Cramping in Early Pregnancy


Cramps during pregnancy are common in first trimester. Find more about what causes pregnancy cramping in early pregnancy, how to relieve cramps and when to call the doctor.


What is Cramping?

Cramping during pregnancy is a mild to severe pain felt in the abdominal region or legs. Pregnant mothers describe cramping as a tight contraction of muscles of the abdomen, similar to period pain. It can be sharp, uncomfortable or may feel like the pelvis dragging down of heaviness. 

Cramping in Early Pregnancy

Abdominal cramps are more common in the first trimester while leg cramps begin in the latter half of pregnancy. Some women may experience cramps even before they find out they are pregnant. In fact, some consider cramping as one of the very early signs of pregnancy though there is no substantial evidence to prove this observation. Not all pregnancies are associated with cramping, however. A normal pregnancy can proceed without the pregnant mother experiencing cramping at all during her pregnancy. 

What causes Cramping in Early Pregnancy?

Pregnant mothers who experience abdominal cramping in early pregnancy may associate it with an impending miscarriage. Though miscarriage could be one of the causes, cramping can occur due to one of the following reasons:

Implantation Cramps

When the embryo reaches the uterus, it begins to implant into the wall of the uterus which some believe can cause cramping in early pregnancy. This generally happens around the time of the expected period date when most women may not even know that they are pregnant. This is considered common and not a sign of worry.

Stretching Cramps

As the uterus begins to expand to accommodate the growing baby, the stretching of the surrounding ligaments and muscles may cause mild cramping in the abdomen. It usually doesn’t last long and is not a concern unless the pain becomes severe which calls for immediate attention.

Cramping due to Miscarriage

One of the worst fears about cramping in early pregnancy is if it could be a miscarriage. Mild pain in the lower abdomen could be because of other reasons. However, cramping pain along with vaginal bleeding is an alert signal to a miscarriage.

Gastric problems, orgasm and sex, strenuous exercise and ectopic pregnancy are the other causes of cramping in early pregnancy.

How to relieve cramping in early pregnancy?

Most often, cramps during pregnancy subside by itself over time. Cramping is a part of normal progress of pregnancy and needs no special medication or treatment. A few tips, however, to alleviate mild cramps (when you are sure that it isn't a sign of a serious concern) are:

  • Try a warm water bath to soothe the stretching muscles.
  • Change the position. Try walking after a long rest or lying down after long hours of standing or walking. 
  • Try mild warm-up exercises. But keep a check if it's making the pain worse in which case it is better to avoid exercising.

When to call the doctor?

If cramping in early pregnancy is associated with the following symptoms, you must report to your midwife or doctor immediately:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Dizziness and/or nausea
  • Prolonged cramps


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