Pregnancy is an amazing phase of life. It is a roller coaster ride with its pros and cons. Besides being filled with joy and ecstasy, it is also accompanied with some distressing situations. Tightening and lower back ache are two most common pregnancy concerns observed mostly by expectant mothers.
Stomach Tightening

Abdominal Tightening During Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about a number of changes in your body one after the other due to alteration in hormones. As your center of gravity changes, you notice pain in joints, tendons and circulatory and digestive issues. Abdominal tightening is a feeling of tightness in the abdomen and is often confused with a cramp. As your pregnancy grows, the uterus will feel hard as it brushes against the skin. If you are on the heavier side, you may feel this tightening much later than a woman who is skinny. You will feel that your stomach tightens at irregular intervals, and you might interpret them as contractions. Though this feeling of tightness does not last long, some women have reported that they have felt their stomach tighten up for as long as 5 minutes. The tightening of abdomen is often accompanied by weight gain. The increasing weight stretches the skin and Braxton Hicks contractions or prodromal labor or false labor may also set in. Braxton -Hicks contractions are helpful in preparing your body for actual true labor pains.

Abdominal Tightening In Early Pregnancy

In early pregnancy, the stretching of ligaments is responsible for abdominal tightening. As the baby grows and demands more space, the uterus stretches itself pushing the other organs. Because of this, the stomach becomes hard and tight with each passing day, and you could feel uncomfortable with your stomach being tight. Round ligament pain is fairly common during this phase of pregnancy. This may not be regular though. Besides this constipation, large meals, or flatulence can also lead to abdominal tightening.

Abdominal Tightening In Late Pregnancy

In late pregnancy the movement of the baby can result in tightening. With the advancement of pregnancy, the abdomen expands to accommodate the growing fetus. The abdominal space is shared by your organs and the growing baby. Abdominal tightening is obvious and it can be persistent in the last few months. The growing uterus and the baby’s movements can both cause the feeling of tightness in the stomach. Weight gain during pregnancy is also associated with tightening of abdomen. The fat deposited under the skin stretches your abdominal wall and causes tightening. Gastric problems are also frequent in late pregnancy that can cause the stomach to feel tighter. However, if the tightening is more pronounced and does not go away, it could be a sign of preterm or even full term labor. Progesterone hormone is sometimes used to avoid preterm labor in some cases.

Other Causes Of Stomach Tightening During Pregnancy

    Abdominal tightening

  • Braxton Hicks contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions are quite common in second and third trimester are also responsible for abdominal tightening. These contractions are often referred to as ‘false labor’ and they are known to prepare the body for actual or ‘true labor’. True labor pains or contractions come at regular intervals and are rhythmic in nature. Try to record the frequency of the contractions and their duration as well. This information is very helpful for your doctor. Read more about Braxton Hicks Contractions here
  • Placental Abruption: The placenta is important as it nourishes the growing fetus. Under normal conditions it is attached closely to the uterine muscular wall. Sometimes it detaches and descends into the lower uterine segment. Bleeding occurs and the uterus becomes firm and often tender to touch. This tightening is not temporary but lasts for long. This condition-the abruption placenta poses serious threat to the mother as well as the developing baby
  • Large meals: As your stomach is pressed for space to accommodate the growing baby and the uterus, a large meal can cause a struggle for space in the limited quarters of your stomach. It is always advised to consume healthy food at regular intervals instead of gobbling a lot of food in one sitting. You will surely feel difference if you plan your eating frequency and quantity
  • Constipation: Most women experience constipation as a side-effect of pregnancy. Constipation can cause gas and bloating and your stomach me feel solid and hard. You may feel tightening of the stomach owing to so much space constraint. You can read more about constipation in pregnancy here

When To Call The Doctor For Stomach Tightening During Pregnancy?

You should call your doctor right away if the abdominal tightening is getting longer and stronger and you fall in a high risk pregnancy. As a thumb of rule, if you notice the tightening more than times in an hour, you should meet your doctor. Following conditions require intervention from the doctor:

  • If your experience tightening more than four times an hour makes sure you immediately consult your doctor
  • If the tightness does not vanishes in few minutes and continues to persist, consult your doctor without delay
  • If you notice any breathing difficulties due to tightening of abdomen, ask your doctor for help
  • If pain is present along with abdominal tightening, do not take it lightly. Seek immediate medical help

Treating Abdominal Tightening In Pregnancy

The treatment of abdominal tightening is dependent upon the underlying cause.

  • If Braxton Hicks contractions are the root cause, then changing in position can be of help. For example if you are sitting, stand up and walk a while and vice versa
  • No treatment is needed for tightening caused by uterine contractions or due to foetal movements
  • Generally the abdominal tightening during pregnancy is quite harmless, but preterm labor can also make your abdomen tight. So do not neglect tightening of the stomach
  • Ask your doctor to tell you about breathing exercises for strengthening abdominal muscles
  • Keep yourself well hydrated so drink plenty of fluids
  • Take adequate amount of rest to keep you vitalized and rejuvenated
  • Tightening will curtail your routine activities such as wearing shoes, bending down, sleeping on your side, etc. Try to practice deep breathing exercises to help you overcome breathing problems caused by tightening

How Can I Tell The Difference Between Braxton-Hicks Contractions And True Labor?

Not always easy, but some signs can help you distinguish Braxton Hicks contractions from true labor. The first sign is that true labor is painful and even if Braxton Hicks can be discomforting, it is very rare that they will move towards your back, a definite sign of true labor. True labor are also regular, getting intense with every minute. When you are in true labor, pains will not ease with walking or changing positions, and eating anything too will not have any effect. In such a case, do call your doctor right away.
You might also feel that the baby has descended down in the lower abdomen and there will be increase in vaginal discharge-either watery or blood stained. The amniotic bag breaks down when the contractions become rapid and come in quick succession. Pain becomes unbearable and you find difficulty in walking and talking.
Remember a little discomfort is normal in pregnancy and there is nothing to be vexed about. You know it very well when it becomes more than what you can bear and the need for medical assistance arises.