Pregnancy Cramps

Pregnancy Cramps

Pregnancy comes with its fair share of discomfort; from tender breasts, sore feet, nausea, achy back, to abdominal cramps and pain. Today you’re fine, tomorrow you feel terrible. That’s just the way it is, but it is understandable that you may feel a bit concerned especially when you experience abdominal cramps during pregnancy. Our guide will let you know the difference between what’s normal and what’s not and when you should call your doctor.

Abdominal cramping and pregnancy

It is often normal to experience some cramping and pain through all trimesters during pregnancy. Cramps can generally be described as pulling sensations on one or both sides of your abdomen and typically occurs when the uterus muscle expands, this in turn causes the ligaments and muscles that support it to stretch and cause some discomfort. It can be noticed when you sneeze, cough, or change positions when sitting or lying down. 

First Trimester Cramping

During the first trimester, majority of pregnancies will have light cramping. This is known as implantation cramping, and in most women, if feels like period pain.  Also, increased blood flow to the uterus causes some cramping as do changes in hormonal levels. Not all first trimester cramping leads to a miscarriage, and cramping in itself is neither a cause, or sign of miscarriage. The cramping associated with miscarriage is actually caused when blood and tissue leaving the uterus irritates it, causing it to contract.

Second Trimester Cramping

During the second trimester, a common cause of cramping is round ligament pain. The round ligament is a muscle that supports the uterus, and when it stretches, you may feel a sharp, stabbing pain, or a dull ache in your lower abdomen.

A more serious, but rare, cause of cramping in the second trimester is uterine fibroids. These harmless overgrowths of tissue can start to break down in the second trimester, because there is not enough blood to sustain their growth. When they do, the pain is severe and almost always happen between 15 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. Any woman who has a history of uterine fibroids should be alert to cramping at this stage of pregnancy, because she may need hospitalization to manage the pain effectively until it passes.

Third Trimester Cramping

It is very common to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions during the third trimester. These are similar to the contractions that you will experience when labor begins, but the difference is that they will not progress into labor. Of course, when cramping occurs in the third trimester or even in the second, it’s important to determine whether you could be experiencing preterm labour. Make sure that the doctor checks your cervix to see if it has dilated, which can be a sign of early labor. If it’s not early labour, drinking a couple of glasses of water or juice and resting should help quiet your pregnancy cramps. However, if it persists, let your doctor know.

Other causes of mild abdominal cramps that you shouldn’t worry about

  • Sexual intercourse: If resting after sex makes the cramps go away, then it’s nothing to worry about
  • Full bladder: Do you feel relieved once you’ve emptied your bladder?
  • Orgasm: Yes, it can cause some mild cramping. Drink a couple glasses of water and rest and you should be fine
  • Constipation
  • Exercise: Do you feel much better after some amount of rest after exercise? Then it’s nothing to worry about.

 However, sometimes it is a sign of something that requires medical attention. Such as: Urinary tract infection, miscarriage, preeclampsia or other medical condition that requires medical attention.

When to call your doctor

Always speak to your doctor if you are concerned about any type of pain or cramping. And definitely be sure to call right away or go to the hospital if you’re experiencing severe or continuous abdominal pain.

Also get in touch with your doctor if cramps are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Painful urination, blood in urine or difficulty in urinating
  • Fever or chills
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness 
  • Vision changes (including blurred vision, seeing flashing lights or spots, sensitivity to light, or temporary blindness)
  • More than four contractions in one hour. This could be a sign of labour
  • Back or abdominal pain that’s intense and associated with nausea, vomiting, and/or fever. It could be symptoms of appendicitis, kidney stones, or gallbladder disease.
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