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Cramping While Pregnant: Causes and Tips for Relief

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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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