First trimester cramping isn't necessarily a sign that anything is amiss, but a pregnant woman should report it to her doctor. It is quite normal to experience some discomfort early in pregnancy, but there are other situations where this symptom may indicate that a miscarriage is in progress.
Normal Sensations in Early Pregnancy
When a woman conceives, her uterus must expand to accommodate the growing fetus. Along with the uterus changing shape, the ligaments that support it must stretch. This combination of events can result in some mild cramping. If the cramping is on the side of the abdomen, as opposed to being in the middle, the likely explanation for the first trimester cramping is these types of growing pains.
The mother-to-be can lessen the effects of the cramping by taking good care of herself from the outset. Eating well and making a point of staying well-hydrated can help keep the uterus functioning properly as it grows. As long as the doctor has no objections, a pregnant woman can stay physically active during pregnancy since increasing the blood flow to the lower abdomen may help lessen the cramping sensations.
Mild Cramping and Spotting
An episode of light bleeding and cramping in early pregnancy doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong. It could be the result of the embryo implanting itself in the wall of the uterus. Some women even mistake the episode for a menstrual period and don't realize that they are pregnant.
When to Call the Doctor About First Trimester Cramping
When a pregnant woman experiences cramping accompanied by any of the following symptoms, she needs to call her doctor right away. If the doctor is not available, then a trip to the Emergency Room is in order:
- Heavy bleeding
- Vaginal discharge
- Tenderness or pain
If the cramping doesn't stop after the woman rests for a few minutes, she should contact her physician.
Signs of Possible Miscarriage
When first trimester cramping is accompanied by bleeding and pain in the center of the lower abdomen, these may be signs of a possible miscarriage. If a pregnant woman experiences these symptoms, she should sit or lie down with her feet up and call the local emergency number. A doctor will need to conduct an examination to determine if a miscarriage has taken place, is threatening, or is in progress.
If a pregnancy shows signs of miscarrying, the doctor may suggest that she remain on bed rest for several days to give the uterus a chance to settle down. This measure may not stop a miscarriage that is going to occur anyway, since most of the time an early miscarriage is caused by some type of abnormality with the fetus.
Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy is another complication that women may be concerned about. It occurs when the egg is fertilized as normal, but implantation occurs somewhere other than inside the uterus. Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include cramping and pain. Most of the time the pain starts on one side of the abdomen and then spreads to the other.
If a pregnant woman suspects ectopic pregnancy, she should contact her doctor right away. This can be a life-threatening condition and it requires immediate medical attention if diagnosed.
Cramping in the first stages of pregnancy can be a normal part of the process. It's far better to be safe than sorry, and if a pregnant woman is concerned about her symptoms, she should contact her doctor.