side of your lower abdomen.
In the early stages of pregnancy, if you experience any vaginal bleeding accompanied by cramping, you should contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor can conduct hCG blood tests or an ultrasound to determine the cause of these symptoms.
You should not be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you have, especially if this is your first pregnancy or if you are experiencing symptoms that are different from those you experienced during previous pregnancies. It's preferable to stay on the side of caution when it comes to your health and your baby's health, so schedule an appointment with your physician if you feel there’s anything out of the ordinary.