Cramps During Pregnancy: 8 Causes & 4 Tips to Relieve

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Pregnant woman in pain having cramps

Was that a little twinge you felt in your abdomen? If you’re pregnant, cramps can be scary. After all, that’s one of the first signs that Aunt Flow is on the way. And if you’re getting cramps early on in your pregnancy, you may be concerned that you’re having a miscarriage.

Should you be worried? Before you panic, take comfort in knowing that cramps are usually normal. But keep a close eye on the intensity and frequency, and see your doctor if you think something is wrong.

What can cause cramping during early pregnancy? Here are the most common reasons:

8 Causes for Cramping During Pregnancy

1. Your Uterus Is ChangingPregnant woman in pain having cramps

You’ll be happy to know that cramps are very common in early pregnancy. In fact, it’s one of the first symptoms of pregnancy (it also happens to be the first sign of your period – talk about confusion).

Cramping is how the uterus responds to just about anything that’s happening to it. Remember, the uterus is a muscle. Contraction is the only thing a muscle knows how to do, which feels like cramping. Anything from a full bladder to vigorous exercise can cause your uterus to contract.

2. Implantation

In very early pregnancy, cramping is common due to implantation. Implantation occurs when the fertilized egg burrows itself into the uterine wall. Cramping from implantation can feel like menstrual cramps during pregnancy, so you may be confused, terrified and heartbroken all at the same time. But it’s perfectly normal to have some cramping during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, especially if it occurs around the time of implantation.

[Read more about Implantation]

3. Round Ligament Pain

Cramps aren’t quite as common during the second trimester – unless you’re carrying multiples. Fun fact: the uterus expands to third-trimester proportions during the second trimester if you’re pregnant with multiples.

Some women will experience what is called round ligament pain. This occurs when the ligaments that support your uterus stretch out as your uterus grows upward. The pain is benign, but it can be sharp and quick and is usually on one side of the body.

4. Uterine FibroidsUterine fibroid of illustrations

Although rare, uterine fibroids can cause cramping during the second trimester. Fibroids are harmless tissue overgrowths, and they can start breaking down during the second trimester because they’re not receiving enough blood to keep growing.

Typically, the pain associated with fibroids is severe, and usually occurs between 15 and 18 weeks. If you have a history of fibroids, be on the lookout for these cramps. Some women need to be hospitalized because the pain is so severe.

5. Braxton Hicks Contractions

If you’re feeling contractions in your third trimester, it may not mean that you’re going into labor. The famous Braxton Hicks contractions may have you on your toes, but won’t lead to labor.

Keep a watchful eye on the cramping, though – it may be sign that you are going into labor, so be ready.

6. Preterm Labor

Although not necessarily common, cramping can also be a sign that you’re going into preterm labor. See your doctor if the cramps persist or intensify.

7. SexYoung couple embracing in bed

Sex is one of the most common causes of cramping during pregnancy. Semen produces prostaglandins, which stimulate the uterus. But don’t be alarmed by that statement – it’s perfectly fine to have sex.

With that said, some women may feel some strong contractions after having sex. In most cases, these cramps are nothing to worry about. Call your doctor if they feel overly intense or you’re concerned about the cause.

8. Gastrointestinal Issues

Sometimes, cramping can be caused by gas or a bowel movement. This indicates that you’re experiencing gastrointestinal issues, which have nothing to do with the uterus or your baby – although it can be uncomfortable for you.

When to See a Doctor for Cramps During Pregnancy

In most cases, cramps are normal and harmless during pregnancy, but there are exceptions. If you are experiencing any of the following, see your doctor immediately:

1. Bleeding, Dizziness or Feeling Faint

If your cramps are accompanied by dizziness, feeling faint, and bleeding, it’s time to see your doctor. It’s especially important if you’re experiencing these symptoms before you’ve confirmed your pregnancy with your doctor.

These symptoms may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which requires immediate medical attention. These may also be signs of a miscarriage or the condition called placenta previa, which occurs when the placenta actually covers the cervix.

[Read more about Miscarriage]

2. Six Contractions or More in an Hour

If you’re having six or more contractions in an hour, you may be going into preterm labor. See your doctor right away.

3. Pink-Colored Discharge

If you’re seeing pink-colored discharge, you need to seek medical attention right away. This is a more serious sign of preterm labor and is an indication that your cervical length may be changing.

4. Intense Abdominal or Back PainYoung pregnant woman suffering belly ache and calling on the phone

If your cramps are accompanied by intense back or abdominal pain and vomiting, nausea and/or a fever, see your doctor. These symptoms may be a sign of gallbladder disease, appendicitis or kidney stones.

5. You’re Pregnant with Multiples and Have Persistent Cramping

If you’re pregnant with twins (or more) and you’re experiencing persistent cramping, it’s time to see your doctor. This may be a sign of preterm labor. Being pregnant with multiples puts you at greater risk for preterm labor.

Women with a shortened cervix and a history of preterm labor should also see a doctor right away if cramps are persistent – even if you’re not pregnant with multiples.

4 Tips to Relieve Cramps During Pregnancy

Cramping can be painful when you’re pregnant. After all, you’re carrying around a growing uterus. The good news is that there are things you can do relieve the cramps. We recommend checking with your doctor to make sure there are not serious underlying causes for the pain, and if there’s no cause for concern, trying one of the tips below to find relief.

1. Stay Hydrated

One of the first things doctors recommend is to drink water. Water can help alleviate cramping while keeping you hydrated.

2. Rest and Take a Mild Pain RelieverPregnant woman resting on sofa

If the pain is intense, your doctor may recommend taking a mild pain reliever to minimize the discomfort. It’s also important to get off of your feet, and get plenty of rest. Your body is working overtime to grow your baby, so give it the rest it needs to heal.

3. Take a Warm Shower

Try taking a warm shower to alleviate cramping. The warmth form the water will help relax your muscles – and your mind.

4. Take Breaks

We’re constantly on the go, but when you’re pregnant, it’s important to go easy and cut your body some slack. Make time for sitting and stretching breaks throughout the day to avoid cramps and discomfort. If your cramps seem to get worse after spending an extended period of time in one position, taking breaks to stretch or sit can bring you the relief you crave.

While pain and cramps can be perfectly normal during pregnancy, you should feel comfortable consulting with your doctor about any cramping concerns you have. If you’re experiencing bleeding, pink discharge and severe pain, do not hesitate to see your doctor. It may be nothing serious, or it may be a sign of preterm labor or pregnancy complications.

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