Abdominal Cramps During Pregnancy – Should You be Concerned?

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I have severe abdominal cramps and gas, is it a normal pregnancy symptom?

Why do people get abdominal cramps during pregnancy?

Does severe abdominal cramps during pregnancy mean you are going into labour?

Is cramping on right side during pregnancy something you should be worried about?

abdominal cramps during pregnancy

Pregnancy can change most of us.

Even daredevils with a don’t care attitude change into ‘fret and analyze every single movement’ moms to be.

I mean, it is a big thing, you are carrying a wee little thing inside you and it is normal for you to be concerned about the well-being of your little one. It is probably the last time you actually take an effort to listen to your body and take care of yourself, for once the baby is out, all you worry about is him/her.

Pregnancy is a wonderful experience, but it comes with its own share of pains and discomfort.

Your body has to grow to accommodate your growing baby.  And though it happens over a period of 9 months, this sudden expansion can cause some pain and minor discomfort. Some are normal, and some warrant a trip to the gynaecologist immediately.

Today we are looking at one such concern most moms have during their pregnancy – cramps.

This article is all about abdominal pregnancy cramps and how to deal with it and when to take an emergency visit to your gynecologist.

Cramps are common during your mom-to-be phase. Abdominal cramps or discomfort in your lower abdomen is a thing of concern for pregnant moms and can be outright scary, especially first time moms to be.

Are they normal? Should you be worried? Read on to find out all about abdominal cramps during pregnancy.

What are abdominal cramps during pregnancy?

You know how you feel during your periods, that uncomfortable pulling sensation?

That feeling on the abdomen on one or both sides experienced during pregnancy are what we call abdominal cramps during pregnancy. It usually occurs when the uterus expands and the ligaments stretch to make space for your growing baby. The contracting and expanding muscles of the uterus coupled with the stretching ligaments is what moms experience as cramps.

As the pregnancy progresses, the uterus tends to lean to the right, which leads to you experiencing more cramps on your right side.

Are abdominal cramps normal during pregnancy?

Pregnancy cramps are experienced by most pregnant ladies and are considered normal most of the times. As I said above it is just the body’s way of adapting to the change- namely pregnancy.

However in some cases cramping could be a concern. We will be discussing about those later in this post.

At what stage of pregnancy does a pregnant woman experience cramping? 

Abdominal cramps can occur during the first, second or third trimester of pregnancy. The timing of the occurrence of these cramps could mean different things.

You can also read about the 11 pregnancy symptoms before missed period.

First trimester and cramps

Cramps during early pregnancy are usually signs of physical changes. The body undergoes a lot of changes, even though you wouldn’t even know that you are pregnant yet. The body starts preparing for the arrival of the little one. There is a lot of hormones doing their part, getting your body ready.

Some women experience cramping, during the implantation process.

Implantation is the process where the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall. These are fairly similar to the ones that you experience during menstruation and occur around the same dates. It may be accompanied by some spotting too. Most women take this as a sign of pregnancy, if they notice some spotting around the same time.

As your pregnancy advances in the first trimester, cramping could be due to the changing size of the uterus and the changing size of the womb. So it is a sign that your body is functioning just fine.

Also Read:

Second trimester and cramps

I know what you are thinking, isn’t the second trimester supposed to be like a nice phase of pregnancy, so why the cramps?

Well as the pregnancy reaches second trimester, cramping is again normal due to the changes happening. Second trimester cramps are also mainly because of the stretching of your uterus to accommodate the growing baby. In fact by the second trimester you would have gotten used this sort of cramping.

As long as it is not very painful and there is no bleeding accompanied there is no reason to be alarmed.

Third trimester and cramps

In you third Trimester, cramping is often considered as either signs of false labor or early labors. They are generally less severe than the actual contractions that you will go through during the actual labor.

Always mention about the cramps to your doctor, so that they can keep a check and let you know what needs to be done.

Some factors that cause cramps and are serious:

As I mentioned earlier, most of the cramps are pregnancy are harmless and is the body’s way of adapting to change. But at times it could be the sign of something serious.

If you are in your third trimester and have cramps, how will you know whether it is just some harmless Braxton-Hicks contractions or it is something that needs to be acted upon soon?

  • Miscarriage

During early stages of the pregnancy (within 20 weeks), if you lose your pregnancy due to some reason, it is called miscarriage. If you have vaginal bleeding that is light or heavy and have persistent cramps that don’t go away, you need to visit a doctor.

This occurs when your placenta gets separated from the uterus before the baby’s birth. The placenta is required for nourishing the baby and so the placental abruption is a dangerous for your baby.

The sign to watch out for is a cramp that doesn’t go away. That coupled with less activity from your baby’s side. That could mean that your baby is in danger and needs medical attention immediately.

  • Pre-term labor

If you haven’t reached 37 weeks of pregnancy but have started getting frequent cramps, that remind you of your periods, you may have cause for concern.

If your cramps are more than 5-6 in an hour, then you may be going into labor. You can also read about the 31 things about labor pain no one tells you.

  • Ectopic pregnancy

A type of pregnancy where the fertilized egg doesn’t attach itself to the uterine wall and attaches itself elsewhere. This can also give rise to severe abdominal pain and cramps.

You can also read about ectopic pregnancy in detail.

  • Urinary tract Infection

Abdominal cramps could be a sign of an urinary tract infection if you have difficulty or experience a burning sensation while passing urine.

When do you need to visit a doctor if you have cramps during pregnancy? 

Now let us take a look at when to worry and when not to. That being said, you are the best judge of your body. If you feel anything is not feeling right or you notice a symptom that you haven’t experienced before, let your doctor know and let him/ her take a call.

Given below are some instances where cramps could mean a sign of something serious.

  • Severe cramps that refuses to subside.
  • Cramps along with severe lower abdominal pain.
  • Cramps along with bleeding.
  • Severe cramps that come in frequent intervals. Anything more than 5-6 should warrant a trip to the doctor.
  • Cramps accompanied by pain in the shoulder or the neck.

Other reasons to experience cramping:

Apart from all the stretching of muscles or some serious health concern, there are a few other factors that can cause cramping. These are harmless and will go away on their own.

The other reasons that lead to cramping during pregnancy are-

  • Gas trouble

Gas is an issue that troubles a lot of moms during their pregnancy. A lot changes inside your body during pregnancy.

The extra hormones that are doing their part lead to some side effects that are harmless but cumbersome. You know for a fact that it is gas if you feel better after passing motion or passing gas.

  • Constipation

Another cause of cramps are constipation. If you feel constipated ensure that you have food that are rich in fibre. Apart from that you also need to drink a lot of water, so that you aren’t troubled by constipation.

You can read ore about constipation during pregnancy with preventive measures.

  • Uterine fibroids

This generally manifests in the second trimester. Women with fibroids in their uterus can rupture due to the lack of blood.

Fibroids are growths made up of tissues and are harmless. Pregnancy is time when the volume of blood increases but it is required elsewhere and hence there is no blood for the fibroids to grow. When the fibroids rupture, it causes severe pain.

If you have a history of fibroids, do let your doctor know so that he can check if they have ruptured or whether you need something to manage the pain if it ruptures.

  • Intercourse

A lot of people are worried about having sex during their pregnancy.

The reason behind this is that most of us think that having sex during pregnancy can harm the baby. In reality, that is not the case. But sex can cause some cramping. This naturally will make moms and dads worried! But once you know the reason you will realize that you were getting all worked up for nothing.

Often, condoms are not used during sex during pregnancy. If you haven’t used a condom while having sex, then the semen that has entered the body can cause contractions. The prostaglandins in semen is what stimulates the uterus leading to the contractions.

If you are still scared or have doubts about having intercourse, then do read the post on whether it is safe to have sex during pregnancy.

How to combat cramping?

If you have cramps and they are the harmless type of cramps that is part of every normal pregnancy, then we have a few tips that will help you. These pointers will help to ease the discomfort you experience. They are completely safe and don’t involve any medication at all!

When you experience cramping try the following:

  • Change positions

If you experience cramps, try to sit or lie down. A comfortable resting position can help to reduce cramps.

  • Take a stroll

A light stroll when you feel cramped will help to ease the muscles and will help to relieve the cramps.

  • Swimming 

Being in water has been proven to help a lot of moms help deal with their pregnancy pains. If you know swimming, swim and splash around in a pool for a bit. Check with your doctor before you take the plunge though.

  • Take a warm water bath

Taking a warm water shower will also help to ease the aching and strained muscles and it will provide relief. But remember, the water should be warm and not hot. You can have those after you have delivered.

  • Keep hydrated

Drink water or juice and keep your fluid levels high.

This is something you need to do whether or not you have cramps. Staying hydrated during pregnancy is a must and doing so will keep safe from a lot of pregnancy woes.

You can read about 8 refreshing and healthy drinks to have during pregnancy.

Also read:

Conclusion

To summarise, cramps are not always a sign of something serious. But there are a few instances where it could be a sign of something serious.

If you experience severe cramps, do not assume that it will go away on its own. Also do not use any over the counter pain relief.They may not be safe for you.

While use of heat pads are common to relieve cramps that occur during periods, do not use a heating pad on your tummy during pregnancy as it can cause more harm than good.

Always discuss any concern or symptoms with your gynecologist.

Hope I have been able to answer your questions regarding abdominal cramps during pregnancy.

Have you experienced cramps during pregnancy? If yes, how did you cope with it? We are all ears and what you share might help a mom to be.

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About Author

A software engineer by profession, Saumya is mother to 16 months old Tishya. Juggling between work and motherhood, she is an occasional blogger too. A malayali by birth, Mumbaikar by heart and a Punekar now for the last 4 years!!! She loves her ‘me time’ with her daughter and believes in celebrating every moment of life. Celebrate life is her mantra. Currently she is celebrating motherhood.

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