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Abdominal Cramps During Pregnancy: What You Need To Know

What’s the best pregnancy?

A pregnancy without complications.

Mild aches and pains, meeting all your trimester milestones, a 40-week-ish term, and nothing out of the ordinary during delivery is the ideal goal. Many women are lucky enough to go through a totally adorable and uneventful pregnancy. Most of us, however, experience discomfort and symptoms we never knew existed!

If this is your first baby, it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between an emergency, or your uterus making its's way into your abdomen.

Here Is What You Need To Know About Abdominal Cramping During Pregnancy

Not all cramps are created equal. In fact, they can be very normal and often are just stretched ligaments screaming for some TLC. If you have never felt contractions before, it’s difficult to tell what you are feeling.

It is common, for example, for your hip flexors to spasm, ache, and throb as your baby rises out of your pelvis and expands upward into your belly. These muscle aches (or round ligament pain) can be mistaken for mild contractions. A warm heating pad and some rest can cure this relatively quickly.

This is one example of harmless cramping. However, other reasons include:

  1. Constipation

  2. Increased Blood Flow to The Uterus

  3. Braxton-Hicks (fake, practice contractions.)

  4. Round Ligament Pain

  5. Dehydration (note:* this can become very dangerous and trigger labor if you remain dehydrated.) Cramps should go away after hydrating orally or after an IV.

The best cure for normal pregnancy discomfort is to drink lots of water/liquids, use a heating pad (for short periods of time and on the lowest setting), and kick your feet up while you rest. Growing a baby is hard, hard work! If you are in pain, it might be your body telling you to sit down.

Constipation can be extremely common in pregnancy, and very uncomfortable. But adding chia seeds into your diet, eating high fiber foods, consuming less processed food, drinking juices like orange and prune, and talking to your doctor is the best way to fight it.

However, cramps could be dangerous conditions such as:

  1. Preeclampsia (high blood pressure issue that is extremely dangerous.)

  2. Urinary Tract Infection (painful to urinate and sometimes causes a fever.)

  3. Miscarriage (hallmark symptom is heavy bleeding.)

  4. Ectopic Pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This is a life-threatening emergency and needs medical treatment immediately.) If you have had your first-trimester check-up and ultrasound, then your cramping is not an ectopic pregnancy. This only happens in the first trimester.

  5. Actual Labor. If your “cramps” are 10 minutes apart consistently, then this could be early labor.

If your cramping becomes more intense and does not go away after drinking water and resting, call your doctor immediately. If you experience:


*severe headache

*fever or chills

*vision changes

*burning during urination


*liquid streaming from your vagina

*more than 4 contractions in one hour

...then it’s time to call your doctor.

Doctors would rather you call them constantly (even its a false alarm) than for you to progress into an emergency. Never feel awkward or as if you are bothering them. If you are a first-time mom, it is important to be in constant communication with your OBGYN.


Many women, (mostly those who have never felt early labor contractions) don’t notice the transition from normal cramping to early labor contractions. This is important to pay attention to if you are "cramping" before 37 weeks, and considered “pre-term.”

One way to tell if your cramps are contractions is to feel if your belly is hard, then softens, then hardens in intervals of 30-70 seconds. This is a contraction (or a Braxton-hicks contraction) not a stomach or ligament pain.

You could be in labor if you have contractions every 10 minutes or less, if they don’t go away when you change positions, if you feel pelvic pressure, or if you have leaking fluid from your vagina (blood or water.) Contractions wrap around the lower back and extend to the front.

You should always call your OBGYN when you experience these symptoms.

4 Things To Do Before You Call The Doctor

When you call your doctor’s office they will ask you if you have tried anything to change your symptoms. It's better to try these before you call so your doctor can make quicker decisions and get you the care you need.

A few things your doctor will ask is:

  1. "Did you eat something?" Cramps/contractions can happen if your blood sugar is low. Try eating some fruit or some oatmeal.

  2. "Are you hydrated?" This is the most overly asked question during pregnancy, but doctors always ask it because pregnant women are never hydrated to their fullest. After all, who wants to drink more water when your belly is practically a Great Lake? Regardless, hydration can cause contractions and trigger pre-term labor. Drink a cold glass of water, lie down for 30 minutes, and then call your doctor if symptoms still persist.

  3. "How Many Baby Kicks Have You Felt?" If you have not felt your baby move within a 2-hour period, this could also be a sign of dehydration or pre-term labor. Drink ice-cold water (cold encourages baby to wake up and move!) and spend 30 minutes to an hour lying down on your side and count baby kicks.

  4. "Have you changed positions?" Fake contractions or cramps don’t like change and will go away if you lie down, stand up, move around, or put your feet up.

If you have pregnancy questions, contact us and we can connect you with the medical staff at Mary's Pregnancy Resource Center!

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