Cramping in Early Pregnancy

Cramping in Early Pregnancy

Cramping during all stages of pregnancy is normal, unless it’s accompanied by severe pain or bleeding. During the earliest stages of pregnancy some women mistake the cramping for their menstrual cycle. This could be due to the fact that they may experience a little spot bleeding too. Spotting and cramping are classic symptoms of implantation. Implantation occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. In most cases, the spotting disappears within two or three days, but the cramping remains.

What Causes Cramping during Early Pregnancy?

The most common cause of cramping during the early stages of pregnancy is due to implantation. Other potential causes may be one or more of the following:

In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the uterus begins expanding to accommodate growth of the baby. Round ligament pain can also contribute to cramping, but tends to commonly occur during the fourth and sixth months of gestation. Still, the round ligament and other ligaments begin stretching to support the expansion of the uterus and growing baby early on, causing abdominal cramps.

Most women do not know a chemical pregnancy has occurred since the pregnancy typically comes and goes by the time a woman’s menstrual cycle is due. You would need to test yourself shortly after ovulation and receive a faint positive pregnancy test result. Testing within a week or two afterwards typically yields a negative pregnancy test result. For most women, the false positive and negative test, followed by their menstrual cycle that is either on time or a couple days late is assurance a chemical pregnancy has occurred.

Miscarriages, on the other hand, are usually accompanied by additional symptoms such as severe pain and moderate to heavy bleeding. In most cases, the pregnancy was known prior to the miscarriage. On average, miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, but can occur up to the 20th week. Miscarrying after the 20th week of gestation is known as stillbirth.

At the moment of conception our body begins to produce hormones. The most common hormones are estrogen, progesterone, and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Each hormone affects the body differently. However, during the early stages of pregnancy each hormone is being produced in high levels, which can lead to aches, pains and cramps.

Treating Cramps in Early Pregnancy

If you are experiencing cramping during the early stages of pregnancy, try drinking water while the cramp is occurring. Standing up and/or walking around is said to help reduce the cramps. Exercising throughout your pregnancy can also benefit your current cramps, as well as potential cramps later in your pregnancy. Pelvic tilts and kegel exercises are known to strength your pelvic and abdominal muscles. Plus, they are known to reduce pain during labor and delivery since the uterus and surrounding muscles and ligaments are strong and able to handle the size and pressure of the baby. Try taking a warm shower or bath, use a heat compress on your lower back, or ask your partner for a massage. Talk with your health care provider about dosages and other pertinent information before taking over-the-counter medications for pain relief. Although acetaminophen is commonly used on pregnant women, too much of this drug can lead to problems with your liver.

When to Contact Your Doctor or Midwife

It’s important to remember that cramps during pregnancy are common and normal. Keyword: normal. Anytime you are concerned, you should contact your health care provider. If the cramps are not intense or accompanied by other symptoms, you may want to wait a day or two to see if the cramps go away on their own. Contact your health care provider immediately if:

  • Bleeding is heavy or progressively intensifies
  • Appearance of pink or gray tissue clots in your discharge
  • Spotting for 3-4 days, followed by cramps
  • Lower belly becomes tender as cramps occur
  • Severe pain for 24 hours, may become unbearable to move
  • Severe pain on one side of your lower abdomen

If you think you are pregnant but have not yet been confirmed and are experiencing symptoms of a pregnancy, contact your doctor or midwife for a blood analysis and a confirmation of a healthy pregnancy. In most cases, if anything is wrong, early detection is best.

[Page updated June 2013]