For many women, pregnancy heralds a time of mystery. Your body is doing things that seem amazing and overwhelming all at the same time, and it can be difficult to know what normal feels like. Every pregnancy is different, and there are some symptoms that should never be ignored.
Cramping is one of these symptoms, and one of the feelings that can cause a lot of distress. This is because of the nature of cramping and the other symptoms that can accompany it. Understanding what to expect can help alleviate stress and give you some insight into what’s happening with your body and your growing baby.
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Causes of Cramping
There are a large number of things that can cause cramping during pregnancy. This can be anything from a full bladder to sexual activity. The majority of these are things that you don’t need to be overly concerned about, but it’s always a good idea to speak to your OB/GYN about what’s going on. These are just a few of the more common causes by trimester:
Cramping in the First Few Weeks
Cramping during the earliest parts of your pregnancy can be a sign of fetal implantation, sudden hormonal changes, or any other combination of issues. It’s extremely common and isn’t always something that you need to be concerned with.
Always speak to your physician when you experience any kind of unusual physical symptoms, and don’t make a point of stressing yourself out during those first few important weeks.
First Trimester Cramps
The first trimester covers the beginning of the pregnancy through to the third month. Cramping, and even some bleeding, may be perfectly normal during the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is when the egg is taking hold and making its home in the lining of the uterine wall.
For many women, cramping at four weeks pregnant is actually one of their very first symptoms of pregnancy. The baby is growing rapidly during those first few months, and this puts a lot of stress on the uterus in the surrounding ligaments.
It’s not unusual to experience cramping that feels like your normal menstrual cycle throughout this entire time. Some women believe that this heralds a miscarriage, and fortunately this usually isn’t the case.
Miscarriages generally occur in the first trimester because there is something wrong with the embryo, or the woman experiences something that’s extremely physically traumatic. The body can spontaneously abort the baby if there’s hormonal issue or any number of other factors create a pregnancy that just doesn’t viable.
This can be extremely sad, but it’s also an indicator that our body just wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. There is no shame in it.
Second Trimester Cramps
Your second trimester starts on the first day of week 13 of the pregnancy and lasts all the way up to week 27. Most people feel safer about their pregnancy at this time as many of the major miscarriage issues have passed. This is a time when the baby’s heartbeat and growth can be visibly marked and measured.
The doctor will be able to see your baby’s heart beating in the first trimester, but the second trimester will reveal the gender and activity of the baby in your womb. You may also start to feel some movement which can be mistaken for cramping.
The second trimester is the time when you are least likely to feel the symptoms of cramping. You may discover that you are experiencing some ligament pain as the weight of the child starts to pull on your uterus, but this ends up feeling more like a pulled muscle inside of your abdomen.
If you’re pregnant with twins or triplets, the stretching can also cause mild cramping. If you experience any severe cramping at this time you should immediately contact your physician. This could be a sign of more serious uterine fibroids that can end up causing pain and some issues during your pregnancy.
Third Trimester Cramps
The third trimester includes weeks 28 through 40. This is the trimester that will carry you all the way up until the birth of your little one. The most telling cramps during this trimester are those associated with labor and delivery.
There are a number of other things that can lead to mild and even moderate cramping at this time. Your body is preparing for the birth of the baby, and you may find that you’ve grown uncomfortably large.
The baby will put on some weight, and this adds a little bit more weight to the kicks and pushes from inside your uterus. This can set off muscle spasms and even result in Braxton Hicks contractions. These are contractions that are extremely common, and it’s considered your body’s way of practicing for the eventual labor.
If these cramps get stronger and you experience any additional symptoms, it’s very important to contact your OB/GYN immediately. You need to make sure that you’re not experiencing preterm labor.
Every woman will experience some type of cramping during their pregnancy. This is a completely normal byproduct of the things your body is going through to bring new life into the world.
Some of the more common indicators of normal cramping include:
Sexual Intercourse- If you’ve just experience some sort of sexual activity, it’s perfectly normal for your uterus to continue to contract above and beyond what you’re used to; this is because it’s fulfilling more than one purpose. This is perfectly normal and safe, and not necessarily a cause for concern.
Pain Alleviated by Moving Positions- Serious cramping is usually the result of something going on internally. If the cramping goes away when you shift positions, this could just be a result of pressure on a nerve, or extremely common muscle spasms.
Stomach Issues- Experiencing a different bathroom routine is very normal during pregnancy. Sometimes, cramps can be caused by gas or bloating. If you’re also experiencing things like diarrhea or constipation at this time, you can more than likely chalk your cramps up to this. Speak your OB/GYN about things you can do to help regulate yourself during your pregnancy.
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When to Consider Cramping an Emergency
There are definitely times when cramping can be a sign of something more serious. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to call your OB/GYN immediately, or seek out emergency medical attention:
Consistent Cramps that Get Stronger- These can be a definite symptom of preterm labor and can mean that you need to seek out medical attention as soon as possible to stop your baby from being born prematurely. These cramps are sometimes accompanied by a pink discharge that can indicate the thinning of your cervix and loss of your mucous plug.
Bleeding and Lightheadedness- If you’re experiencing any type of bleeding or lightheadedness, this could be a sign of a serious emergency. This can also be accompanied by dizziness that can turn out to be some type of internal bleeding. There are serious medical conditions that can happen when you’re experiencing issues with blood pressure or your placenta that will require immediate medical care. Always speak to your doctor if there’s something happening that feels wrong or that you’re unsure of.
Persistent and Increasing Pain-Not every issue is necessarily associated with the pregnancy. Many women also experience things like kidney stones or gallstones. If you have any type of persistent pain that doesn’t go away with a shift in position, or you are experiencing a fever and nausea, call your OB/GYN immediately. These things need to be taken care of before they have a negative impact on you and your baby.
Relief for Minor Cramps
The best way to deal with minor cramping during pregnancy is to listen to your body and to do what it needs. If you’re feeling tired and your abdomen is pulling at your back, then consider lying down and resting for a while.
Most doctors are okay with you taking acetaminophen and mild pain relievers during pregnancy if things get too difficult.
Always speak to your physician before trying any type of treatment, and never be afraid to ask your doctor about symptoms that you’re experiencing.
This type of honesty is extremely important during pregnancy, and you should always feel comfortable speaking to your OB/GYN about what to expect and about how to handle things like cramping.