What Do Pregnancy Cramps Mean? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Stomach cramping in early pregnancy is normal and common. Pregnancy cramps vs period cramps is very easily noticeable. Early pregnancy cramps never get severe in normal conditions.

What do pregnancy cramps mean? Pregnancy cramps are because the uterus undergoes growth and ligaments stretch. Some women have implantation cramps when the embryo attaches to the wall of uterus. The sinking of the egg and embedment causes bleeding and early pregnancy cramps. After 12 weeks a round ligament pain, causes pregnancy cramping. Mild tummy cramps during pregnancy are normal and nothing to worry about. After having sex during pregnancy, feeling cramps is also normal and not a reason for stopping intercourse. Running while pregnant can also cause mild cramps. During pregnancy the uterus undergoes growth.

The pregnancy second trimester sees a major leap in growth and cramping. During third trimester the Braxton Hicks or mock labor contractions also cause cramping. After a stage of pregnancy, it is normal to feel cramps while coughing and upon getting up from sleep or sitting position.

What Do Pregnancy Cramps Mean?
What Do Pregnancy Cramps Mean?

Cramps during pregnancy

Cramps during pregnancy are mostly like stomach spasms. Some women who have mild menstrual cramps may feel them alike. Some women might misinterpret stomach cramping as ovary pain during pregnancy. What do early pregnancy cramps feel like? They may feel like period pain or compress the chest. Heartburn pain and cramping in early pregnancy feel similar. But in most cases it will only feel like you are having stomach ache during pregnancy.

Is cramping normal in early pregnancy?

Causes of cramping include uterus growth and muscle and ligaments stretching. Cramping during early pregnancy is normal. The reasons for cramping change along the course of pregnancy. First trimester pregnancy cramping is because of hormonal changes and implantation. Pregnancy cramps in second trimester are because of growth of uterus. The round ligament pain is common during second trimester of pregnancy. This feels like a muscle stretching like a rubber band round the baby bump. In third trimester the labor contractions or Braxton Hicks can cause cramping. Other causes of cramping during pregnancy include bloating, sexual intercourse and gas. Constipation causes cramping in early pregnancy.

Cramping early pregnancy

Cramping during pregnancy is common and most women are used to it. Women embrace all kinds of pain during pregnancy taking them as normal. Cramping in early pregnancy may be because of process like egg embedment. The increased blood flow to the uterus prepares it for growth. All such changes are cause of normal pain due to cramps. However, sometimes these pregnancy cramps hint miscarriage, urinary tract infection or placental abnormalities.

Pregnancy cramps that happen throughout are:

  1. Gas and bloating: During pregnancy the digestive system becomes less sensitive. There are irregular bowel movements. Bloating during pregnancy and flatulence are major cause of pregnancy cramps. You can eat fiber rich food to prevent such painful cramps during pregnancy.
  1. Sexual intercourse or orgasm: After having sex during pregnancy you may feel back pain and cramps. It can be because you are under stress about hurting your baby. Getting cramps after sex during pregnancy is not a reason to stop having sex. You can talk to your doctor about it. Trying different sex positions for pregnancy may help reduce the cramps.
  1. Growth and blood flow to uterus: Blood flow increases to the pelvic region during pregnancy. There is growth of uterus causing the ligaments to stretch. Muscles keep flexing and cause pregnancy cramps.

Pregnancy Cramps During first trimester

Distressed woman often call us with questions regarding:

  • cramps in early pregnancy 2 weeks
  • cramping in early pregnancy 4 weeks
  • cramping early pregnancy 5 weeks
  • Are cramps caused by implantation?
Implantation is the process of egg embedment. The egg sinks in the endometrial lining and causes bleeding. Implantation cramps last for few hours. There is pulling and cramping in the stomach. During implantation, pregnancy cramps will be towards one side of the stomach. Later on the cramps are all over the abdomen and body. Leg cramps during pregnancy also start from first trimester. Early pregnancy cramps are localized but later they spread to the entire region. You may feel cramps after getting up suddenly or lying down in one position. 

Cramps During Pregnancy Second Trimester

Rough ligament pain is due the stretching of muscles from both sides to hold the weight. Second trimester cramps may also be because of urinary tract infections. Bacterial Vaginosis during pregnancy is common. Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy can also cause pregnancy cramps in second trimester. If you have symptoms like vaginal bleeding and severe cramping then it may be because of a miscarriage. 

Pregnancy cramps in third trimester

Braxton Hicks are like mock labor contractions. They prepare the body for labor and delivery. 37 weeks pregnant women may feel such cramping often. Pregnant water leaking is a sign of early labor if you have cramps. Placental abruption is when the placenta comes off the endometrial lining. This is critical condition which is fatal. Preclampsia is the condition when the blood pressure of mother raises high above normal limit.

Causes of cramping during pregnancy

Cramps during early pregnancy are normal. Cramps mostly mean that the embryo is making space for itself inside the uterus. Serious causes for cramping in early pregnancy are:

  1. Molar pregnancy: A molar pregnancy is when the tissue that was going to become an embryo grows abnormally. This causes severe painful cramps during pregnancy.
  1. Miscarriage: A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy can also cause sharp pregnancy cramps. Miscarriage symptoms include heartburn, falling or static hCG levels, dizziness, shortness of breath and bleeding. Heavy bleeding and cramping is a sign of miscarriage.
  1. Placenta Previa: Placenta Previa is a condition when the placenta moves down to the cervix and covers the opening. This is fatal as it can cause pregnancy loss. Cramps during pregnancy getting severe along with vaginal bleeding are signs of this condition.
  1. Urinary tract infection: During pregnancy the vaginal region remains wet and there is change of pH. Urinary tract infections are common during pregnancy. If you have pain while urinating and blood coming along urine then cramps are not normal. You need to tell your doctor about it. Antibiotics course can treat most urinary tract infections.
  1. Ectopic pregnancy: When the implantation occurs outside the uterus in tubes, the condition is tubal pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy causes severe stomach cramps and ovary pain during pregnancy. Early detection of ectopic pregnancy can prevent need for surgery. In later stages, it can even lead to bursting of tubes.
  1. Preterm labor: Cramps during late pregnancy may signal a preterm labor. There are endless reasons for premature delivery. If you are in your third trimester and are having cramps then tell your doctor immediately. Braxton Hicks are not like labor. They are mild and less frequent. Rhythmic contractions at interval of less than 10 minutes occur during labor. If you are less than 37 Weeks Pregnant then you may be having a preterm labor. These contractions last for 30-70 seconds.
  1. Preclampsia: The condition of abnormally elevated blood pressure and protein in urine is Preclampsia. This occurs in the second half of pregnancy. The oxygen supply to fetus reduces and nutritional demands are not fulfilled.
  1. Placental abruption: The placenta can come off the endometrial lining. The tearing off placenta causes cramps and bleeding. This is life threatening and needs immediate treatment. Any previous scar from surgery can tear off in the uterus. The cramps are like wild spasms and the patient cannot be consoled without surgery.

How to treat pregnancy cramps?

Home remedies for pregnancy cramps

  1. Take a warm bath and use warm compress
  2. Drink lukewarm water and lie down
  3. Ask someone to massage your lower back
  4. Go for a walk or jog and stretch yourself
  5. Avoid any heavy exercise or work like lifting weights
  6. Change positions while sleeping
  7. Drink lot of fluids to prevent dehydration

When to call doctor for pregnancy cramps?

If the pregnancy cramps get severe and cause twisting then you need a doctor. Bleeding and cramps during pregnancy is a sign that something is not normal. Sharp painful cramps could be a sign of miscarriage. One sided cramps during early pregnancy are because of Ectopic pregnancy. The implantation process can go wrong and the zygote implants in the tubes. If you have dizziness and shortness of breath then call doctor for pregnancy cramps. Pain in neck and leg along with cramps needs treatment. If there are vision changes or seeing flashing light or spots along with pregnancy cramps then you need doctor. Fever or chills and headache along with early pregnancy cramps are a sign of some complication. If you have pain while urination then cramps are not normal. More than 4 contractions in an hour means labor, 37 weeks pregnant water leaking can happen.

Are cramps an early sign of pregnancy?

Cramps during pregnancy occur because of many reasons. The hormonal up and down along with uterus increasing in size cause cramping. However, cramping is not a sign of pregnancy. Yet it accompanies most early pregnancies. Most women have early pregnancy cramps. Implantation causes cramping that are mild. There may be light spotting and cramping during implantation.

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