Pregnancy Cramps

pregnancy cramps

pregnancy cramps

Depending on the other pregnancy symptoms they trigger, pregnancy cramps can be normal or they can indicate significant problems with your baby-to-be.

What are pregnancy cramps? Or what is cramping in pregnancy

Pregnancy cramps are contractions of the uterine muscles appearing after the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine walls or as a result of the embryo’s growth and development inside the womb.

When pressure exerted on these muscles and on the ligaments supporting the uterus increases, rhythmical contractions appear and depending on the trigger, they can be associated with mild or severe pain and discomfort.

Cramps during pregnancy in pregnant women are most of the times located in the abdominal area but legs and back muscles are also affected by rhythmical contractions and relaxations, especially during the third trimester, when the belly is already large enough to put significant pressure on ligaments, joints and bones.

Pregnancy cramps – what causes them?

Can pregnancy cause cramps? The answer to this question is yes. The first uterine cramps appearing in pregnancy are accompanied by spotting and they occur when the zygote gets implanted into the walls of the uterus. For this to happen, minor ruptures are caused to the uterine tissue layers and small fragments of tissue as well as small amount of blood reach inside the womb causing implantation cramps.

These tissues and fluids are eliminated during the first weeks of pregnancy and they’re often mistaken for the regular menstrual discharge. However, cramping can be experienced in both early and late gestation stages, as there are various factors that can trigger this pregnancy symptom.

Besides implantation, the changes taking place inside the uterus can also cause pregnancy cramps. Uterus starts modifying its dimensions, it stretches and enlarges to accommodate the growing baby and to make enough room for the amniotic sac filled with fluid.

As these changes take place, the ligaments supporting the womb as well as muscles around the uterus stretch and they lead to forced contractions which in the end cause cramps. This symptom is called the round ligament pain and it’s quite frequent in first-time moms as well as in women delivering their second or third baby.

There are, however, certain situations in which pregnancy cramps can be dangerous and shouldn’t be neglected.

Pregnancy cramps -What you need to know

An unfortunate situation in which pregnancy cramps manifests is miscarriage. Cramps appear usually within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because the baby isn’t developing properly and the organism reacts through bleeding, intense pain and miscarriage.

Ectopic pregnancies can also be accompanied with cramps, in this case the zygote being implanted outside the uterus, in the ovaries or fallopian tubes causing ectopic pregnancy cramps. Just like the previously mentioned situation, this one requires immediate medical attention as it’s dangerous for the mom to delay hospitalization.

Other situation in which pregnant women can get cramp in pregnancy is when the mom’s diet is not appropriate and leads to constipation, digestive discomfort, gas and similar problems. All these cause cramping in the abdomen leading to pregnancy constipation cramps. Bloating increases stomach acidity and pain. Constipation cramps during pregnancy can be controlled by taking healthier diet, more frequent meals consisting in smaller servings, a larger water intake and regular physical activity.

Pregnancy cramps – what can you do about it

When these pregnancy cramps appear as a result of implantation or baby’s growth and development, often called as implantation cramps, they don’t require special medical attention and can be managed through:

  • Try to do some gentle exercises or to massage your painful area for relieving pain and relaxing muscles.
  • Place a warm bottle wrapped in a soft towel on the tummy or painful area, or take a warm bath.
  • Drink more water, as dehydration stimulates uterine contractions.
  • Try to bend for a few seconds towards the painful side.
  • Take some rest – lying down can be helpful if the contractions aren’t caused by a more serious condition.

In case of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, the only solution is the immediate visit to the hospital, for specialized medical care.

As for pregnancy constipation cramps, the remedies were already mentioned above: practicing physical activities daily for stimulating digestion and preventing constipation and gas and adopting a healthier diet. This means the future mom should eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean meat and avoid products that are known to cause bloating or are hard to digest, such as greasy foods, red meat or junk foods.

For more information on pregnancy cramps, be sure to take your time and read our other interesting articles on early pregnancy symptoms and early pregnancy signs. To know what is the best diet for pregnant women and controlling weight gain read our article on diet during pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy.

Last reviewed on 25/01/2013

Image credit: Emery Co Photo (used under creative commons license)

References

  • NHS – The Pregnancy Book
  • Pregnancy and birth sourcebook : basic consumer health information about pregnancy and fetal development … / edited by Amy L. Sutton. — 3rd ed. (Omnigraphics, Inc.)
  • The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth (World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.)
  • Prescribing in Pregnancy (Fourth edition) Edited by Peter Rubin and Margaret Ramsay (Blackwell Publishing)
  • Dewhurst’s Textbook Of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (Seventh Edition)Edited By D. Keith Edmonds Ramsay (Blackwell Publishing)
  • Textbook of Diabetes and Pregnancy (Second Edition) Edited by Moshe Hod MD / Lois Jovanovic MD / Gian Carlo Di Renzo MD PhD / Alberto de Leiva MD PhD / Oded Langer MD PhD  (Informa UK Ltd)
  • Management of High-Risk Pregnancy An Evidence-Based Approach (Fifth Edition) Edited By John T. Queenan / Catherine Y. Spong / Charles J. Lockwood (Blackwell Publishing)
  • WHO-2000-Managing Complications in Pregnancy Childbirth A Guide for Midwives Doctors
  • Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology Edited By T. Murphy Goodwin MD / Martin N. Montoro MD /  Laila I. Muderspach MD /  Richard J. Paulson MD /  Subir Roy MD (Wiley-Blackwell)
  • WHO  – Managing Complications in Pregnancy and Childbirth: A guide for midwives and doctors
  • Mood and Anxiety Disorders During Pregnancy and Postpartum Edited By Lee S. Cohen, M.D./ Ruta M. Nonacs, M.D., Ph.D.  (American Psychiatric Publishing)
  • Maternal-Fetal Nutrition during Pregnancy and Lactation  Editors  Michael E. Symonds and Margaret M. Ramsay (CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies (fifth edition)  Steven G. Gabbe, MD /  Jennifer R. Niebyl, MD /  Joe Leigh Simpson, MD (MOSBY)

Web References

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