Discover why you get stomach cramps in pregnancy & find out when you should see the doctor
Should I be worried? -
While they are undoubtedly one of the more 'scary' symptoms of pregnancy, it may reassure you to know that stomach cramps aren't usually a cause for concern. Your body goes through such huge changes while you're growing a baby that cramping is often just an all-too-common side effect.
Occasionally, however, stomach cramps are a sign of a more serious problem so it's important to listen to your body and see your doctor when something doesn't feel right.
What causes stomach cramps in pregnancy? -
More often than not, cramping during pregnancy is nothing more than your body adjusting to the weight of your developing baby. It's important to remember this, to stay calm and to try not to worry unduly. Remember, only occasionally do tummy cramps signify a more serious condition.
Common causes of stomach cramps:
More serious causes of pregnancy stomach cramps:
- Implantation -
Cramping in very early pregnancy can be caused by the embryo implanting in the wall of your womb and the subsequent changes that need to occur to prepare your body to carry a child.
- Stretching -
As your pregnancy progresses, your body needs to find space for your developing baby. Stomach cramps are often just a side effect of your muscles and ligaments stretching to make room. The extra weight that carrying a baby places on your body can also cause cramping but again this is usually nothing to worry about.
- Indigestion -
Indigestion, wind and constipation are all common causes of abdominal cramping during pregnancy.
- Orgasm -
While you have no need to worry that having sex while you're pregnant is going to hurt your baby in any way, orgasms can sometimes bring on cramping in the lower back and abdomen. This will usually subside after a couple of minutes though, particularly if you get your partner to give you a back rub!!!
- Stress -
Stress and tension can sometimes bring on uncomfortable stomach cramps with or without back ache. This is because feeling stressed can cause muscles all over your body to tighten, and this can be most noticeable in areas already under strain.
When should I call the doctor? -
- Ectopic pregnancy -
A pregnancy is said to be ectopic if a fertilised embryo implants outside of the womb (usually in the fallopian tubes). Symptoms can include severe pain to one side of the abdomen, dizziness and bleeding.
- Miscarriage -
Symptoms of a miscarriage can include severe abdominal cramping with spotting or heavy bleeding.
- Pre-eclampsia -
Stomach cramps can sometimes be a symptom of the high blood pressure related condition pre-eclampsia, particularly if they are accompanied by a sudden swelling of the hands, feet and face.
- Premature labour -
Persistent stomach cramps that occur between week 24 and 36 of pregnancy could be a sign of premature labour, particularly if they are accompanied by regular contractions, back pain, diarrhoea and ruptured membranes (waters breaking).
It is a good idea to contact your midwife or doctor if you experience cramping with any of the following symptoms:
- Heavy bleeding
- Heavy discharge with/without clots
- Tenderness in your lower abdomen
- Sharp pain, particularly on one side
- Severe cramps that don't subside
That said, you know your body best and if you're worried about what might be causing cramps regardless of whether you have any other symptoms it's always worth calling your doctor for reassurance. NHS Direct (available on 0845 4647) are another advisory resource available to you.
How to soothe pregnancy stomach cramps?
To relieve some of the discomfort of pregnancy stomach cramps you could try:
Whether you have a question that only another parent-to-be can answer, or simply fancy a chat, why not visit the AskBaby forums
- Sitting down, putting your feet up and taking some time out
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Placing a warm compress or hot water bottle on your lower back
- Getting a back rub
- Taking a short walk
- Simply changing how you're sitting or standing
- Gently rubbing your tummy