|Cramping In Early Pregnancy, Is It Normal?
Some cramping is normal in pregnancy, but severe cramps or pain is not. If you experience prolonged sharp pains to the abdomen, accompanied by bleeding during pregnancy, contact your doctor immediately. However, light cramps and spotting are quite common during the first month of pregnancy, and may feel similar to period pains. This can happen around the time the embryo is bedding down in the lining of the uterus. This is known as implantation and the process takes place between days 7 and 12 after conception. The symptoms of implantation can easily be mistaken for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and can occur before the period is even due. Implantation cramps usually only last one to two days and are nothing to worry about. In fact, they show your pregnancy is progressing healthily.
During the second trimester of pregnancy you may experience cramping on one side (or both) of the lower abdomen. This is sometimes combined with a mild ache and pulling sensation in the stomach, usually caused by the stretching of ligaments supporting the uterus. Unless cramping is accompanied by significant bleeding, you don't need to worry. Pregnant women commonly experience this sort of cramping when getting out of bed, a chair or bath.
Known as Braxton Hicks contractions, false labor cramps are usually painless contractions of the uterus muscles. They can occur in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. False labor contractions are more noticeable in the weeks preceding delivery when they contribute to the dilation and effacement of the cervix. Occasionally the Braxton Hicks are strong enough to be mistaken for true labor.
The majority of babies are born before their estimated due date. Preterm labor cramps are a signal that these babies are due to enter the world a little early. When the uterus contracts before week 37, causing the cervix to open in preparation for delivery, the birth is considered preterm. Preterm cramps may feel like menstrual pains, appearing in rhythmic fluttering waves. Alternatively they may feel like a constant cramp. They are often accompanied by excess gas, bloating, pregnancy constipation and heartburn.
These are painful spasms which radiate up the leg, usually at night time when you are trying to sleep. Scientists are not sure what causes leg cramps, but reasons may include: extra pregnancy weight, compression of blood veins in the legs and possible nutrition deficiencies in calcium or magnesium or an excess of phosphorus. Hormones may also be a factor - they cause so many other problems, why not this too! To help prevent leg cramps, drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to stop dehydration and include plenty of calcium and magnesium in your diet. For relief from leg cramps, straighten your legs and flex your toes towards your face several times. Try to rest your legs as much as possible during the day and consider wearing pregnancy support stockings. Standing on a cold surface, like kitchen tiles, can also help alleviate symptoms.
Ectopic Pregnancy: This is a very serious condition which can occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy happens when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. Symptoms include bleeding after a missed period, followed by severe lower abdominal pain. You may also experience severe shoulder pain, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.
Miscarriage: Heavy bleeding and cramping may indicate a miscarriage. Blood passed usually contains dark spots of tissue. It is possible however to experience a miscarriage early in pregnancy without cramping or passing tissue. See: What are the signs of a miscarriage?
If cramps are accompanied with chills, fever, dizziness while pregnant or fainting spells, contact your healthcare provider. This could indicate many conditions from acute appendicitis, kidney or urinary tract infections, viruses, or other complications of pregnancy such as preeclampsia and placental abruption. If cramps are accompanied by sudden weight loss, constipation and tiredness, it could be a sign of hyperthyroidism. Check out our article on thyroid disease and pregnancy.
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