Pregnancy cramping is very normal. Tender breasts and back pain are the common discomforts pregnant women experience. But when is it something you should be worried about and seek medical help?
Let's find out!
When is pregnancy cramping normal?
Constipation and bloating contribute to about 50% of normal cramps during pregnancy. Here are the causes of normal pregnancy cramping:
Gastric distress is every pregnant woman's complaint. Spikes in progesterone, the hormone responsible for relaxing the muscles in your digestive tract, is the culprit. When progesterone levels increase, it slows down digestion, and this causes gas, constipation and bloating (which can be very crampy!).
For a low-risk pregnancy, cramps during and after an orgasm, usually accompanied by pain in the lower back, is normal and not a cause for concern. An increase of blood to the pelvic area and contractions in the uterus (typical of orgasm) is the cause. Orgasms during sex can't harm your baby so long as you are healthy and your doctor has no qualms about it. Post-sex cramps go away after taking a nap.
Increased blood flow to the uterus
Your body will send a lot of blood to your uterus for obvious reasons - that's where your baby is growing, and the blood carries all the nutrients to nourish your baby. This increased blood flow to the uterus can cause cramps.
Not hydrating enough during pregnancy is known to cause Braxton Hicks contractions. These are midterm contractions that mimic labour pains (but are normal).
Research has linked Dehydration with preterm labour, so do drink up!
Implantation pain usually occurs during your first trimester and its quite like menstrual cramps. A woman will experience this pain which occurs just around the time she is about to have her period (and even before she knows she's pregnant). When a fertilised egg fastens itself to the uterine walls about six to twelve days after fertilisation, most women will have this pain along with some light bleeding and slight aches for just a day.
Round ligament pain
This kind of pain is typical of a pregnant woman's second trimester. However, a pregnant woman can experience them at any point of her pregnancy or when she exercises, sneezes or coughs or does anything that exerts pressure on her abdomen. Round ligaments are the tissues that hold the uterus, and they usually stretch when the baby grows, causing sharp pains on one or both sides of the lower abdomen that last for a few seconds or minutes.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Also known as practice contractions, these pre-labour pains occur about 20 weeks of pregnancy. They are normal and the body's way of preparing for labour. Braxton Hicks contractions are on-and-off and usually last for a few seconds or minutes.
When is pregnancy cramping not normal?
Sometimes, something life-threatening can be the cause of pregnancy cramping. In this case, you will need to see your doctor. Here are the causes of abnormal pregnancy cramping:
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Pain in the pelvic area is the most common symptom of a urinary tract infection. But there are other symptoms such as a smelly discharge, backache and blood in your urine. The risk factors for a UTI for pregnant women are higher because as the baby grows, there is a lot of pressure on the bladder, which can reduce urine flow and cause an infection.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg fastens itself not in the uterus but anywhere outside the uterus, such as the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancy is a common cause of first-trimester cramps. The pain may start as very slight and dull but worsens with time and is accompanied by pain in the shoulder, feelings of lightheadedness or faintness, and bleeding from the vagina.
A pregnant woman may have dull pain similar to period pain when she has a miscarriage. She will feel this pain most in her pelvic area, abdomen or lower back with heavy bleeding that lasts for several days.
The difference between implantation cramping and miscarriage cramping is that a pregnant woman has heavy bleeding when she has miscarriage cramping. The bleeding lasts for days (and worsens by the day). On the other hand, a pregnant woman has light bleeding that lasts for no more than a day when she has implantation cramping.
Sudden high blood pressure and protein in the urine are typical of preeclampsia, a common cause of third-trimester pain. This pain occurs in the upper abdomen and comes with severe headaches and other symptoms.
Another cause of pain in the third trimester and sometimes the second trimester. Usually occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before delivery. Pain can be persistent and severe and is felt most in the abdomen (with vaginal bleeding).
Preterm labour pain
Experiencing labour contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy is a sure sign of preterm labour. Usually, the contractions are very regular and last from 30 to 70 seconds, with a pressure feeling in the pelvic area and some vaginal discharge.
Now that you know what is causing your cramping, let's also show you how to ease your pain:
- Stay hydrated, and stick to a fibre-rich diet. Take your time to eat and eat in small portions to keep gas, bloating and other discomforts at bay.
- Take a nap or lie down after having sex to relieve pain from an orgasm.
- Make a warm bath and soak in to relieve pain from increased uterine blood flow.
- Put on a belly band to ease round ligament pain.
- Get some R&R (rest and recreation) for implantation cramps.
- Change positions when you have Braxton Hicks contractions. For instance, lie or sit down if you are standing to get relief from the contractions.
However, call your doctor if:
- You have labour contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Dizziness or feeling faint.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Heavy bleeding that comes with pain in the lower abdomen.
- Pain during urination or blood in the urine, or finding it difficult to urinate.
- Severe headache with swelling and blurry vision (can be symptoms of preeclampsia which can be fatal for both mother and baby).
- Fever and chills.
- Excessive thirst.
- Diarrhea with blood in stool.
- Extreme pain in the lower abdomen which doesn't subside after taking painkillers.
- Shoulder pain, vaginal pain, lightheadedness or feeling faint (can be symptoms of ectopic pregnancy).
Source: What To Expect
Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here.
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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