Cramps are medically defined as ‘painful involuntary muscles contraction causing discomfort and pain.’
Cramps are very common in pregnancy and are believed to be due to the normal changes occurring due to the development of your baby. A few days after the fertilization of egg by the sperm, the embryo attaches itself to the uterine wall. This is the time when cramping and spotting can occur. The pregnancy cramps are similar to menstrual cramps.
Causes of Pregnancy Cramps
Usually, cramps occur due to the expansion of uterine ligaments and musculature. As your uterus expands, the ligaments and muscles supporting it stretch more than usual and you experience mild cramping in the abdomen. They are more pronounced when you cough, sneeze or upon change of positions.
Cramps During Early Pregnancy
Abdominal cramps are counted as one of the early symptoms of pregnancy. As your body gears up for pregnancy and a baby, mild pregnancy pains are linked to the normal physical changes that your body is going through now. A little spotting with cramps at roughly the same time as your period is a sign that the embryo has implanted itself to the womb. This is again nothing to worry about, if the pain is not severe and you do not experience gastrointestinal symptoms and dizziness.
Cramps During Second Trimester
The belly starts to grow in the second trimester. The round ligament of uterus is the main cause of cramps in the second trimester. As it stretches, you experience a stabbing and dull ache in the lower abdomen.
Mild cramping is quite common in pregnancy and should not be worried about. Many pregnancies mark abdominal cramps as one of the early symptoms of pregnancy.
Other important causes of cramps involve:
- Bloating and flatulence
- Sexual intercourse
Managing Pregnancy Cramps
Here are a few things that you can do to ease the discomfort associated with pregnancy cramps.
- Try to change position, sit or lie down
- Do some light relaxing exercises
- Curl on a sofa with a magazine pr a novel and a hot water bottle
- Breathing exercises are also helpful in easing the pain
- Sit in a tub full of lukewarm water
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Ask someone to give you a gentle, warm massage on your lower back
- Snuggle in the bed or the sofa with a warm water bag and a read
If pain still does not subside then consult your doctor for pain killers.
Alarming Concerns For Cramping During Pregnancy
Though cramps are common in pregnancy but there are a few conditions which should be borne in mind when your cramps during your pregnancy are more often and severe.
- Eccyesis or Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency when fertilized egg is implanted in fallopian tubes, broad ligament, or any other place except uterus. Eccyesis is very fatal for the mother as the internal hemorrhage caused can prove to life-threatening or the mother.
Most of the ectopic pregnancies are seen at the distal end of fallopian tubes (93 – 97 percent).
If you experience pain or cramps at either side of lower abdomen, immediately consult your doctor who will ask you to get the necessary ultrasonography done to rule out the presence of an ectopic pregnancy
Spotting per vagina accompanied by varying degree of cramps can be a potential sign of abortion or miscarriage. Do not take cramps and spotting lightly, consult your doctor immediately
- Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infection is a very distressing condition characterized by difficulty in urination, burning in urination, urgency and increased frequency of urine
- Placental abruption
Placental abruption is the separation of placenta from the uterine wall before the birth of the baby. This condition can be signaled by painful cramps lasting for long durations
Preeclampsia is pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure and appearance of protein in urine. High blood pressure or hypertension in severe forms can cause sharp intense pain in upper abdomen
- Preterm Labor
Preterm labor also called premature labor is the onset of labor pains before 36 completed weeks of pregnancy. Abdominal pain, increased pressure and cramps are important sign of preterm labor
Cramps can also be due to food poisoning, appendicitis, pancreatitis, fibroids, bowel obstruction, gall bladder disease, stomach insects.
Following cramps are NOT to be Ignored
- Severe prolonged pain not subsiding by mild analgesics
- Low abdominal pain associated with contractions
- Cramps associated with vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Cramps associated with dizziness and gastrointestinal symptoms
Remember, cramps are a curable condition and if it becomes intolerable, immediately consult your doctor to avoid any medical emergency.