Pregnancy cramping: What's normal and what's not?

Your guide to cramping during pregnancy

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Pregnancy comes with many different worries, so if you’ve started getting cramps you’re probably wondering if that’s normal and what that means. You’re used to period cramps but might not be expecting to have them during pregnancy as well. 

Okay, so is cramping normal?

Almost always, some form of cramping is completely normal! It can often be caused by constipation or increased blood flow to your hard-working uterus. Sometimes though it can be due to another reason. 

Sex 

It is common to have some cramping during sex or after an orgasm. This is completely harmless and you shouldn’t worry about the act hurting your baby because it won’t. 

UTIs (Urinary Tract Infection)

Oh, the lovely UTIs we women are all too familiar with.

The awful memories of drinking copious amounts of cranberry juice come flooding back. It’s possible your cramps might be caused by one of these. Ask your doctor if you think it might be this because if it goes left untreated it could be much more dangerous. 

Gas or bloating 

If you are not using the bathroom as often as you should, there could be some stress on your muscles. Your digestion is slower than normal which might create a cramping feeling from gas or bloating. If you feel relief after a bowel movement, it is most likely tied to this. 

Regular blood flow 

Your uterus is receiving an overload of blood flow throughout pregnancy. This leads to greater pressure which can be alleviated by indulging in a hot bath. 

pregnant woman sleeping

Stretching of the ligaments around your uterus 

This is also known as round ligament pain. As your uterus grows, the ligaments are stretching which can cause discomfort. This will usually happen around your second trimester. 

Braxton Hicks contractions 

Braxton Hicks are cramps that often occur after around 20 weeks (but can present as early as 10 weeks), so before your actual labour, simulating contractions. 

Other, more serious reasons why you might have cramps can include:

Ectopic pregnancy 

The cramping could be due to your fertilised egg growing in your fallopian tube, otherwise known as an ectopic pregnancy – but this is rare. The problem occurs when the egg doesn’t travel into your uterus properly.

You’ll usually notice severe cramping on one side of your body if this is the case. Go see your doctor or to the Emergency Department and they will do blood tests and an ultrasound so that you can be treated immediately. 

Preeclampsia 

This is a condition where you have high blood pressure along with protein in your urine. It can be a multi-organ disease that will be monitored closely if you have it and may necessitate an early birth. 

Miscarriage 

Cramping that is accompanied by bleeding or spotting could be cause for concern.

Other symptoms you shouldn’t ignore

If any cramping is accompanied by serious dizziness, bleeding, or lightheadedness, it could be a more serious issue. It is possible that you might be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage so contacting your midwife or doctor immediately will help to determine this.

You know your body, so when cramping feels more intense and longer than normal, reach out to your doctor or go to the emergency department. They can determine if it’s something to worry about or simply a gas problem. 

Tips to help relieve cramps 

Once you have eliminated more serious problems and are looking for ways to alleviate some cramps, we’ve got a few suggestions:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get outside and moving
  • Try eating high-fibre foods to help your bowels
  • Don’t strain during bowel movements
  • Take a warm shower or bath
  • Stretch
  • Rest

Keeping these possibilities in mind is important for your well being, but try not to stress too much over cramping. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest, put your feet up and enjoy a warm bath and let the cramps pass.

You know your body better than anyone else, so be aware of how you typically feel and if anything feels odd, contact your doctor or midwife.

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