Cramping Early on in Pregnancy – What Does It Mean and What to Do About It?

It’s important to understand what to expect when expecting because every twinge, ache, or cramp might set off an alarm in your head. So, cramping early on in the pregnancy – what does it mean?

Right off the bat, cramping in early pregnancy means that you’re pregnant. Okay, this definition is circular, but there are medical reasons why cramping is normal during those first few weeks.

The following sections explore some of the physical and physiological processes that naturally cause cramps. And you’ll get a better idea of when it’s time to see your obstetrician.

Rapid Body Changes

As the baby grows, your body follows suit and abdominal cramping is a perfectly normal side-effect. The causes might be different and some of the common culprits include:

  1. Gastrointestinal troubles – Constipation, gas, and bloating are a real problem during pregnancy. These discomforting side effects are perfectly normal and are likely to cause mild cramps.
  2. Uterus Growth – Some women might not appear pregnant during the first weeks, but their bodies are undergoing major changes, nonetheless. The uterus stretches and grows to accommodate the baby and, in turn, you may feel lower abdomen cramps.
  3. Implantation – It’s not uncommon to feel cramps in the first or second week after conception. The fertilized egg travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus and attaches itself to the uterine wall. And again, this might cause cramps.
  4. Insufficient Hydration – If you fail to drink enough water, your muscles might warn you about it by cramping. This may apply to late pregnancy as well.

How Do These Cramps Actually Feel?

First of all, early pregnancy cramps are more like an ache – there’s little to no pain. Generally, it feels like your abdomen is stretching or pulling and the sensation can be compared to menstrual cramps.

Overall, the cramps are mild and aren’t accompanied by any other symptoms, therefore there’s no reason for concern. At this point, you’re probably wondering about the cramps that should prompt you to see a doctor.

As a rule, if a pregnant woman feels severe persistent pain, she needs to see an obstetrician right away. The same goes if the cramps occur in the vagina and there’s abnormal discharge or bleeding. These symptoms might be accompanied by lightheadedness, dizziness, stomach problems, diarrhea, and neck or shoulder pain.

That said, mild dizziness and/or stomach problems are normal, but if these are followed by excruciating cramps or pain, it’s high time to visit a doctor.

Interesting Fact

An orgasm could be the reason for cramps during the first weeks of pregnancy. It occurs just after intercourse and has the intensity of menstrual cramps. On the bright side, these cramps subside fast and it doesn’t mean you should abstain from sex unless there are other symptoms.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Cramps accompanied by secondary symptoms that won’t go away might signal certain medical conditions. In the first few weeks, these could be Urinary Tract Infection, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – Some women are more prone to UTI during pregnancy. The cramps occur in the lower abdomen, accompanied by a burning sensation while a woman urinates. This is how you tell a UTI from more serious complications.
  • Ectopic pregnancy – If the cramps are really painful and occur on one side of the abdomen, it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. This means the fertilized egg became implanted outside the uterine lining or into the fallopian tube. Women who have had an ultrasound don’t need to worry about this.
  • Miscarriage – Severe cramps followed by bleeding indicate an onset of a miscarriage. In this case, a pregnant woman needs to immediately see an obstetrician.

How Long Do Early Pregnancy Cramps Last?

The duration depends on the causes. For example, UTI and ectopic pregnancy cramps are persistent and they worsen as the hours or days go by. As for the miscarriage, the cramps might be severe at the onset or rapidly grow from bad to unbearable. And again, this requires immediate medical attention.

Under normal circumstances, early pregnancy cramps are intermittent. This means they come and go for a brief period of time. The intensity is mild and if there aren’t any secondary symptoms, so feel free to try to alleviate them.

Sitting or lying in a specific position can relieve some of the abdominal pressure and relieve cramps. Worm baths help as well and you can take up a gentle yoga routine or relaxation exercise to reduce the discomforting sensation.

Important Note: Before taking up any kind of exercise, you need to have an ultrasound and have a consultation with your doctor.

How to Treat the Cramps?

It has already been established that comfortable positions, warm baths, and light exercise help. But there are a few other things you can do to lessen the ache.

Before all else, a pregnant woman needs to have her beauty sleep. Make sure to get eight hours at least to help your cells rejuvenate and reproduce. This will also allow the body to adapt to the new conditions.

Drinking plenty of water can’t be stressed enough and you shouldn’t go under eight glasses per day. As a result, it will be easier for your muscles to stretch and follow the rest of the body. In addition, gentle massages and warm compresses can relax the muscles and, thus, lessen the cramps.

Take the worm compress and apply it to the affected area, the relief should come in a few minutes. As for the massage, it should be applied to the lower back and make sure you use essential oils or creams that are suitable for pregnant women.

Finally, you can take paracetamol, but only if your obstetrician allows it. And it’s important to stress that pregnant women should never take any medication prior to doctor’s approval. This goes double for painkillers because they might cause miscarriage and other complications.

Don’t Worry, It’ll Soon Be Over

Cramping early on in pregnancy – what does it mean? The cramps indicate that your body is adapting to accommodate for the coming baby. To reiterate, there’s nothing to worry about as long as there’s no bleeding, severe pain, or other symptoms.

However, you should see an obstetrician soon after a pregnancy test reveals the good news. He or she will inform you about the sensations you can expect and the ultrasound rules out some of the serious complications.

 

References:

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0701/p34.html
https://americanpregnancy.org/your-pregnancy/cramping-during-pregnancy/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321456.php
https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Bleeding-or-pain-in-early-pregnancy
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/leg-cramps-during-pregnancy/faq-20057766

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