Early pregnancy cramps are often associated with the hormone progesterone and physical changes in the body. The severity of early pregnancy cramps will differ from one pregnant woman to the next, but should never be severe in nature. Severe early pregnancy cramps could be a sign of pregnancy complications.
Early Pregnancy Cramps and Implantation
Implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus can cause early pregnancy cramps. These are often felt about 10 days after ovulation, but can be felt as early as five days post ovulation. Early pregnancy cramps associated with implantation are typically mild and may appear with some implantation spotting.
Early Pregnancy Cramps and Ectopic Pregnancy
In some cases, the egg will implant in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This can occur if the fallopian tube is too narrow or for other unknown reasons. HCG, the hormone home pregnancy tests measure for a positive result, is released by the implanted egg as the placenta starts to form. The test does not know the egg has implanted in the fallopian tube. As the fetus grows rapidly, early pregnancy cramps can occur. If the condition is not treated immediately, the growing fetus can bust through the walls of the fallopian tube causing severe early pregnancy cramps and internal bleeding. If this occurs, doctors will need to remove the fetus and possibly the fallopian tube.
If early pregnancy cramps are caused by an ectopic pregnancy, women may experience reduced fertility. This is especially the case when one fallopian tube has been removed. Having only one fallopian tube does not typically cause complete infertility and many women conceive with only one working fallopian tube.
Early Pregnancy Cramps and Miscarriage
If the pregnancy is considered unviable by the female body, a spontaneous abortion may begin. During the spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, early pregnancy cramps are common. The uterus will try to eject or push out the fetus in much the same manner it pushes out the fetus during childbirth. This causes a miscarriage. In some cases, the spontaneous abortion is incomplete and a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure is required to scrape the remaining tissue from the inside of the uterus. Pregnancy after miscarriage is possible in most cases.
Early Pregnancy Cramps and Progesterone
Progesterone is one of the hormones required for a viable pregnancy. When levels of progesterone rise, ligaments loosen. Stretching of the abdomen paired with loose ligaments can result in early pregnancy cramping. The cramping may appear and disappear throughout pregnancy as the round ligaments below the abdomen are stretched to accommodate the growing fetus.
Early pregnancy cramps are part of both healthy and complicated pregnancies. In some cases, these early pregnancy cramps signal the implantation of the egg or stretching of abdominal ligaments. In other cases, early pregnancy cramps could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. Due to the wide range of possible causes of early pregnancy cramps, pregnant women should report all cramping in pregnancy to their healthcare provider. If bleeding is associated with early pregnancy cramps, emergency medical attention is required. Bleeding is different from spotting as bleeding is a steady flow of fresh, red or brown blood.