Reasons You Might Experience Abdominal Cramping During Pregnancy

Mild abdominal cramping during pregnancy is very common. However, cramping is also something that can cause you to worry, especially if you are carrying your first baby. It is important to understand the normal, yet benign reasons for cramping, as well as those that should cause legitimate concern.

An Expanding Uterus

The normal size of a woman's uterus is approximately 2.99" x 1.77". As your fetus grows, it requires more and more space, and this causes the uterus to stretch. You can relate this to the growing pains you might have occasionally experienced when you were young. As your muscles grew to cover your growing skeletal frame, your muscles had to keep pace. During periods of growth spurts, your muscles probably ached from time to time. 

The same thing happens as your baby grows. Your uterus needs to expand to keep pace with the baby's development, and this sometimes causes cramping. There is rarely a need to be concerned about mild cramping unless it is accompanied by bleeding.

Round Ligament Stretching

The round ligament attaches the front of the uterus to the groin muscles. The round ligament stretches more and more as your belly increases in size. You might feel sharp, yet short-lived cramping when you turn quickly or change positions from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, or lying down to standing. Many pregnant women report round ligament pain when they sneeze.

Don't worry. Nothing is tearing inside your uterus, and the pain is not a sign that the umbilical cord is detaching. This type of abdominal pain should go away almost immediately, but it can become a cause for concern if it persists after you are in a resting position.

Gas and Constipation

Gas and constipation can occur together, but you might experience more gas during pregnancy even when your bowels are moving properly. Both problems can lead to abdominal cramping, but they aren't signals of a problem with your pregnancy. The best thing you can do is minimize your consumption of food that causes your level of gas to increase. You can also exercise often in order to keep your bowels moving. 

Many of the foods that cause gas promote healthy bowel movement and nutrient absorption. You need to weigh the nutritional advantages of eating gas-producing foods such as beans, asparagus, cabbage, and grain against the temporary discomforts of gas and bloating. 

Problems for Concern

You need to contact your obstetrician any time during pregnancy that you experience bleeding, regardless of whether you are spotting lightly or flowing heavily. Abdominal pain that is accompanied by tenderness can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy. The following problems often accompany abdominal pain during pre-term labor and warrant an immediate visit to the doctor's office or hospital:

  • vaginal discharge containing mucous, blood (pink or red), or water that is different from what you normally experience
  • pelvic pressure
  • more than four contractions or pains during any one-hour period

In most instances, abdominal pain during your pregnancy is nothing more than an annoyance. However, if you know the symptoms that are legitimate reasons for concern, you will have a better idea of when to notify your obstetrician and when to tolerate the discomfort. For more information, contact Women's Clinic of Johnson County or a similar location.