stomach cramps

Whether you’re an expecting mum or thinking about trying to have a baby, you’ve surely been thinking about stomach cramps

And all those other nasty pregnancy symptoms like nausea and headaches. You may even find yourself wondering how much discomfort is normal, and when cramps during pregnancy could be a sign of a problem.

Well, Captain Mums is here to clear up everything about pregnancy stomach cramps, just as we have with a number of other pregnancy symptoms. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!


What are pregnancy cramps? 

Stomach pains can happen during different phases of pregnancy, and they may change in nature as you get farther along. For example, stomach cramps in early pregnancy may resemble menstrual cramps. If you don’t already know that you are pregnant, you may think that you are having your normal cycle. However, if you do know that you are expecting, don’t panic if you experience something that feels like period pains when pregnant. Unless you start bleeding, stomach cramps are not a problem (However, if you do start bleeding, go see a doctor right away.). 

Pregnancy cramps can feel different than menstrual pain, too. Sometimes it can be similar to pain related to gas and abdominal bloating. It could feel like something is pulling at the side (or both sides) of your abdomen, or even like a dull throbbing or stabbing pain. All of these feelings are normal.


What causes cramping during pregnancy?

As you know, your body will go through many changes during pregnancy. Because of all these changes, you’ll feel some aches and pains that you didn’t even know were possible! Here are some of the most common ways that pregnancy can lead to stomach cramps:

  • Gas and bloating – Indigestion is a very common side effect of pregnancy, and you can expect to feel all the related unpleasantness.
  • Constipation – Some pregnant women get a little ‘backed up,’ leading to very understandable abdominal discomfort.
  • Expansion of your uterus – This tends to get worse in the second trimester, but can begin in early pregnancy. Stomach cramps aren’t going anywhere, so get used to them!
  • Round ligament stretching – Again, this is most noticeable in the second trimester, as the ligaments and muscles that provide support to the uterus stretch out. It may feel like a dull, throbbing, or stabbing pain.
  • Sexual intercourse – While it is safe to have sex during pregnancy (unless otherwise specified by your doctor), it could lead to a bit of discomfort, including stomach cramps.


Stomach cramps: Find some relief! 

You may also be aware that most pain relief medication is not allowed during pregnancy, and doctors recommend limiting the intake of those that are allowed, like paracetamol. However, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to ease the pain a bit when you are experiencing stomach cramps. Here are some tricks that could provide you with some relief:

  • Stay hydrated – You have probably heard it a million times, but drinking enough water can do wonders for your body, including easing cramps of all kinds.
  • Stay physically active – The more care you take of your muscles and physical health, the easier it will be for your body to cope with the changes that pregnancy can bring.
  • Do meditation or yoga – These relaxation exercises can soothe muscular tension throughout your body.
  • Look for triggers – See if there are any foods, or even movements/body positions that seem to make your symptoms worse and avoid them.
  • Get plenty of rest – Though pregnancy symptoms can make it difficult for some women to sleep well through the night, getting the proper amount of rest is vital for your body to keep itself well.
  • Use heat – A heating pad or hot water bottle may have helped you in the past with muscular or menstrual cramps. It’s safe for both you and the baby while pregnant, so enjoy it!
  • Take a bath – The warmth and buoyancy that the water provides will help your muscles relax. You may just find that you want to use this trick every day! 

Because round ligament pain is one of the most common causes of stomach cramps during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester, you may be interested in ways to lessen this particular problem. Luckily for you, there are many exercises, including kegel workouts that can help you prepare your body for this big change. Don’t be shy! Read more about kegel exercises during pregnancy here.


Pregnancy problems with cramping

Though stomach cramps are normal and expected during pregnancy, you should also be aware that they can sometimes be symptoms of pregnancy conditions. There are several problems and diseases during pregnancy that can be accompanied by cramps:

  • Miscarriage – Usually, in addition to cramping, you will notice spotting or bleeding if this is the case. However, even having both of these symptoms together does not necessarily imply a miscarriage.

  • Ectopic pregnancy – This is when an egg becomes fertilized but doesn’t successfully travel all the way to the uterus. Instead, it gets stuck somewhere along the way, usually in the fallopian tube. Obviously, this is not a safe place for the baby to grow and it will rupture without treatment. This situation can be very dangerous and requires medical attention immediately.

  • Urinary tract infection – This common problem causes irritation to many women, who can use antibiotics to clear up the problem. However, a UTI is more problematic to a pregnant woman who typically can’t take antibiotics. If you have any of the other symptoms of a UTI, talk to your doctor.

  • Preeclampsia – As we explained in another article, this condition involves high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. It can lead to a more serious condition, eclampsia, and must be treated by a doctor.

  • Placental abruption – This is when the placenta partially or completely tears away from the wall of the uterus before the baby is ready for birth. It is potentially fatal, both for the baby and for you.


When to call the doctor

We aren’t trying to scare you by describing everything that can go wrong during pregnancy. Instead, we want you to know enough about stomach cramps, what they could mean, and how to respond to feel completely in control during your pregnancy. Cramping alone very rarely indicates a serious condition, so you need to look out for cramping that is accompanied by other symptoms of the conditions listed above. You should also seek attention right away if:

  • You also feel dizzy, lightheaded, or have fainted
  • You experience spotting or bleeding
  • The pain is much more severe than you have felt in the past, or worse than what you think should be normal
  • You experience anything that seems like a contraction, including pain very low in the abdomen
  • The pain is persistent and doesn’t seem to go away