Could cramps be the first symptoms of pregnancy? During pregnancy, cramps can often be a reason for alarm. The female body undergoes dramatic changes in the first few weeks of gestation and these changes can cause cramping and be the first sign and symptoms of pregnancy.
The First Few Weeks and Pregnancy Cramping and Cramps
One of the first changes to occur in the female body in preparation for the new baby is the release of additional female hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These hormones tell the uterus to expand, among other messages to the female body. Once the uterus begins the growth process, the mild pregnancy cramping may occur, and these could be the first sign and pregnancy symptom. Many women have no idea they are pregnant when these first cramps are felt and can easily be misinterpreted as menstruation cramping.
However, if your cramping is more severe than you expect, especially if the pain is on the right or left side, then you should see your doctor immediately because this could be a sign of a life-threatening condition called ectopic pregnancy.
Even earlier than the uterine growth is the attachment of the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus. This attachment can actually be felt as mild cramping as well. Along with this cramping light spotting can occur, thus adding to the idea that the normal monthly cycle will start.
Causes of Pregnancy Cramping During Your First Trimester
- Implantation cramping - Some women will experience cramping upon implantation. Implantation usually occurs 8-10 days after ovulation. You should not experience implantation cramping after a positive pregnancy test, however many a woman has experienced cramping only to find that she is indeed pregnant shortly there after.
- Stretching uterus - As your body prepares for it's new baby your uterus will stretch and expand. The ligaments that support the uterus will stretch and with this stretching may cause mild cramps.
- Miscarriage - Cramping during early pregnancy, especially accompanied by spotting or bleeding, is a warning sign of a possible miscarriage.
- Ectopic pregnancy - Ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Signs of an ectopic pregnancy include cramping and abdominal pain (particularly on one side), spotting, or bleeding.
- Other causes of cramping during early pregnancy - constipation or gas pains. Pregnant women often have problems with constipation. This can lead to uncomfortable cramping as well.
Pregnancy Cramping and Cramps During Pregnancy - Trimesters Two and Three
Once the body has started the growth process, the uterus will grow until the baby is ready to live outside the womb. This growth will continue to expand the uterus and stretch the ligaments that attach the uterus to the walls of the abdomen. These ligaments will be more flexible than normal, thanks to the additional hormones in the body, but this does not mean the pregnant mom will not feel the stretch as cramping during pregnancy.
Pregnancy cramping and other cramps during pregnancy are also associated with the end of the third trimester or labor. During the pregnancy, the uterus may begin training of sorts for the birth ahead. This training is called the Braxton Hicks contraction. These mild contractions will feel very similar to a cramp and should be noted and followed just in case they turn into a real early labor situation. One of the most common reasons for hospital attention in the third trimester, before birth, is false labor due to the strength of the Braxton Hicks contractions.
If the contractions felt appear at regular, shortening intervals and increase in severity, mom may be in labor and should seek the advice of her Ob/Gyn.
Causes of Pregnancy Cramping During Trimester Two and Three
- Labor - During early labor cramping and back pain are common symptoms.
- Round ligament pain - The infamous round ligament pain strikes pregnant women often in their second and third trimester. As in early pregnancy the uterus continues to stretch and grow. As the uterus expands the ligaments stretch to support it. Mild cramping may occur.
- Preterm labor - Cramping, mild or severe, diarrhea, and back pain can all be indicators of preterm labor.
- Braxton Hicks contractions - In the second and third trimester pregnant women will often have Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are the irregular intermittent contractions that occur during pregnancy.
When to Call the Doctor For Pregnancy Cramping and Pregnant Cramps
While there are harmless reasons for cramping when a woman is pregnant and during pregnancy, there are also serious medical conditions and events that can also be presented as cramping during pregnancy. If the pregnant women feels cramping that is accompanied by bleeding from the vagina or cramping that increases in strength over a period of time, the obstetrician should be called immediately or the pregnant mom should seek immediate medical attention.
You can rarely distinguish Braxton Hicks from labor contractions. So especially if you are under 37 weeks you should always let your doctor know when you have regular pregnancy cramping or cramps in pregnancy.
Cramping during pregnancy is a very common occurrence, but any mother who experiences pregnancy cramps and cramping should report the cramps and the severity of the pain.
Pregnancy cramping or cramps can be acceptable, but they can also be a sign of medical distress and only a medical professional will be able to determine whether the cramps during pregnancy are affecting mom and baby.