Is It Normal to Have Sharp Cramps During Pregnancy?

A certain level of discomfort during the first few weeks of pregnancy is considered normal. This discomfort mostly has to do with tender breasts, back pain or sore feet. What about sharp cramps in early pregnancy? Are abdominal cramps during the first few weeks of pregnancy a normal thing or should pregnant women get concerned?

Is It Normal to Have Sharp Cramps During Pregnancy?

Abdominal discomfort and especially sharp cramps could be a sign of a serious problem which should worry you and make you seek medical help and proper advice. Never ignore severe abdominal pain which does not resolve within a couple of minutes. Call your health care provider immediately in cases when abdominal pain and sharp cramps are accompanied with:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal spotting
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Urination discomfort or painful urination
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Lightheadedness

Benign Causes of Cramps in Early Pregnancy

In cases of sharp cramps, early pregnancy may be meeting the following conditions. The good news is that there is no need of concern.

1. Implantation

The implantation of the embryo to the uterus lining causes the known implantation cramping. Implantation cramping is considered as an early sign of pregnancy, sometimes even associated with light spotting. Both implantation cramping and light spotting tend to resolve quickly.

2. Gas and Constipation

Gas, bloating and constipation are common problems for pregnant women, which can sometimes cause a cramping sensation. This occurs due to the fact that the pregnancy hormones slow down the metabolism. The growing uterus also puts pressure on your intestines while the pregnancy progresses, which will slow down your digestion. 

3. Cramps After Orgasm

In a low-risk pregnancy, these cramps after orgasm are normal, sometimes even accompanied with a backache. Cramps are also possible due to an increased blood flow in the pelvic area during a sexual intercourse. There is nothing for you to worry about as there is no possible way you can harm your baby. Just enjoy sex with your partner if you are up to it.

Serious Causes of Cramps in Early Pregnancy

In certain cases of sharp cramps, early pregnancy complications may be the culprits.

1. Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy where the embryo gets implanted outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. However, the embryo can get implanted elsewhere too. When not diagnosed on time and when left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening situation. Signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Sharp abdominal pain which is usually located on one side and tends to come and go as well
  • Abdominal pain tending to get worse, during physical activity, while having a bowel movement or even coughing
  • Pain in the shoulder due to a buildup of blood under the diaphragm when the fallopian tube ruptures
  • Vaginal spotting
  • Vaginal bleeding, etc.

2. Miscarriage

Miscarriage is another cause of sharp cramps in early pregnancy. A miscarriage is a loss of pregnancy within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, usually characterized by a vaginal spotting or bleeding which can be heavy or light, abdominal cramping which can be mild or sharp, or pelvic pressure. Call your healthcare provider if you are experiencing the symptoms of a miscarriage. 

3. Urinary Tract Infections

Pregnant women are more likely to get urinary infections. Any bladder infection during pregnancy should be taken seriously as it can lead to a kidney infection which can become a life-threatening condition. Signs and symptoms of a bladder infection include:

  • Pelvic pain and discomfort
  • Painful urination
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • A smelly, cloudy urine or presence of blood in the urine, etc.

Signs and symptoms that indicate a spread of the infection toward the kidneys besides the above-mentioned signs and symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Presence of blood or even pus in the urine
  • Pain in the lower back, under the ribs on one side of the back, etc.

Other Causes

Other causes of sharp cramps include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach virus
  • Appendicitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Fibroids
  • Hepatitis

How to Cope with the Cramp in Early Pregnancy

Sharp cramps in early pregnancy should always worry you. Seek medical help as they can be a sign of a serious health condition which can present a threat not only for your pregnancy but also for your life. Here are some natural ways to help you relieve the cramp.

  • Walking around and standing up seems to help relieve the cramps while occurring. Drinking water is also recommended to help ease the cramps.
  • Regular exercises such as Kegel exercises or pelvic tilts are helpful when trying to reduce the incidence of cramps. These exercises will help strengthen up the abdominal and pelvic muscles.
  • A warm shower or heat compresses on the lower back can help relieve the cramps. A massage is also helpful.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen are commonly used during pregnancy. However, a wise thing to do is to talk to your health care provider as too much of acetaminophen is no good for you, causing liver problems.
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