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Cramping While Pregnant: Causes and Tips for Relief

Cramping While Pregnant: Causes and Tips for Relief

Cramping while pregnant is a common problem for women, but it can cause some concern (especially for women who are pregnant for the first time). Find out below what is considered normal and how to treat it at home—and when you should be calling the doctor.

You’re Cramping While Pregnant: Is This Normal?

Cramping pain in certain situations is considered to be a normal part of pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy. The most common reasons for this are:

1. Implantation Pain

It is normal for women to have cramps and minor bleeding in the very early stages of pregnancy when the fertilized egg, called an embryo, attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. Women who get this pain often mistake it for a regular period, though usually the cramping and bleeding is on the light side or the “period” seems to be shorter than usual.

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2. Changes in the Shape of the Womb

Even in the first trimester before you start showing, there are changes in the uterus as it prepares to grow to accommodate the baby. This can cause a menstrual-like discomfort and can be especially noticeable when you move positions, cough or sneeze. It is considered to be normal, however!

3. Stretching Ligaments.

Towards the end of your first trimester—around the 12-week mark—you might notice that you are beginning to get sharp, sometimes stabbing pains, in your lower abdomen or groin, especially when you stand up, twist your body or stretch. This, too, is normal and is caused by the round ligament—the one supports your uterus—stretching to accommodate the growing baby and your changing body shape. Again, this is an expected symptom of pregnancy.

4. Orgasm

Many women—at any point in their pregnancy—can have cramps which begin when they have an orgasm. This can feel scary, but the cramps will usually resolve on their own and there is no need to abstain from sex unless your doctor specifically tells you to!

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You Can Treat Most Cramping at Home

The good news is that the cramping described above can be treated right at home—and there are a number of ways to do it. Most women will need to experiment with the techniques below to find out which ones work best for them. They include:

1. Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers

This can help many women who find that cramping pain interferes with everyday life. However, ALWAYS talk to your doctor first before taking any kind of medicine to make sure it is safe for pregnancy. Just because it is over-the-counter doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you or the baby.

2. Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing exercises, creative visualization, and other techniques can help your body—especially your muscles—to relax and decrease any feelings of stress or anxiety. Try one or more or these techniques to see if one works particularly well for you.

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3. A Warm Bath

Are the cramps really a pain? Then slip into the tub and have a good long soak in some warm water to ease the discomfort. This is another very relaxing activity to indulge in. Just remember that you should not be going into hot tubs while pregnant.

4. Gentle Exercise

No, you won’t be competing in an Iron Woman Triathlon anytime soon, but gentle exercise such as a slow to moderate walk through the park or a few laps in the community pool can do wonders for how you feel.

5. Rest With a Hot Water Bottle

When the cramping starts, curl up on the couch with a good book or favorite movie—and your trusty hot water bottle. Sometimes just the combination of rest and warmth can make the cramping ease up or go away on its own.

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6. Back Rubs

If the cramping is a problem, get your partner or a friend to give you a gentle lower back rub to help ease things up. If you are feeling really self-indulgent, check out your local day spa: many offer special massages designed just for pregnant women.

You Should Call the Doctor If

  • Your cramps are getting worse or they are not responding to the treatments listed above.
  • You have other symptoms such as not going to the bathroom as often or pain and burning when you urinate. This could be sign that your cramping is being caused by constipation or a urinary tract infection.
  • Your cramps are accompanied by even light vaginal bleeding. This could be an early sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Your cramping pain is severe and comes on suddenly. This might be caused by placental abruption, which is when the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is born. It can be a life-threatening condition for mother and baby and requires immediate medical assistance.

The takeaway here is, though, that in most cases, cramping and abdominal discomfort are a normal and expected part of the pregnancy journey and should be cause women concern except in cases mentioned above. At-home treatment can often having you feeling better in no time!

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Brian Wu

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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