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When Should I Worry About Cramping During My Pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your body undergoes many changes as it makes room for your little one (or two or more!). While some of these changes may be no big whoop, others, particularly things like cramping and pain, can have you quickly searching Google for their causes.

While some mild pregnancy cramps are a normal symptom of your ever-expanding body, other cramps could indicate a serious problem. Pregnancy cramps can give many women anxiety, so it’s important to know the common reasons for their occurrence and what you should do about them.

We asked Bailey Bylow, an OBGYN nurse practitioner with Banner Health, to help explain the normal causes for abdominal cramping, abnormal causes and treatment recommendations for both.

[However, if you’re experiencing severe cramping with or without bleeding, stop reading this article and call your doctor immediately.]

What’s considered normal cramping during pregnancy?

“Early on in your pregnancy, it’s natural to feel some mild cramping in your lower abdomen at infrequent times as your body prepares for your growing baby,” Bylow said.

As your belly grows, so does your uterus. This may cause you to feel some slight pulling, tugging or stretching similar to period or menstrual cramps.

“Later in your pregnancy, you may experience some mild lower abdominal discomfort due to the tightening of your uterus. These are normal as long as they occur in irregular intervals and subside on their own,” Bylow said. “A common cause later in pregnancy is due to round ligament pain, a muscle that supports the uterus. As it stretches, it can cause some mild aches and pains.”

Other causes for mild cramping include:

What should I do for mild cramping while pregnant?

Time your cramps to see how regular they are and how often you feel them. “As long as they don’t fall into the abnormal category, there are some things that you can do to make them better,” Bylow said. Some of these activities include:

  • Rest: Try to sit, lie down or change positions.
  • Soak in the tub: Take a warm soak in the tub or a warm shower.
  • Take some acetaminophen: Products like Tylenol are commonly used by pregnant women for pain and fever but talk to your health care provider first.
  • Practice deep breathing: Use relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or controlled breathing.
  • Stay hydrated: Pregnant women need 50 percent more water. Keep a bottle of water on hand wherever you go.

When should I be concerned about cramping during pregnancy?

While it is common to experience cramping, there are some serious causes of abdominal pain you shouldn’t ignore.

“Any cramping that is severe in intensity, occurs at regular intervals and progressively gets worse with time is abnormal,” Bylow said. “In addition, any amount of cramping associated with sharp pain, vaginal bleeding, increased/watery vaginal discharge, or pelvic pressure is not normal either.”

Some causes for abnormal cramping may be due to:

What should I do if I’m concerned about the cramping?

It’s normal to experience some mild cramping during pregnancy, but always speak with your health care provider if you are ever concerned or are experiencing the above warning symptoms.

“In some cases, an ultrasound can be done to help determine the cause for severe cramping,” Bylow said. “Sometimes severe cramping can be the first sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. Other times, it could be non-pregnancy related issues like a bladder infection or constipation which are quite common in pregnancy.”

When it comes to your health and the health of your baby, it’s better to err on the side of caution and talk to your health care provider.

You can find a Banner Health specialist near you by visiting bannerhealth.com.

Related pregnancy articles:

Minor updates were made to this article on March 29, 2024.

Women's Health Pregnancy