Pregnancy cramps can be a scary thing for a pregnant woman. The cramps may be light and barely noticeable or strong and painful. They can signal a problem in pregnancy or be no cause for concern at all. It is best that pregnant women understand early and late pregnancy cramps and the potential causes.

Pregnancy Cramps in the First Trimester

Pregnancy Cramps

Physical changes start occurring just moments after the egg is fertilized. One of the first pregnancy cramps a woman can feel are implantation cramps. About 10 days after ovulation, the fertilized egg will implant in the uterus. There may be light to severe cramping and spotting associated with the act of implantation. Most women have no idea they are pregnant at this point and believe the pregnancy cramps to be a sign that the next menstrual cycle is about to start.

After implantation and a positive pregnancy test, women may be a bit more sensitive to pregnancy cramps. As the fetus and uterus grow, muscle and ligaments must stretch to accommodate growth. This can cause pregnancy cramps in the lower stomach and back. Lower back pain and pregnancy cramps are also associated with constipation during pregnancy.

Not all pregnancy cramps are a common symptom of pregnancy. If cramping occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy, feels severe and is accompanied by bleeding or heavy spotting, there could be cause for concern. Possible problems could include an ectopic pregnancy or impending miscarriage. 

Later Gestation Pregnancy Cramps

By the time the end of the third trimester rolls around, women are often used to the common pregnancy cramps that occur throughout the pregnancy. Then, out of nowhere, new pregnancy cramps symptoms start to occur. The first pregnancy cramps symptoms women often feel during later gestation are Braxton Hicks contractions. These are like lessons for the uterus.

Practicing contractions is important to “getting things right” when labor begins. As the final two-weeks of pregnancy approaches, pregnancy cramps may change. Braxton Hicks contracts can move to active labor contractions at any time. If pregnancy cramps are severe and the pain radiates around the back, or is accompanied by the bag of waters breaking, it is time to call the physician and head to the hospital. Pregnancy cramps during labor will progressively last longer and get stronger until the baby is pushed through the birth canal and born.