Pregnancy is one of the exciting times in a woman’s life. However, as exciting as pregnancy and the thrill of breaking the news to your family and friends may be, there are some things that people don’t tell you about pregnancy. Women undergo through tremendous body changes during pregnancy which sometimes they are not entirely prepared for.
Cramps are one of the scary things about pregnancy, and they can cause major discomfort. Cramps are normal for pregnant women, and there is no need for panic. However, that is not a consolation for expectant mothers experiencing cramps. Cramps occur in the lower abdomen for most women, and it restricts sudden movements. Sometimes you can also experience cramps in your legs because the stress the pregnancy causes on the muscles.
Why Do Cramps Occur?
Cramps during the menstrual cycle is a normal thing for most women. However, most women enter a panic mode when they experience it during pregnancy. The most common cause of cramps during pregnancy is the contraction of the uterus muscles. Most women experience severe cramps during the first and last trimester.
In the first trimester, women experience implantation cramps. It occurs when the fertilized egg is attaching itself to the uterine wall. You can know that you are experiencing implantation cramps when it occurs between 8 to 10 days of the implantation period. Even so, when you experience cramps, and you also see traces of blood then you need ASAP medical attention; it may be a sign of miscarriage.
The second-trimester women do not experience much of cramping. However, women with multiple babies will experience cramps more often because of the rapid contraction of the uterus. Uterine fibroids can also cause cramps in the second trimester. However, this rapid growth of tissues is harmless, and it happens in rare cases. Round ligament pain also occurs during the second and also the third trimester.
The third trimester needs strength; it is where all the magic happens. Cramps during this period are caused by various factors which include preterm labor, Braxton Hicks contractions, among other causes.
1. Braxton Hicks Contractions – Braxton Hicks contractions are also referred to as practice contractions. When practice contractions occur, they give you the cramped feeling. However, they are not painful but can give you restlessness and discomfort. These contractions start during the early stages of your pregnancy, but they become noticeable during the second and third trimester. Braxton Hicks contractions are infrequent and vary in intensity, but towards your last weeks, they become more frequent than in the earlier stages. Your uterus muscles contract for 30 to 60 seconds and they can be easily confused with preterm labor.
2. Sex Aftermath – An orgasm is usually a good thing until you get pregnant and it’s not. Most expectant women experience cramps after an orgasm during sex. However, these types of cramps are usually short lived, but they can be quite uncomfortable. Cramps caused by sex are not dangerous because they do not put your unborn baby at risk. Sex has various advantages to labor and pregnancy and cramps should not get in your way. But when you have sex and the cramps are followed by bleeding or intense pain then it is time to see your doctor.
3. Depriving Yourself Rest – It is good to be active during pregnancy, but there is a limit that our body can take. Your pregnancy adds stress on your muscles, and this requires you to give your body rest to relieve the stress. However, when you overwork yourself or engage in physically demanding exercise, it stresses your muscles more giving you contractions. The cramps caused during exercise or work is an indicator that your body needs rest.
When Should You Be Worried About Cramping?
The body changes that expectant mothers undergo make cramps a normal thing. However, in rare cases, cramps can be an indication of something wrong.
1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – Most pregnant women are vulnerable to UTI because the uterus reduces the size of the urinary tract increasing chances of infection. When the UTI is not treated promptly, it can cause a kidney infection. The infection of your kidney, in turn, will cause preterm labor; most babies born before time are usually low in weight. UTI can cause cramps, but that is not enough to help you know you have UTI. Some of the symptoms that can help you know you have an infection include experiencing a burning sensation when urinating, mucus and blood traces in urine, or foul urine smell.
2. Ectopic Pregnancy – Normally, the fertilized egg implants itself within the uterine cavity, but when it implants itself outside the cavity, you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous and can put your life at great risk if not diagnosed in the early stages of your pregnancy. It can result in persistent and painful cramps because it puts stress on unwanted areas. It can also rupture the organs around it, and during this period you may experience an intense and painful cramping feeling.
3. Preeclampsia – Preeclampsia is also one of the conditions with devastating effects on pregnant women. Women with a history of high blood pressure are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia. It is a condition that occurs due to placenta failing to properly function; it puts you at risk of placenta abruption. However, this condition is prevalent in the late stages of pregnancies, and it is characterized by severe cramps, intense headaches, swollen feet and hands, or reduced urine output. Sudden weight gains during the late stages of your pregnancy can also be a sign of preeclampsia.
What to Do When Experiencing Cramps
Normal cramps do not last for a long time and taking pain relievers is not a wise decision. However, there are few tricks that you can do to help you reduce discomfort and frequent cramps.
- Dehydration can increase the frequency of cramps and also the intensity of pain and discomfort. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid taking soda and other soft drinks that dehydrate you during pregnancy. However, as you stay hydrated keep in mind that full bladder can also cause cramps and it’s advisable that you empty it frequently.
- Give rest a chance. Your body will demand more rest as the pregnancy grows. The first trimester is usually hard because your body is trying to keep up with the transition and rest will reduce the cramps that are associated with this trimester.
- Warm showers or baths can also do the trick for you. They help your muscles relax which reduce the frequency and intensity of cramps. You can also get occasional leg massage to make your muscles relax.
- Watch your diet during to ensure that you eat a well-balanced diet. Sometimes cramps are caused by lack of certain minerals or vitamins in your body. Also, food rich in fiber will facilitate your system absorption rate and help you stay hydrated.
Cramps are normal, but when you realize that they are more frequent, persistent, and extremely painful, then it is advisable that you seek medical attention. Watch for other symptoms that may raise the alarm such as discharge to help you keep your baby safe. It is safer to have a false alarm during pregnancy than to miss an opportunity that would have needed medical attention.