What Are Cramps?
Cramps are pain experienced due to a sudden involuntary tightening of muscles. Cramps are usually seen as abdominal cramps occurring due to gastrointestinal problems, uterine muscles contracting during menstrual periods and pregnancy.
Cramps During Early Pregnancy (First Trimester)
- Implantation Cramps : During first trimester cramps can be normal. When the embryo implants itself, you may experience slight bleeding and cramps. It is called as “implantation cramping.” It is the first sign that you are pregnant. It may not happen with everybody.
- Miscarriage : Cramps during first trimester can also mean a miscarriage. Miscarriages occur due to abnormal development of egg or embryo and the body starts eliminating that along with blood and tissues accompanied by cramps. Along with cramps you may have severe back pain, passing of clot-like blood.
- Urinary Traction Infections : You may experience abdominal cramps and back pain due to UTI.
- Constipation, Bloating Gas : You may have cramps due to gas in your abdomen. It may be relieved after bowel movement.
How To Treat Cramps During First Trimester?
Cramps can be relieved by
- Warm relaxing baths
- Paracetamol tablets
- Gentle exercises, meditation, breathing exercises
- Gentle back massage
- Visit your doctor and inform her about the cramps. These are generally normal.
- If there is any underlying urinary traction infection or constipation, your doctor will treat those.
- Inform your doctor if you have any bleeding or spotting associated with cramps. Your doctor may do a scan to ensure all is well and there is no ectopic pregnancy.
Cramps During Second Trimester
During second trimester, cramps are not usually seen. Second trimester is when you do not experience any uncomfortable symptoms including cramps. This is the phase when you are most comfortable with your pregnancy.
Some Rare Occasions When Cramps Occur Are
- Women who are pregnant multiple times may experience cramps since uterus grows rapidly.
- Round ligament pain, can sometimes cause cramps. This occurs at around 13 weeks. As the uterus grows, the ligaments supporting the uterus grow causing a sharp pain.
- Urinary tract infections also may cause cramp-like pain.
- Uterine fibroids are a rare cause of cramps during second trimester. These are harmless growths which start breaking down during second trimester and cause severe pain and cramps. This usually occurs during 15 to 18 weeks of pregnancy. If you have history of uterine fibroids and are pregnant, you should observe for any cramps you may experience and visit your doctor early.
How To Treat Cramps During Second Trimester?
- If you experience normal cramps, then you may get relief by warm baths and gentle back massages and rubs.
- If cramps are due to urinary tract infections, you doctor will prescribe you pregnancy-safe antibiotics. Drinking plenty of water helps ward off UTIs.
- If your cramps are due to fibroids, you may require hospitalization until they pass.
Cramps During Third Trimester Of Pregnancy
Braxton Hicks Contractions
You may experience what is called as “Braxton Hicks contractions” during your third trimester of pregnancy. These are also called “false labor.” You may feel these cramps, are practice contractions. Your body is preparing for the real contractions at a later phase; hence these are called false labor, as it is not a time for real labor.
How Do You Differentiate Between Braxton Hicks Contraction and Real Labor?
Braxton Hicks Contractions Are
- Not frequent
- Do not increase in frequency and intensity
- Contractions stop and do not occur at frequent intervals like real labor.
When Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Occur?
- Dehydration may cause these
- After sexual intercourse
- When your bladder is full
- When baby is very active
- When mother is very active
What Do You Do When You Have Braxton-Hicks Contractions?
- Make sure that you are not in real or true labor by observing the frequency and intensity of the cramps or contractions
- When you are sure you have these, take warm baths, get back massage, rest
- Change your position, sitting from standing or walking
- Drink few glasses of water to avoid dehydration.
Even after doing the above measures if the contractions and cramps do not stop, you must visit your doctor immediately.
Cramping During Pregnancy Caused By Preterm Labor
- You may experience what is called as “preterm labor” and cramping is one of the signs.
- If you are having 6 or more contractions in an hour, then you may be having preterm labor. Preterm labor is regular uterine contractions before 37 weeks. The cervix starts dilating early for fetus to enter the birth canal for delivery.
- You may have dizziness, lightheadedness, bleeding or spotting along with cramps.
- A major sign of preterm labor is “pink discharge.” Look out for this as it may be a sign of cervical canal changing in length.
- If you have a previous history of preterm labor or ectopic pregnancy during previous pregnancies.
- Severe abdominal and back pain.
- Cramping does not reduce even with symptomatic measures like drinking water, with paracetamol, warm bath or massages. Visit your doctor immediately.
Other Normal Causes For Cramping During Pregnancy Are
- After sexual intercourse
- Due to gastrointestinal problem, bloating or gas, constipation
- Being more active without taking enough rest.
Most cramps are usually normal. They disappear fast and you have nothing to worry about when they are not accompanied with other symptoms.
- Staying well hydrated is very important during your entire pregnancy
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat small portions of meals rich in fiber, like more fruits and vegetables
- Relax more, stay less stressed out
- Do gentle stretching and regular walking
- Breathing exercises help a lot along with meditation
Keep observing for any other signs and symptoms as discussed above that may indicate some other underlying cause for cramps and visit your doctor immediately if you sense something is not right and is out of normal for you during your pregnancy.