Cramping During Pregnancy can be scary. But they are also more common than you think. Find out the most common causes of cramping during pregnancy and when they are a cause of concern.
When is cramping during pregnancy a cause of concern?
Radiates to other parts of the body: Especially to the Upper Abdomen, Upper Thigh Area or Legs.
Fever: Pregnant women have an impaired immune system which makes them more susceptible to fever, cold, sore throat etc. Developing cold and fever is common especially in the first trimester but when it’s accompanied by cramping, you need to contact your health care provider immediately.
Burning in urination: It could suggest cramping due to UTI. UTI’s during pregnancy are common as the hormones interfere with the healthy bacteria growth in your vagina.
Spotting that is pink or red in color: Any spotting during pregnancy should always be discussed with your healthcare provider. Sometimes spotting occurs after sex and is completely harmless. But, spotting with cramping could mean that you are going into premature labor.
5 or more contractions in an hour: Having frequent cramps is never a good sign and should be notified to your OB/GYN, even if you feel it means nothing or it’s 3 A.M. in the morning.
Causes of Cramping During Pregnancy | First trimester | Week 1 – Week 12
Cramping is one of the early signs of pregnancy. Implantation Cramping occurs when the fetus attaches itself to the walls of the uterus. This could also result in some bleeding. Keep in mind that severe bleeding and cramping are not NORMAL and should be taken seriously.
Severe Cramping along with bleeding might means that you are miscarrying. Mild to moderate cramping is common but severe, continuous, unbearable cramps indicate that you need immediate help.
Ectopic Pregnancy is when fetus attaches outside the uterus, generally on the fallopian tube. The fertilized egg can’t grow and survive outside the uterus and any growth will just damage the surrounding organs and cause excessive loss of blood. Ectopic pregnancy is a fatal condition and needs immediate attention.
There are fewer than 1 million cases in India each year. Symptoms include sharp pain, bleeding, dizziness etc.
Causes of Cramping During Pregnancy | Second Trimester | Week 13- Week 22
Round Ligament Pain:
Round Ligament Pain during pregnancy is quite common and its sharpness might come as a shock to you. It’s actually nothing to worry about as the pain goes away once you rest or massage the area. Round Ligament Pain occurs when the pair of ligaments that connects the uterus to the pelvis region is under stress due to growing baby. It surrounds, stretches and supports your belly during pregnancy. As your baby grows, it becomes more strained due to pressure.
Round Ligament Pain is more common after exercise, sneezing, coughing, turning quickly on the bed, standing or sitting for a long amount of time or any other sudden movement that can result in a sharp snap in the ligaments. Round ligament pain generally goes away by resting in a few minutes and shouldn’t last for long.
Call your doctor if the pain doesn’t go away after 15 minutes of resting or the pain is accompanied by other symptoms like vaginal discharge, fever, dizziness etc.
Any cramping related to uterine fibroids is rare. Uterine Fibroids are noncancerous growth in a woman’s uterus. The condition is quite common and affects around 70-80% women(over 10 million cases in India each year). Most women don’t even know about fibroids in their uterus unless they go for their pregnancy ultrasound. (1)
Whether the fibroid is a cause of concern depends on the size of the fibroid, where it is located and how it reacts to your pregnancy. Complications are possible but not a necessity.
Complications due to uterine fibroids during pregnancy include
- hindrance of blood supply to the placenta and fetus;
- the risk of premature growth;
- keeping baby from achieving optimal position; and
- making vaginal delivery impossible;
The Abdominal Pain associated with fibroid can be mild to severe and generally occurs in the second trimester. The reason being with the surge in estrogen, the fibroid actually grows in the first trimester but in the second trimester, it might not receive any adequate blood flow as the need of both baby and placenta for blood and nutrients increases rapidly. This can cause fibroids to degenerate and result in pain.
Therefore, you need to visit your doctor before you are trying to get pregnant. She/he will assess the condition and remove the fibroid if needed. Fibroid can’t be removed during pregnancy and any after-effects need to be dealt with care and caution.
Also, doctors recommend following a low GI diet that includes from low to no processed sugar, processed grains and anything that can interfere with your insulin levels. Insulin can increase estrogen levels and hence, feed fibroids.
Causes of Cramping During Pregnancy | Third Trimester | Week 23 onwards
Braxton Hicks can start as early as the second trimester but don’t become a part of your daily schedule before the third trimester. They are contractions that are just like labor contraction except non-rhythmic and less severe. These early contractions help in toning the uterine muscles and help with the blood flow to prepare your body for the real deal. Other triggers of Braxton Hicks include dehydration, full bladder, when someone touches mother’s belly or if she has been very active.
Braxton Hicks generally goes away after you rest, change positions, hydrate yourself, relax, take a warm bath or brisk walk for a while.
Other Reasons for Cramping during pregnancy include:
- Sex: It’s very common for the women to get cramps after having sex mainly due to two reasons: Prostaglandins present in semen can cause contractions. Breast stimulation also releases prostaglandins, which can cause cramps. Orgasms are more frequent and long lasting due to extra blood flow to your lady parts. Orgasms lead to contractions in the uterus.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Pregnant women suffer from a lot of gastric issues including bloating, constipation, gas etc. which can cause pain in the abdomen.
- Changes in Uterus: Uterus is made up of muscles. Any stretching, expanding can lead to contractions and there is nothing to worry about it. It expands to about 500 times during pregnancy and therefore, its pretty normal if it contracts and misbehaves a little.
- Urinary Tract Infection: UTI’s are very common during pregnancy and the symptoms include foul smelly discharge, grayish discharge, pelvic pain, burning sensation while urinating etc. UTI’s when detected early can be managed by appropriate medication.
- Dehydration: Lack of water is also one of the most causes of cramping during pregnancy. Many women refrain from drinking water due to constant urination. But, amniotic fluid is made of water and water also helps in circulation of blood throughout your body. Increase your water intake and if the intensity of your cramps goes down, you are probably dehydrated.
When should you not worry about cramping?
- Mild to moderate and not severe or becomes severe. It shouldn’t last for more than a few minutes.
- Resting and Lying down makes the cramping disappear.
- Drink water and eat. Sometimes dehydration can lead to cramps.
- Pass gas or poop and the pain goes away.
- You have had sex.
- Cramping is not accompanied by any other symptoms like discharge, dizziness, severe headaches, fever etc.
I hope your reason to panic has come down a notch after reading this. What was the reason for your cramps and how did you handle it? Tell us in the Comments section below so that other Mums reading this will be prepared beforehand.