Early pregnancy cramps are a result of the many physical changes in the body, and they are caused by a variety of reasons. While the severity of early pregnancy cramps differs from one pregnant woman to the next, they should never be extremely painful. Severe cramps in early pregnancy could be a sign of pregnancy complications.
Cramps can be caused by the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. 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.
Progesterone is one of the hormones required for a healthy 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.
In some cases, the egg will implant in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus and will result in an ectopic pregnancy. 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. However, having only one fallopian tube does not typically cause complete infertility, and many women conceive with only one working fallopian tube.
During a miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), 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) is required to scrape the remaining tissue from the inside of the uterus. Pregnancy after miscarriage is possible in most cases.
Due to the wide range of possible causes of early pregnancy cramps, pregnant women should report all cramping in pregnancy to their doctor/midwife. If bleeding (a steady flow of fresh, red or brown blood) is associated with early pregnancy cramps, emergency medical attention is required.