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Abdominal Cramping - A Puzzling Early Pregnancy Indicator

When you’re pregnant, you become hyper-aware of your body. You notice every new sensation with a clarity you’ve probably never experienced before. And when one of those sensations is abdominal cramping, you may become concerned that something’s going wrong. However, most of the time, abdominal cramping in early pregnancy isn’t indicative of a problem.

Some women experience a cramp-like sensation when they ovulate. This pain, scientifically known as mittelschmerz, may be related to the emergence of the egg from the ovary or from the muscular movements of the fallopian tubes as they move the egg toward the uterus. The fluids that are released when the egg emerges from the ovary may also cause some cramping from abdominal irritation.

If the egg is fertilized, some women also experience a cramping pain when the egg implants into the uterine wall. In addition, as the uterus begins to make changes to accommodate its new occupant, you may also experience some uterine discomfort. Generally, this should be limited in duration to the first day or two after implantation occurs.

A woman may also experience a small amount of spotting or increased vaginal discharge at the time of implantation or during those first early weeks of pregnancy. In fact, many of the symptoms of early pregnancy – tender breasts, bloating, abdominal discomfort, fatigue and spotting – are almost indistinguishable from the symptoms of an approaching menstrual period.

There are times, however, when abdominal cramping could be indicative of a problem. Normal uterine cramping tends to take place low in the abdomen, directly over the uterus. Cramping that is intense and located off to the side could be indicative of an ectopic pregnancy or appendicitis, and should be immediately evaluated by a health care professional. In addition, cramping that’s severe or accompanied by fever can also be indicative of a problem and should be evaluated by your health care professional. Finally, if you experience bleeding that’s heavier than your usual heavy menstrual period – or if you experience dizziness or fainting along with abdominal cramping – you should consult your health care professional.

On the other hand, if you experience cramping after having sexual intercourse – particularly during or after orgasm – it’s probably not cause for concern. You may also experience a small amount of spotting after sexual intercourse as well. Similarly, if you experience abdominal discomfort when your bladder is full, this too doesn’t normally indicate a problem. However, if the pain persists or worsens upon urination, talk with your health care professional as soon as possible.

Abdominal cramping can be a puzzling symptom during early pregnancy. There are many reasons that cramping can occur and although it may seem scary, it doesn’t generally indicate a problem. However, it’s definitely useful to know the signs that may indicate a problem and contact your doctor if you experience any of them. Learning to listen to your body beginning in the early stages of pregnancy will serve you well as you continue on your journey to motherhood.

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