Understand And Relieve Common First Trimester Pains
Cramping. The first weeks of pregnancy can usher in a range of ailments including nausea, breast tenderness and spotting. But one of the most common pains is cramping, said Dr. Sherry Ross, an ob-gyn at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Womens Intimate Health. Period.
While these symptoms are uncomfortable, theyre usually a sign that the pregnancy is progressing normally and that the body is preparing for birth and breastfeeding. But cramping that does not subside or is severe can be a sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, the latter of which can occur when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. The egg cant grow properly outside of the uterus and, if left untreated, can rupture other internal organs and cause life-threatening bleeding.
How to relieve it. Before you do anything, call your doctor or midwife. Your practitioner will ask how severe your pain is and, if youre bleeding, by how much. If your symptoms signal an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage, your practitioner may want to see you immediately or send you to the emergency room.
After ruling out anything more serious, try to ease your discomfort by sitting or lying down soaking in a warm bath and staying hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water per day .
Is It Normal To Have Cramping In Early Pregnancy
Cramping in early pregnancy is normal, and is not usually a sign that somethings wrong.
Although mild to moderate cramping can be normal, significant or severe cramps are always a reason to contact a medical professional.
If your cramping is too uncomfortable to manage at home, it is always a good idea to seek medical advice.
Cramps In The First And Second Trimesters
During the first trimester, your body is preparing for the growing fetus. These changes can cause cramping that is typically mild and temporary. This is expected and not a cause for concern as long as the pain doesn’t become intense, chronic, or occur alongside other more worrisome symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding.
As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus will continue to grow and expand. As it does this, you’ll likely feel mild to moderate cramping in your lower abdomen or lower back. This may feel like pressure, stretching, or pulling. It may even be similar to your typical menstrual cramps. This is also normal and expected.
As you progress through the first two trimesters, it’s possible that you’ll continue to experience cramping every now and then. Since the uterus is a muscle, any time it contracts, there’s potential for a little discomfort. This can be caused by a full bladder, constipation, gas, or bloating, which many pregnant people experience.
Cramps may also occur during exerciseindicating you should take some time to rest. It’s also common to experience some cramping after sex.
Even if your cramps may be normal, it is something to bring up to your physician at your next prenatal appointment.
Pregnant people are also more susceptible to yeast infections and urinary tract infections, either of which may cause mild cramps. Your doctor will want to treat these as soon as possible to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy.
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Whats Considered Normal Cramping During Pregnancy
Early on in your pregnancy, its natural to feel some mild cramping in your lower abdomen at infrequent times as your body prepares for your growing baby, Dr. Nalla said.
As your belly grows, so does your uterus. This may cause you to feel some slight pulling, tugging or stretching similar to menstrual cramps.
Later in your pregnancy, you may experience some mild lower abdominal discomfort due to the tightening of your uterus. These are normal as long as they occur in irregular intervals and subside on their own, Dr. Nalla said. A common cause later in pregnancy is due to round ligament pain, a muscle that supports the uterus. As it stretches, it can cause some mild aches and pains.
Other causes for mild cramping include:
Bleeding And Cramping During Early Pregnancy: What To Track
If you need to call your provider about bleeding, cramping, or spotting, write down as much information as possible about your symptoms.
- Bleeding or spotting As we discussed above, theres a difference between the two. Is your bleeding heavier or lighter than a period?
- Color Is the discharge youre seeing bright red, brown, pink, clear or white with a tinge of color? Brown discharge is old blood, not fresh. And pink means theres very little blood.
- Texture Are you passing blood with clots?
- Duration How long have you been experiencing the symptoms? Hours? Days? Has it been a solid flow or intermittent spotting?
- Intensity Are your cramps mild or severe? Do they feel like menstrual cramps or is it a different type of discomfort?
Remember, bleeding and cramping is common in early pregnancy. Most often, the symptoms are temporary and youll go on to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. When youre concerned, reach out to your doctor or midwife. The more information you can give your provider, the better able he or she will be to decide the appropriate next steps.
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What Causes Bleeding In Early Pregnancy
In most cases we do not find a reason for the bleeding and the pregnancy continues with no effect on the baby.
However these are some reasons why vaginal bleeding may occur:
Implantation site bleeding
As part of the normal development the pregnancy attaches itself to the lining of your uterus . This can cause some of the blood vessels from your womb to bleed. This does not harm you or your baby and there is nothing that you need to do differently.
Haematoma or small area of bruising
This is also referred to as extrachorionic haemorrhage . This is seen on an ultrasound scan as a small area of bleeding near the pregnancy. If your scan shows one it will either be reabsorbed by your body or come away naturally as mild vaginal bleeding for a few weeks until it stops altogether. It does not harm you or your pregnancy.
You do not need a repeat scan in early pregnancy to check on it. You do not need to do anything differently although avoiding heavy lifting may settle your symptoms sooner.
During pregnancy an area on the neck of your womb can develop which is soft and rich in blood supply. This is a normal process but may cause bleeding. This area may be found during an internal examination.
It is not harmful to you or your baby and you do not need to do anything differently although you may find that sexual intercourse and vigorous exercise may cause bleeding.
When Should I Be Concerned About Cramping During Pregnancy
While cramping can be common, there are some serious causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy:
- Ectopic pregnancy This type of pregnancy happens when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can cause painful cramping and is a serious medical condition that must be treated by your doctor.
- Miscarriage Vaginal spotting accompanied by mild or sharp cramping can be a sign of a miscarriage, although some pregnant women who have spotting and cramping can go on to have healthy pregnancies. If you have severe cramping and/or heavy bleeding, contact your doctor immediately.
- Preeclampsia -This is characterized by high blood pressure along with protein in your urine. Severe preeclampsia can cause intense pain in your upper abdomen.
- Preterm labor Increased pressure, abdominal pain, and cramping can be a sign of preterm labor if your cervix begins to dilate before 37 weeks.
- Urinary tract infections Lower abdominal pain and painful urination may be symptoms of a urinary tract infection.
- Placental abruption This occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is born. This is a life-threatening condition and can be signaled by a painful cramp that does not go away. If this happens, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.
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Cramps during pregnancy
Cramps in early pregnancy are relatively common. In the majority of women light cramping is nothing to be concerned about, and tends to improve without any specific management or care. Occasionally, however, uterine cramping can be a sign of pregnancy complications, so it is always worthwhile to get checked by a health care practitioner such as your GP or maternity care provider.
Women who have had problems getting pregnant can be particularly anxious. Having a history of a previous miscarriage or a complicated pregnancy means that every little niggle can be alarming. Its worth remembering though, that each pregnancy is its own unique event. Aiming to stay healthy, reducing your stress, keeping regular obstetric appointments and maintaining good support will all help in making your pregnancy as enjoyable as possible.
What can cause cramps in early pregnancy?
What does it mean if Im “spotting”?
It is not unusual for women to have slight spottingwhich is not associated with any cramping. Commonly, this is due to the embryo burrowing into the wall of the uterus. This is why spotting at around the same time when a period would normally be due is known as an implantation bleed. Unless the spotting becomes heavy bleeding, continuous and is accompanied by pain, then generally, implantation bleeding settles after a day or so.
What do the cramps feel like?
Cramping In The First Trimester
Cramping is possible during any stage of a pregnancy, including very early on.
“Cramping is more common as a woman gets closer to her due date, but some women will experience cramping from the minute they miss their period and all the way up until the moment of birth,” says Kristin Mallon, a board certified nurse midwife and co-host of True Birth podcast.
Cramping in the first trimester might happen due to:
- Normal side effects of pregnancy, like the stretching of your uterus as it grows.
- Implantation bleeding, which happens around 10 to 14 days after conception, can also be accompanied by mild cramping. You might also notice some light bleeding or spotting, which should go away on its own within 2 or 3 days.
- Constipation: As a matter of fact, a 2020 study found women are more likely to suffer from constipation during pregnancy than at any other point in their lives. Hormonal changes, like increasing progesterone, relax your intestines and bowels. This can slow digestion, resulting in stool that’s harder to pass and subsequent constipation cramps.
- Not getting enough dietary fiber can also cause constipation and associated gas and cramping.
It’s best to call your doctor or midwife when cramping is severe, accompanied by vaginal bleeding, or doesn’t improve after a bowel movement or lying down for a bit.
Severe cramping during early pregnancy can also be a major concern when it’s an ectopic pregnancy.
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Pregnancy Pains Got You Down Read This
Most cases of pain during pregnancy arent an emergency and can be managed, though there are some warning signs to watch out for.
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I was 35 weeks pregnant with my first daughter when I began to feel an intense, intermittent pain that radiated from my lower back and pelvis and into my leg. Like a lightning rod, it would flare unpredictably, making it impossible to move without gritting my teeth. My physical therapist deduced that the combination of my expanding belly, my scoliosis and the pregnancy hormones loosening the connective tissue of my pelvis had caused serious misalignment issues in my hip area. The result was pain in my pelvic joints and possibly some pinched nerves in my sacrum.
It is very, very common for women during all stages of pregnancy to have discomforts, pains and body aches, said Dr. Christine Isaacs, a professor and head of obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, in Richmond. A lot of that comes with the natural, normal physiologic changes of pregnancy, and many of these symptoms are natures way of preparing us for birth.
When Should I Be Concerned About Cramps During Pregnancy
As weve said, most cramps are not a cause for worry. Cramps which are sudden and are not so painful are normal. It is only when the pain becomes too severe or when bleeding occurs that you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible. They could be signs for some pregnancy complication like pre-term labor, ectopic pregnancy, and preeclampsia.
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Hand Cramps From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Despite being generally related to constant manual labor, carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in pregnant women, it is closely related to fluid retention that generates a .
The ligaments of the wrist create an anatomical structure called the carpal tunnel through which the tendons of the hand pass and the nerve that controls the sensations of the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. As there is fluid retention, the tunnel becomes much narrower, thus compressing the internal structures, thus generating the characteristic symptoms of this syndrome.
The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Difficulty controlling the muscle.
- Loss of function of the thumb.
Are Cramps In Pregnancy Normal
Its completely understandable to worry about stomach pain in pregnancy and be anxious about this being a sign of miscarriage. But stomach pains or cramps are common in pregnancy and usually nothing to worry about.
Mild stomach pain in early pregnancy is usually caused by your womb expanding, the ligaments stretching as your bump grows, hormones constipation or trapped wind. It may sometimes feel like a stitch or mild period pain. Its is probably nothing to worry about if the pain is mild and goes away when you change position, have a rest, do a poo or pass wind.
You may also feel light period-like discomfort or cramps at the end of your pregnancy. This is nothing to worry about, but call your midwife if you have any concerns.
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Cramping In The Third Trimester
“You can think of Braxton-Hicks contractions as the uterus revving its engine and getting ready for the race ahead. Braxton-Hicks contractions do little on their own. Think of them as a pre-labor tune up,” says Abdelhak.
Unlike true labor pains, which will get stronger and closer together, Braxton-Hicks are more sporadic and might change or stop with rest or movement. The discomfort they cause usually isn’t as intense as a true labor contraction.
Timing your contractions for an hour can help you determine which type you’re experiencing.
- Your contractions are five to seven minutes apart
- Your water breaks
- You’re less than 37 weeks pregnant
What To Do About Hand Cramps During Pregnancy
In general, hand cramps are within normality, however, if the swelling and cramps spread to the face and other symptoms appear such as:
- Abdominal pain.
It is important that you visit the gynecologist for a check-up and evaluate your symptoms. This is to make the differential diagnosis of the probable causes of cramp in the hands, a diet based on diuretics is recommended in case the doctor determines that the cramps are related to a physiological process.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a major nuisance for pregnant women, even affecting muscle strength and mobility of the upper limbs.
Either way, the idea is that the person suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome generates circular movements with the wrists to reduce the discomfort generated by this syndrome during pregnancy, however, everything that involves medication and recommendations must be given under supervision. from a specialist .
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Are Cramps Normal During Early Pregnancy
Stomach cramps during early pregnancy are relatively common. If you get a few stomach cramps during the first trimester of pregnancy, its probably not a cause for alarm. These cramps are typically part of the normal physical changes in the body that occur in preparation for the baby.
Very early in your pregnancy, you may get cramps as well as light bleeding when the embryo is implanted into the wall of the uterus. This process can sometimes lead to implantation cramps and bleeding. As the pregnancy progresses, you may also feel cramping as your uterus changes and stretches to accommodate the baby.
In the following sections, we will talk about the causes of pregnancy cramps and when to call your health care provider.
When To Call The Doctor For Cramps During Pregnancy: A Visual Guide
If you’re trying to decide whether your cramps warrant a call to the doctor, walk through the questions in this flow chart. Of course if you have any doubts about what to do, err on the side of caution and call your health provider.
BabyCenter’s editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you’re seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.
ACOG. 2019. Bleeding during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG. 2020. Early pregnancy loss. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG. 2018. Ectopic pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG. 2020. Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
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