A Look at Cramps during Pregnancy with Useful Tips on How to Cope with Pregnancy Cramps

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Cramps during pregnancy may be harmless or harmful depending on the time of gestation and severity of its occurrence. Cramps during pregnancy often elicit concerns among expecting moms because pregnancy cramps can be a sign of normal physiological events like uterine distension or growing uterus but in some extreme cases it may be an early warning sign of serious complications.

Legs and Feet Cramps during Pregnancy

Commonly, cramps can be experienced in the legs or feet especially at night or when you’re sedentary. Some explanations suggest that calcium or magnesium deficiency or inadequacy may be a possible cause of leg cramps. Most expecting moms however find relief by:

  • Rubbing the muscles very hard or massaging the affected parts.
  • Bending your foot upwards with your hands or doing light exercise such as walking to stretch your legs and feet to get your circulation energized.
  • Desisting from standing or sitting for long periods and trying to rest on your side as often as possible.
  • Eating foods that are rich in calcium and magnesium or equivalent supplements.

What are some harmless causes of cramps during pregnancy?

Menstrual –like cramping sensation is very common and its causes may be difficult to pin-point. However, pregnancy cramps may occur due to physiological changes of pregnancy hormones and thus aren't considered a threat to pregnancy gestation. These causes include:

Constipation: Hormonal changes during pregnancy affect the metabolism of every pregnant woman, often slow-down gastrointestinal activity and possibly lead to constipation.

In most women, constipation is a harmless situation; however in some pregnant moms, moderate to severe abdominal cramps may accompany constipation. One of the proven remedies for this case is to treat the constipation using high fiber diet.

Gastric problem or heartburn: Due to uterine expansion during pregnancy, the ligaments that support the uterus become stretched, and the space to accommodate other abdominal organs reduces in a way that likely aid the occurrence of pregnancy symptoms such as bloating, heart burn, and gas pains, among others. Any of these pregnancy symptoms may be accompanied with cramping.

The solution is to treat the cause by dietary modification and behavioural therapy. In vast majority cases of cramps during pregnancy, gentle pregnancy exercises solve the problem in no time.

Common dangerous causes of cramps during pregnancy

Most of the dangerous pregnancy complications have pregnancy cramps as one of its symptoms or warning signs. These complications include ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placental abruption, urinary tract infection, pre-eclampsia, preterm labor to mention a few.

Ectopic Pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancy refers to the development of gestational sac anywhere outside the uterus such as fallopian tubes, ovary, abdomen or the cervix. However majority of ectopic pregnancies develops in the fallopian tubes. Cramping pain especially in the lower abdomen is one of the early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy.

Miscarriage: Miscarriage or abortion may also present abdominal cramping and bleeding as symptoms. Although most women who experience cramping and bleeding end up having a totally normal pregnancy but the severity of cramping and bleeding is a primary warning sign of impending miscarriage.

Placental abruption: Placental abruption refers to premature separation of placenta from the baby leading to severe vaginal bleeding and fetal demise if not controlled in good time. Placenta abruptions may occur in women with uncontrolled hypertension and often present with cramps.

Urinary tract infection: Urinary tract infection is one of the common occurrences in pregnancy and associated with painful urination, increase urgency and frequency of urination. Urinary tract infection also presents with abdominal and pelvic cramps.

Pre-eclampsia: Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia occurs when gestational hypertension involves other organs of the maternal body. Cramping usually occurs as a result of irritation or extension of liver capsule particularly when severe uncontrolled hypertension involves the liver.

Preterm or Premature labor: Menstrual-like cramping in pregnancy is one of the several early signs and symptoms of premature labor.

When must I take pregnancy cramps seriously?

Although cramps are common in pregnancy, you must take pregnancy cramps more seriously and report to your doctor, if:

  • The pregnancy cramps are associated with vaginal bleeding, loss of consciousness, sudden abdominal distension (this may be a feature of concealed hemorrhage)
  • Cramps during pregnancy last for more than 2 days and are progressively increasing in intensity and severity.
  • Pregnancy cramps are associated with indigestion, severe intractable vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Abdominal cramping during pregnancy are associated with significant changes in normal blood pressure (both high and low are considered dangerous)

Pregnancy cramps are very common symptoms during pregnancy and without such serious conditions enumerated above, cramps won’t be a problem or threat to your pregnancy progression.

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