Stomach Tightening while Pregnant: 6 FAQs to Calm Your Nerves


Stomach tightening during pregnancy can be startling. Is something wrong with the baby? Am I having contractions? Are these cramps I’m feeling?

[Read more about Cramps]

Maybe it’s the emotions which cause a woman to go into a state of disarray, or maybe it’s the fact that a pregnant, belly that’s hard is always uncomfortable. There are times when you should call your doctor, and there are times when you can rest comfortably knowing that everything is normal.

1. What Does It Mean When Your Stomach Feels Tight?

A pregnant woman on white background.

Your uterus must push outward causing your abdominal musculature to expand. This happens to allow room for the baby, but this occurrence also stretches out your ligaments in your stomach causing you to feel uncomfortable.

Stomach tightening during early pregnancy is likely caused by this ligament stretching.

But if you have a hard stomach during the second and third trimesters, this can be caused by Braxton Hicks contractions.


2. What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks Contractions happen randomly during the last two trimesters, and most women can expect these odd contractions to happen. The good news is that these contractions, while uncomfortable, do not mean you’re going into labor.

Braxton Hicks contractions are perfectly normal.

There are times when you need to be concerned about these contractions:

  1. Tightening remains constant. If the tightening of the abdomen remains constant, this may mean you’re in labor. Take a deep breath and follow your plan on the next steps to take. You’re likely in preterm labor, but this may be a sign of full-term labor.

If you believe you’re in labor, congratulations. Make your way to the delivery room and enjoy being a new mom.

3. Does Your Stomach Feel Hard When Pregnant?

A pregnant stomach will undergo several changes throughout your pregnant. There are a lot of factors that will dictate the “hardness” of the abdomen:

The woman puts her hands on her stomach.
  • Size of abdomen normally
  • How far a woman is into pregnancy

When a woman is already fit, they will often have a hard stomach much faster than a woman that is less fit. Traditionally, a woman can expect to get the “hard” stomach around the end of the second trimester, or the 20 week mark.

The good news is that continual visits to your doctor will ease your worries.

A doctor will inform you of any abnormalities, and if all of the tests come out without issues, it doesn’t matter if your stomach is or isn’t tight.

Your belly will continue to change as you go through pregnancy.

But, there are women that also feel tightness in the lower abdomen as early as 16 weeks. This is a magical time when a mother-to-be will really start to notice her body changing and will go through the cycle of entering deeper into the second trimester.

4. What Changes Will I Feel During the First Trimester?

A hard stomach during the first trimester can happen, but it will happen later in the first trimester. Only a select few women will suffer from this “symptom,” and women that are already thin will be the first to feel their stomach hardening.

The woman is suffering mild cramping in bed.

The first signs or symptoms during the first trimester include:

  • Mild cramping is one of the first signs that you’re pregnant. This should be mildand not intense by any means.
  • Slight bleeding is not uncommon and is often a result of implantation bleeding. This is slight bleeding that will not persist for any length of time.
  • Morning sickness is common in many pregnant women, but there are a lucky few that will avoid morning sickness. This sickness can occur at any time, and it’s due to the hormonal changes in the body. There are foods and smells that will often make a woman sick, too. Morning sickness, despite its name, is not only in the morning – it can be any time of the day.
  • Growing belly is a condition where the waistline expands and the uterus grows larger. This will lead to you to stomach hardening, but most women won’t notice a true difference in belly size until the second trimester.
  • Increased urination is often noted by women, and this will also be caused by the growth of the uterus. This increase in urination is due to the uterus pushing on the bladder. Fun. Right?

You may also be constipated during pregnancy, and this common occurrence is a result of the body having difficulty breaking down food. Gas, bloating and constipation will become a pregnant woman’s best friend, so be prepared to drink lots of water to help ease these symptoms.

[Read more about Constipation]

5. Is There Anything I Can Do to Ease Stomach Tightening During Pregnancy?

Belly aches, pains and tightening are part of being pregnant, and the vast majority of women will suffer from these discomforts. There is little in the way of relief, and you don’t want to take any form of over the counter medicine without consulting with your doctor first.

A woman is drinking water.

In truth, most women will find that the medicine may even make them feel worse.

Relief from abdominal aches and pains is possible by adhering to these few simple tips that make everything feel better:

  1. Drink water. A lack of water will make you feel bloated, adds to constipation and makes it harder to digest food. Drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated will allow you to relieve many of the symptoms of stomach hardening.
  2. Bend towards the pain. A little secret that my nan taught me was to bend towards the pain if I have cramps or aches. I don’t know why this works, but bending toward the pain will help relieve it and allow you to be comfortable at night.
  3. Rest comfortably. You should rest with your feet up and relax. Oftentimes, women try to do too much when they’re pregnant, and they seem to suffer from greater stomach problems as a result. Remember to rest and relax as much as you can.
  4. Heating pad or warm towel. A warm heating pad or towel will often alleviate stomach aches and pains. You want to use this method of relief sparingly.

A good massage may also help you relieve some of the aches and pains you’re feeling.

Eating very heavy meals may also make your stomach feel hard and bloated.

6. When Should I Call a Doctor?

Cartoon picture of a doctor and a phone call mark.

You may be wondering when you should call a doctor, and this depends. A few things you’ll want to do is make sure that you’re not going into labor. If you keep having contractions, chances are you’re going into labor if they persist.

But, you know you’re pregnant, so now it’s time to go and give birth.

Women that aren’t ready to go into labor will want to contact their doctor if they’re suffering from:

  • Stomach or abdominal tightening that is continuous and persistent
  • Stomach pain accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
    • Fever
    • Dizziness
    • Extreme feeling of tiredness

A doctor is the best option when your motherly intuition is starting to show and you want to find some relief in knowing that your pregnancy is going as planned.

For most women, a tightening stomach during pregnancy is normal and does not require a visit to the doctor to be diagnosed. Now, sit back and kick your feet up to try and relax a bit – you deserve it.


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