All sorts of things happen during pregnancy, and cramping is no different. There are some good cramps, some neutral cramps, and some cramps that are pretty bad. We’re not talking about the pain level, but what they mean. It would be wonderful if we could get away with not having cramps while, but we are women and pregnancy is one of the special moments in our lives where everything is possible and nothing makes sense. Let us decode some of the issues surrounding cramps, what to do about them, and how to relieve the pressure.
What Do Pregnancy Cramps Mean?
First, we would like to say that cramping during pregnancy is a normal occurrence. Nearly every woman experiences cramps at some point. It’s the type of cramp, the duration, and the location that makes all the difference. So, what causes cramps during pregnancy?
Let’s look at why muscles cramps during pregnancy. First, you have muscular cramping in your legs, back, arms, and neck. This can happen because of electrolyte imbalance, overworked, sleeping poorly, or any other reason that a person would get cramps at any other point in their life.
Women for pregnant tend to get these types of cramps more often in their back and neck because of the extra weight placed upon the abdomen. It creates a situation where standing normally does not happen and the muscles are not used to the extra weight. These types of cramps are easily relieved with exercise, stretching, and making sure your posture is proper for your body size.
The next type of cramping comes from your stomach and intestine. During pregnancy, your internal organs are pushed around to make room for the baby. This can cause a tremendous amount of indigestion, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. All of these digestive issues come with its own form of cramping. All of these are unfortunately normal. You can reduce the amount of gastric distress during your pregnancy by starting months prior to your pregnancy eating a healthy diet filled with lots of fruits and vegetables. Even if your pregnancy is a surprise, start eating a healthy diet and good results will follow. A side effect of this type of eating means you maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy and your baby has the best vitamins and minerals to build the healthiest tissues.
Another form of cramping comes from the stretching of the uterus and muscles and skin around the abdomen. This can be uncomfortable but often goes away quickly. There’s little that can be done for this type of cramping. However, we found exercise and stretching can reduce the occurrences.
These types of cramps are very normal during pregnancy. Some women experience few cramps, while other women experience them often. As we said before, cramping during pregnancy is very common.
Finally, there’s the type of cramps that unwelcome. These are signs there is a problem with the pregnancy and you need to be aware of what’s going on. Blood pressure issues, placenta detachment, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancies are all emergencies that need medical attention.
Are Cramps a Sign of Pregnancy?
This is a complicated answer. Many times, a woman will experience cramping when she becomes pregnant. Pregnancy cramps can begin as early as fertilization of the cell, but most occur after implantation. However, not all women experience cramps and some women can experience cramps very similar to early pregnancy cramps without actually being pregnant. If you experience unusual cramping and suspect you may be pregnant, you need to see your doctor for both a pregnancy test and advice for reducing the cramping.
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In some studies, women experience fertilization and implantation, but the pregnancy aborts within the first few weeks. This can cause cramping as if the pregnancy continues. This occurs in 25-40% of all pregnancies. No one has been able to determine a reason. It can range from environmental factors, stress, eating the wrong foods, to the time is just not right. In nearly all of these cases, the woman would never have even known she was pregnant. So, if this happens, and you experience cramping, do use a pregnancy test at home (if available) and at your doctor’s office. This will confirm if you are pregnant or not.
What Do Pregnancy Cramps Feel Like?
Most cramps that women experience during pregnancy do not hurt, but are more of an inconvenience and ache. They typically take on the same intensity as menstrual cramps during your pregnancy. However, they are not menstrual cramps. You will not experience your period during pregnancy, nor will you get period cramps during your pregnancy. But, you can have bleeding, even on a regular schedule.
How bad can pregnancy cramps get? For most women, you should not experience cramps anymore in intensity then what you experienced during menstruation. The cramps early in your pregnancy may feel like things are moving around more than just a pain. This is the body making room for the expanding uterus. As you progress in your pregnancy, you may experience pregnancy cramps just on one side. Doctors are unsure of why this may be the case, but they suspect that the musculature in the abdomen may be a different strength and stretching of the muscles feel different.
If you experience sharp pains or stabbing sensations, see your doctor. This could be a sign something is very wrong.
Types of Cramps in Pregnancy
There are many different types of cramping that you will experience during your pregnancy. First, some people can confuse the cramping in early pregnancy with simple period cramps. They feel very similar, however, many women will say that the cramping of their period is more short-term rather than extended cramps of an early pregnancy. In addition, usually, period cramping is followed by bleeding. Of course, if you have any question or doubt, pregnancy tests are available in most stores and many doctors offices test as early as 3 weeks.
As pregnancy begins, the body begins to adjust to make room for the growing fetus. The uterus will expand, the bladder may drop, your intestines are pushed forward, your diaphragm is lifted up along with all of the organs of the stomach, liver, and gallbladder. Normally, all these organs are held in place by thin membranes, muscle, and various tendons. Most of the time the stretching and pulling are the causes of cramps early pregnancy.
Sometimes, women will experience cramps during the pregnancy when the body spontaneously aborts the pregnancy. In the vast majority of the cases, the mother did absolutely nothing wrong, it’s just something that happens in nature. This will cause tremendous cramping. The cramps tend to be severe and localized low in the hips. While there is very little that can be done to stop the process, if you experience these types of cramps, you should go to the emergency room immediately. In rare cases, this issue can cause severe bleeding for the mother.
As you head into the late first trimester and into the second semester, nearly anything can cause you cramps. Most of the time, women experience a decrease in cramps during the second trimester. Stress upon the abdomen is a major cause of cramps during this time of pregnancy. The pulling of flesh and tendons can cause stress on the back and neck. Typically, these pregnancy cramps will come and go based on what you have done during the day.
Some people of associated cramping during the second trimester as whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. Unfortunately, this is just an old wives tale that has no basis. Neither a boy nor a girl will cause different types of cramping.
As a woman closes out the second trimester and moves into the third trimester, it is the weight of the child and the movement of the child that causes the greatest cramping for the woman. By now, the majority of the risk of miscarriage has reduced or the doctor will be monitoring and offering the mother special precautions.
The greatest time for cramping will be within the month prior to the baby being born. This is a time of great activity for the baby and the body is getting ready for birth. Just before birth begins, the uterus will drop, the baby will turn head down, and many of the muscles and tendons will begin to relax. If this happens too early, or too fast, severe cramps can happen. As it is, cramping and discomfort are quite normal at this time.
As the babies getting ready to be born, you will experience the worst cramping of your entire pregnancy. These are known as contractions. You will need to follow the advice of your doctor or midwife in order to reduce these contractions, in other words: give birth.
Technically, you’re pregnancy cramps stop when you give birth. They often changed the name to birthing cramps after the birth of the child. A woman will experience cramping as the placenta detaches and is expelled by the body. As the organs move back into place this can cause cramping, and the digestive system might cause some gas and discomfort as normal digestion resumed.
For the next several years, a woman will experience cramping in many parts of her body as she carries her baby on her hip and in her arms. From there, most of the cramping go straight to the head as the little ones cause headaches and migraines. But, it is so sweet moments in between that make it all worth it.
When to Worry About Cramps During Your Pregnancy
Most of the time, the cramps you experience during your pregnancy are mild and nothing to worry about. But, there are certain times when you need to be extra cautious and see a doctor make sure everything is all right.
For most women, once they become pregnant, they will have no more bleeding. All of the cramps in their early pregnancy have no bleeding associated with them. In addition, many women will experience no discharge from their vagina during their pregnancy.
However, many women, around 25%, do experience some light bleeding during early pregnancy. Even so, even this is not necessarily a cause for concern, but you should still consult your doctor to make sure. 15 to 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Some women experience a molar pregnancy, where an abnormal growth of tissue occurs during the early phases of pregnancy. This tissue can detach or rupture causing minor bleeding. In the vast majority of the cases, this is no cause for concern. It should be reviewed by a doctor to make sure no further issue is occurring.
Look at the color of the blood. Darker red to brownish tinted blood is a sign of older blood and possibly leftover from when the egg implanted into the uterus. Most of the time, doctors do not worry about this type of blood. But, if the blood starts becoming brighter red this is a cause of concern. The brighter the color of the blood the more recent it is. As you continue with your pregnancy, you should not experience any cramping during pregnancy with light bleeding or spotting unless there is a problem.
Many women experience digestive complaints. Many times, women experience cramps during their pregnancy when they have diarrhea or constipation. There’s a good reason for this. As uterus is expanding to accommodate the baby, the intestines are pushed in strange directions. This can cause the transit time of your food to be shortened or lengthened. It can cause excessive gas or sometimes those pregnancy cramps to feel like you have to poop. While it’s not really known whether women experience more constipation or diarrhea, the women we have known have more issues with constipation with cramping during the pregnancy and a tremendous amount of cramps with gas. Fortunately, they don’t experience diarrhea that often.
Just like with problems at the back end, there can be cramping that the front end. Somewhere women experience pregnancy cramps after they eat. They get worse at this time because the stomach has expanded and is pushing down into an area that it really can’t push into. This can also cause indigestion, acid reflux, shortness of breath and back pain.
Certain types of beds and the way you sleep can also cause your pregnancy cramps to get worse at night. This one is tricky to recommend what will help. Some women find the softer the bed is the easier they can sleep. Others find they need a very firm mattress or pillow to help them. There are even stories on some forums where the only relief women had been to sleep on the floor.
There are many other kinds of cramping throughout the body that can give you discomfort. You can have leg cramps during your pregnancy, back cramps with your pregnancy, that cramps and all sorts of other body parts cramping up. Sometimes, this is caused by the extra weight being carried around your middle. This is most likely the case for back pain. Many other causes of cramps, like the leg cramps or hand cramps, can be a lack of nutrients. The baby has taken so much for proper growth, but there’s just not enough left for you. This is why we recommend focusing so much on healthy fruits and vegetables. That way you get enough vitamins and minerals to support your baby’s health and your health.
And of course, twins means double everything. Women who have twins say that the cramps during their pregnancy are twice as bad. The body has to make room for twice as many babies and this can cause more pain. However, doctors don’t believe that the woman is actually experiencing twice the amount of pain. Until approximately halfway through the pregnancy, the amount of space taken up by one baby or two babies are virtually identical.
When you experience cramping and have some discharge from your vagina, this is actually normal. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and regularly will spit out small, gooey balls. Generally, these are odorless and colorless. If you begin seeing a discharge that is colored, especially dark yellows or greens or begins to have a powerful smell, this is a sign you need to see your doctor immediately.
When is Pregnancy Cramping Badly?
While none of these cramping incidences are fun, they are generally nothing to worry about. There are several times that cramping should be a concern. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) really have to pay attention to any cramping. It’s because this cramping during early pregnancy with PCOS signals a possible hormone imbalance. Because of the cysts, the ovaries can produce the wrong type of hormones and cause a miscarriage. If you have PCOS, make sure you have a good relationship with your doctor just in case anything happens.
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An ectopic pregnancy is also one that you have been very concerned with. Occurring in 1 out of 60 women, this is where the embryo implants into the fallopian tubes. It is nearly always fatal to the embryo and can be fatal to the mother. This is one of the major causes of severe early pregnancy cramping. This often only occurs on one side and can be confused with kidney issues.
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A severe cause of cramping and bleeding during late pregnancy is placenta rupture. This is where the placenta detaches from the uterus. It causes severe cramping, extreme pain in the lower abdomen, and bleeding. Fortunately, it rarely happens to women in good health. Drug use, physical trauma, and advancing age are typical risk factors.
If you experience cramping during your pregnancy and you’ve already had a C-section, you will want to talk to your doctor immediately. There are several problems that can occur because of the invasive nature of the C-section. What most people think of as the biggest problem is the muscles, tendons, and tissues that support the uterus have already been damaged. The scar tissue is not nearly as flexible and could cause further pain and cramping. It could also cause tears within the tissue because of its rigidity. Another problem can be the structural integrity of the uterus itself.
Women who have also had previous C-sections could be exposed to placenta previa. This is where the placenta partially detaches and covers the cervix. This is a medical emergency. Typically, bleeding occurs without pain. We’re including it in the section about cramps so you know to be aware and to pay attention to any sign your body may be giving you that something is wrong.
Preeclampsia is a condition caused by high blood pressure. It typically causes a lot of pain. Generally, women will have already discussed the risk factors for this issue with their doctor. Rarely it occurs without forewarning.
A bladder infection can cause severe cramping during your pregnancy. You will want to take great care with bladder and kidney infections. A bladder infection can quickly turn dangerous for your pregnancy. If you have any issues urinating, where it causes pain, discomfort, or additional cramping, talk to your doctor. One of the ways you can avoid a bladder infection during your pregnancy is to bathe often and wear loose-fitting clothing. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables lowers the pH of the urine, which makes the bladder healthier and more resistant to bacteria growth. Surprisingly, exercises a phenomenal way to help avoid these type of infections.
Labor is accompanied by regular contractions or specialized cramps. It should be regular with increasing intensity. Early labor is not welcomed. It can set on quickly with irregular cramping and varying intensity.
Help for Cramping During Pregnancy
So, what can we do about relieving the heavy cramping during pregnancy? From many of the types of cramping, we can do a lot. But, as organs move around, muscle stretch and the baby starts kicking around, it’s something that has to be put up with. It’s really difficult to stop pregnancy cramps, but some of our suggestions here will help reduce them to a bare minimum.
Some of the worst cramps during pregnancy come from eating poor food. The best way to stop pregnancy cramps or at least ease the pregnancy cramps symptoms is to make sure you focus on a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables with quality meats and very little processed foods. Avoiding dairy, soy, and bread is another way to relieve cramping and gas. This will also help with nausea that comes with cramping during your pregnancy. Avoid crackers to soothe morning sickness, because it can cause afternoon gas and sickness the next morning. Apple slices are both better for your stomach and healthier for your baby.
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Another way to relieve your cramps during your pregnancy is a drink plenty of water. Many people are dehydrated and this causes cramping in many different forms. It is especially true when your baby is demanding so much attention and nutrients. Your body can actually draw fluid away from the amniotic fluid in order to support your body. By drinking enough water you can alleviate these pregnancy cramps and make sure your baby is very healthy.
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Some really great foods to eat during pregnancy are the ones that provide the best electrolytes for your system. Focus on bananas, apricots, apples, blueberries, raspberries, and dark leafy greens. These will provide you with a lot of potassium, magnesium, and sodium from natural sources. Plus, each of these is packed with a tremendous amount of phytonutrients that can help reduce cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
If you’re already having pain that can’t be stopped with good food, exercise, and plenty of water, here’s how to soothe your pregnancy cramps. Massage, whether professional or do it at home, is a great way to relax the muscle and encourage proper flexing of the skin and tendons. In many ancient texts, rubbing oil on the skin is recommended for both reducing stretch marks and relieving pain. Simply rub small, light pressure circles on and around the area that is cramping. A warm moist cloth will also relax the muscles.
We don’t recommend using painkillers during your pregnancy. First off, it doesn’t actually treat your pregnancy cramps. All the painkillers do is mask the pain. Your body is still experiencing the shifting and the discomfort. And enough painkillers can kill the baby.
We do recommend using herbs and spices to help treat your pregnancy cramps. Especially in the first trimester, we’re leaving your pregnancy cramps can be as simple as getting in the proper nutrition. As the muscles and organs are pushed out of the way to make room for the growing baby, there is a lot of stretching and pulling going on. The body will then rush in to repair the damage that is being done. It can reduce the pain and repair any damage quickly when you have the proper nutrition.
The best herbs to help pregnancy cramps are the ones that are most potent. Garlic, onions, thyme, basil, oregano, turmeric, and just about anything else you find in a spice cabinet work wonders. Before salt and sugar became such huge parts of the American diet, people would eat around ¼ to ½ cup of herbs and spices every single day. If you research some peasant dishes, you’ll find they contain a tremendous amount of herbs. If you can, seek out the herbs and spices that are fresh and discover just how wonderful they can make your food taste. And on top of that, you’re getting a tremendous amount of nutrition, which will only make your baby big and strong.
Avoid using herbal supplements or online advice. Many medicinal herbs are abortifacts, they kill a growing baby, and in very small doses. Only take herbs from a certified herbalist with special training in pregnancy.
Stretching and exercise can also help produce the pain that comes with cramping. Strong muscles can flex easier and move better than muscles that are weak. This flexing allows them to avoid hurting as they move around. The tendons that hold the muscle and place are more flexible and not subject to as much pain. As you move around, your blood is flowing better and can remove toxins that can cause cramping.
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Most women can exercise right up until giving birth. All you need to do is be cautious about the types of movements so that your stomach is not compressed during the exercise. Many women also find light exercises during labor help reduce the intensity of the contractions until the baby is ready to be born. They also find back pain and sleep problems are greatly reduced. Be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure the exercise you are doing will not harm you or the baby.
For most women, cramping is a normal part of acting as your organs and muscles need to move out of the way to make room for your growing baby. There are many ways to reduce the cramping and have a better time with your pregnancy.
Many of the suggestions we have listed here have worked for thousands of years to help women reduce the pain of cramping. Focusing on healthy fruits and vegetables, lots of herbs and spices, and plenty of water. Make sure you’re getting plenty of exercises and massage your muscles when you are done.
Sometimes, cramping can be a sign of something more serious. If you think that the cramps are too severe, lasting too long, or just feel something is not right, talk to a doctor immediately. There’s no time to wait when it comes to the safety of you or your child.
We hope this helps you put your mind at ease when it comes to cramps during your pregnancy.