Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
Lower Abdominal Pain
Many women experience lower abdominal pain during the early weeks of pregnancy. There are many reasons for this. For some women occasional or sporadic abdominal discomfort during pregnancy similar to menstrual cramps may simply be a sign that your uterus is preparing to carry your baby through the next nine months of pregnancy.
Many women will experience occasional bouts of Lower abdominal pain during pregnancy. While frightening at best abdominal pain during pregnancy is usually a normal and harmless condition. Lower abdominal pain during pregnancy can sometimes suggest a more serious problem however, so it is important you consult with your health care provider if you have any concerns regarding abdominal pain during pregnancy.
Abdominal pain that comes on suddenly, persistent, and severe, and associated with other problems such as nausea, vomiting, vaginal bleeding, or contractions suggests the pain is not due to normal pregnancy changes but some other problem.
Normal Changes in Pregnancy that Cause Abdominal Pain
The Enlarging uterus as it raises out of the pelvis places pressures on the lower back and abdomen and produces pain. The enlarged uterus may also compress the ureter, (the tube between the bladder and the kidney) making it difficult for urine to pass down the ureter causing intermittent severe lower abdominal pain. This pain can mimic the pain associated with passing a kidney stone, or bladder infection.
In addition, the Hormonal changes during pregnancy can decrease lower esophageal sphincter tone (esophageal reflux) causing symptoms of indigestion and dyspepsia.
Pregnancy Health Section
Pregnancy Related Causes of Abdominal Pain
Non-Pregnancy Related Causes of Lower Abdominal Pain
- Acute appendicitis — Appendicitis is the most common cause of right quadrant, lower abdominal pain that requires surgery during pregnancy. The most symptom of appendicitis, is low grade fever and right lower quadrant pain.
The good news is most women will experience mild abdominal discomfort throughout their pregnancy that occasionally occurs from the uterus stretching, from gas or even from constipation.
Cramping in Early Pregnancy
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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, which 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?
Implantation is the most common cause of cramping during the early stages of pregnancy. Other potential causes include:
The uterus preparing for the baby
In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the uterus begins expanding to accommodate the growth of the baby. Round ligament pain can also contribute to cramping.
This tends to occur during the fourth and sixth months of gestation, when the round ligament and other ligaments begin stretching to support the expansion of the uterus and growing baby early on, causing abdominal cramps.
A chemical pregnancy is an early miscarriage. Most women do not even know a chemical pregnancy has occurred since the pregnancy typically comes and goes by the time a woman’s menstrual cycle is due.
A chemical pregnancy can only be detected by administering the test shortly after ovulation. 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 a menstrual cycle that is either on time or only a couple days late, may indicate that a chemical pregnancy has occurred.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg implants outside the uterus. This is a serious medical condition for which immediate treatment should be sought.
Miscarriages, on the other hand, are usually accompanied by 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 they can occur up to the 20 th week. Miscarriage after the 20 th 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 Cramping in Early Pregnancy
If you are experiencing cramping during the early stages of pregnancy, try drinking water while the cramping is occurring. Standing up and walking around is also said to help reduce cramping.
Exercising throughout your pregnancy can reduce the incidence of cramps. Pelvic tilts and kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic and abdominal muscles, and they can also reduce pain during labor and delivery by making the uterus and surrounding muscles and ligaments strong enough to handle the pressure caused by the baby.
Try taking a warm shower or bath, using a heat compress on your lower back, or asking your partner for a massage.
Talk with your healthcare 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
It’s important to remember that cramps during pregnancy are common and normal. If you are you are concerned, however, you should contact your healthcare provider.
If the cramps are not intense and they are not accompanied by other symptoms, you may want to wait a day or two to see if they go away on their own. Contact your healthcare provider immediately, however, if:
- Bleeding is heavy or intensifies
- Pink or gray tissue clots appear in your discharge
- You experience spotting for three or four days, followed by cramps
- Your lower belly becomes tender when cramps occur
- You experience severe pain for 24 hours
- You experience severe pain on one side of your lower abdomen
If you think you may be pregnant and are experiencing symptoms of pregnancy, contact your doctor for a blood analysis. If anything is wrong, early detection is best.
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Causes of Cramping During Early Pregnancy and Should You be Worried?
I am not a medical professional. This article does not substitute for medical attention!
Cramping during pregnancy can occur for a number of reasons, but first-time mothers in particular are often frightened of what it means when those first pains begin early on in pregnancy. If you’re concerned about cramping, this article should help you to determine if you should be worried about what the cramps mean. You should always be encouraged to call your doctor or midwife with any questions that you may have about your pregnancy, but in the meantime, continue reading for more information on the common causes of cramping during pregnancy.
Please note that if you are experiencing cramping combined with vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, you should seek medical attention right away!
Cramping During Pregnancy Has Many Causes
Cramping during pregnancy may not be something to worry about, but there are potentially dangerous causes of cramping during pregnancy (many of which are caused by things unrelated to pregnancy). Knowing the causes of cramping can help you to be empowered to talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your body, so make yourself aware of the different causes of cramping. The earlier in your pregnancy you arm yourself with information, the less likely you are to panic when discomfort strikes later on in pregnancy. Be prepared, and you’ll feel much calmer and safer in the long run.
This article lists possible causes of cramping during pregnancy, beginning with issues which are not directly related to pregnancy (since some of these may be the most serious that you’ll deal with). If you feel that you’re having a medical emergency, call your doctor or midwife immediately, or get yourself to the nearest emergency room. Cramping can be a sign of something dangerous.
If you experienced cramping during pregnancy, did you have a healthy child?
Implantation occurs so early in pregnancy that you won’t yet know that you’re pregnant. The body doesn’t begin producing the pregnancy hormone until after implantation occurs, and therefore a pregnancy test won’t give a positive result (until there is sufficient hCG in your urine to measure).
Some women experience minor cramping at the time of implantation, and many will also experience some minor bleeding. This is nothing to be concerned about. After implantation occurs, you should be able to get a positive pregnancy test within three to five days, depending on the amount of hCG in your urine and the strength of the test.
This is the very earliest point in pregnancy.
Avoid taking painkillers during your pregnancy. Most of them are in one way or another dangerous to yourself and your unborn child. It’s best that you attempt to find holistic healing methods or something homeopathic to help you with the pain that you’re experiencing. In particular, avoid the following:
- NSAIDs (including Ibuprofen and Naproxin).
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be safe for use during pregnancy according to doctors and pharmacists, but when taking in large amounts it is damaging to the liver. What damages your liver also damages your baby’s liver, and you may wish to be careful about all pain killers as a result.
Round Ligament Pain — Nothing to Be Concerned About
During pregnancy, your ligaments begin to loosen up in order to allow for the expansion of your hips and pelvis (in order to accommodate and birth the baby). The hormones which cause this loosening affect all of the ligaments in your body. You may experience joint pain as a result of this, but it will also cause some pain in the abdominal area. Ligaments in your abdomen support the muscles and also help to support your growing infant.
These pains feel very similar to period pains, and therefore many women think of them as “cramps.” In fact, it’s just your body settling. Because these pains can be quite painful, they are concerning in particular to first-time mothers who are under-educated about the causes of such pains.
Ligament pains are nothing to be worried about, even if they are quite painful. They will pass in time. Most women experience these pains very early in pregnancy and then again between weeks 16 and 20 (and sometimes beyond). Try not to worry: This is all quite normal. In fact, if you’re experiencing pains that feel like period pains, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. The pain associated with labor and miscarriage is quite different than the pain of having a period and you’ll feel the difference.
Braxton Hicks Contractions — Practice for Labor
Later in pregnancy (starting around 16 weeks), you may begin to feel some cramping in your abdomen along with a tightening sensation. This type of cramping is referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions, and these contractions prepare your body and the baby for the coming labor and birth.
These will feel different than the period-like pains that you’ll feel if you’re having round ligament pain, and you will distinctly notice that your abdomen becomes hard. Sometimes these contractions are painful and sometimes they aren’t, but don’t allow anyone to tell you that “practice contractions” shouldn’t be painful for you. Every woman’s body is different, and if they hurt, they hurt. Once again, you’ll know if you’re in labor or having a miscarriage. The pain from Braxton Hicks contractions is general minimal.
Concerning Cramps During Pregnancy
The following type of cramping may be concerning for pregnant women, and you should consider these with some caution. If you believe that you may be experiencing one of these types of cramping, please contact your doctor or midwife immediately and let them know what’s going on.
Most of all, trust your instincts while you’re pregnant. Nothing beats maternal instinct. If something hurts and alarm bells are going off in your mind, contact a doctor or midwife.
Bladder Pain Indicates Urinary Tract, Bladder, or Kidney Infection
Urinary Tract and Bladder Infections may be more common in pregnancy than at other times in a woman’s life due to the changes in hormones and the frequent need to urinate. They can be prevented by following some simple steps, but women should be aware that the changes in hormones may result in a shifting pH balance in the urinary tract, leading to infection. Cramping in the lower abdomen, particularly when urinating, may be caused by a urinary tract infection.
These aren’t necessary anything to worry too much about. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic that will help you to recover from the infection. Do note that these antibiotics may cause yeast infections, so you should make sure that you are prepared for this possibility. Eating yogurt is believed to ward off yeast infection, so this is certainly an option.
This pain doesn’t feel like period pains, so you’ll recognize the difference. It’s a painful tightening in the lower abdomen, where your bladder is. If you feel this type of pain, you should talk to your doctor right away to get the necessary medication. Bladder infections and UTIs can cause problems in pregnancy, including the possibility of miscarriage.
Severe Cramping During Pregnancy is Never Good
Severe cramping during pregnancy — such that you have trouble catching your breath — is never a good sign. If you’re experiencing unusual cramping (that which doesn’t feel familiar, like period pains), call your doctor right away! This type of cramping can indicate a problem, including miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. You’ll need to have an ultrasound to reveal the condition of your pregnancy and determine whether or not your pregnancy remains viable (whether the fetus is still living, or exists at all). Call your doctor for advice. She’ll probably recommend that you take a trip to the hospital.
If you are experiencing cramping accompanied with bleeding during pregnancy, visit the hospital’s ER right away! The combination of bleeding and cramping often indicates miscarriage is already occurring, and you will need medical confirmation and, if you choose, a D&C (dilation & curettage.)
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