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An Overview of Pregnancy Cramps

When youíre pregnant, youíll experience an entire host of new sensations. Unfortunately, not all of those sensations will be pleasant. As you may already know, when youíre pregnant, youíre going to experience some cramping.

For starters, some women experience mild cramping at implementation Ė when the fertilized egg burrows into the uterine lining. But as the woman hasnít yet missed her period, she may attribute this to premenstrual cramping.

In early pregnancy, if you notice pain and cramping in the lower abdomen that becomes more localized and more intense Ė especially if itís located on only one side Ė call your health care provider as soon as possible. This could be a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy and should be evaluated right away.

The next type cramping a woman may experience occurs as her uterus begins to grow and expand. Some women experience this sensation, while others donít, but fortunately, itís not particularly painful. However, as the uterus continues to grow, many women experience round ligament pain. The round ligaments are those ligaments that hold the uterus in place. As the uterus begins to expand and move upward, these ligaments begin to stretch. For some women, this is accompanied by a cramping sensation, while others experience a type of achiness low in the abdomen.

During sexual intercourse, orgasming may cause uterine contractions. These can be pleasurable for some women, and feel like menstrual cramps to others. Whatever your experience, know that they usually pass quickly.

In addition, as the weight of the pregnant uterus begins to pull forward against the back, many women experience backaches and pains in their hips and legs. Some women also experience cramps in their calves, which can usually be relieved by resting, stretching and increasing their hydration and calcium intake.

Around month six or seven, the mother-to-be will begin to experience cramps known as Braxton Hicks contractions. For some women, these feel like menstrual cramps. These cramps are the uterus beginning to prepare for labor. They will occur more frequently and be stronger as your due date approaches. Your health care provider can help you distinguish between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor contractions.

Beyond these normal cramps, know that any cramping after 20 weeks can be indicative of preterm labor. If you suspect you could be in labor, call your health care provider.

Most of the cramps you feel during pregnancy are just part of a normal pregnancy. However, if you notice any of the following Ė especially if youíre at high risk for premature labor Ė contact your health care provider immediately:

  • More than four cramps or contractions of the uterus in the space of one hour
  • Pain in your back, abdomen or pelvis
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Any cramping or pain accompanied by bleeding or fever
  • If you experience cramping and heavy bleeding together with the passing of clots or grayish material, call your health care provider on your way to the emergency room

Above all, trust your instincts. Even first time mothers have excellent instincts about when things are OK and when things feel off. If you think something is wrong, call your health care provider right away.

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