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Abdominal cramps during pregnancy

Not all abdominal cramps and pain are a cause for worry while you are pregnant. It is often normal to have some level of discomfort during pregnancy. 


– Your feet get swollen, your breasts may feel more tender and sore and your back can get easily tired. But when it comes to abdominal cramps and pain, you may feel a bit worried, which is natural because of the proximity of your abdomen to where your baby is developing. This article should answer some of your questions about abdominal cramps during pregnancy

1. It is Normal to Have Abdominal Cramps and Pain During Pregnancy?

Abdominal cramps and pain during pregnancy can be very normal due to the multiple changes that your body goes through. From gastrointestinal reasons such as constipation and heartburn to fetal movement, and from Braxton-Hicks contractions to ligament pain.

However, sometimes the pain can be triggered by a urinary tract infection, pre-eclampsia, miscarriage or other medical conditions that need special attention.


2. When to seek medical attention?

For safety measures, you should always contact your physician if you are worried about abdominal pain. But you definitely should seek medical attention if you experience one or more of the following:

  • Continuous or severe abdominal pain.
  • Fever.
  • Bleeding through external genitalia.
  • Severe headache.
  • Vision discomfort.
  • Discomfort during urination.
  • Dizziness or feeling faint.
  • Increase in contractions frequency, especially if occurs before 37 weeks.

3. Abdominal Cramps That Can Occur Throughout Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is very common to have gastrointestinal discomfort due to the effect that progesterone has on smooth muscle. This results in slower digestion, bloating, constipation and heartburn. These can be prevented by eating high fibre foods, taking your time while eating and drinking sufficient water. Doctors may also prescribe a stool softener.

After and during orgasms you may have episodes of cramping, but this is common and harmless because of the increased blood flow that your pelvic area now has, or due to normal contractions that appear. And do not worry about your baby, sex cannot affect him. When you feel your pelvic area more swollen than usual, try to lay down and rest or try having a warm bath to make those aches go away.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) cannot present any symptomology, but is often a reason for pressure or pain in the pelvic area, smelling and/or bloody urine, burning and pain during urination (dysuria) and peeing more frequently. If untreated, it can become a serious issue related to preterm labour, but fortunately, it can disappear with an easy treatment based on antibiotics.


4. Abdominal Cramps and Pain in the First Half of Pregnancy

At the beginning of pregnancy, even before you know you conceived, you may experience some bleeding and cramping like when you have your period. That is the result of your fertilised egg attaching to the endometrium, a process which is called implantation. This usually happens about eight to ten days after ovulation and last approximately a day or so.

In some cases, a fertilised egg may implant in other parts of your abdomen, usually in a fallopian tube, producing an ectopic pregnancy. This condition can cause severe pain, vaginal bleeding, shoulder pain (radiated pain) and faintness. It can be diagnosed with ultrasound imaging and blood tests.

A miscarriage, the end of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation, usually is associated with low to severe abdominal cramping and bleeding through external genitalia. It can be differentiated from implantation or uterus expansion because the bleeding continues for several days and gets more profuse with time. If you experience this, you should seek medical attention immediately.

5. Abdominal Cramps and Pain in the Second Half of Pregnancy

Round ligaments are structures that holds the uterus in its position, but as the uterus expands, these ligaments stretch, causing abdominal pain on the side that could radiate to the hip or pelvis. Round ligament pain is usually felt in only one side, but in some cases in both sides. Movements that requires abdominal muscles (exercises, sneeze, cough, laugh, etc.) can trigger the pain, which can last up to a few minutes. Physical rest can help diminish symptomatology.

During pregnancy, Braxton-Hicks contractions may appear, producing differing levels of abdominal cramping. Relax, these are perfectly normal. These contractions may come and go, with differing rhythms, pain levels and palpitations. These are actually helping in the development of the uterine segment, but they should not trigger real labour. Drink plenty of water because dehydration can cause them and when you experience one, try changing positions and it should diminish.

Placental abruption happens when the placenta separates from the uterus before labour. This condition can produce persistent and severe abdominal pain along with profuse bleeding through external genitalia. If you experience this, you should seek medical attention immediately.

While you are pregnant, the increase in blood pressure and protein in urine above the normal limits, known as preeclampsia, can cause abdominal pain. This usually is accompanied by symptoms like headaches, vision discomfort, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath and swelling. This condition can affect the communication between the placenta and your baby, decreasing oxygen and nutrients levels. It is treatable, so it is very important that you seek the help of a doctor to receive proper treatment.

Get ready! You may be in labour if your contractions are regular, increasingly stronger, happen every 10 minutes or less and do not go away with the change of positions. Plus, if you feel pressure in your pelvic area and notice some fluid or blood leaking through your vagina, chances are you are starting labour. If you have less than 37 weeks pregnant and present these symptoms, you might be experiencing preterm labour. If you think you are in labour, seek medical attention right away.

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What Our Patients Say

Gráinne Macken

This is my second visit to Merrion Fetal, I was very pleased on both occasions. Lovely quiet waiting room, appointment was on time. The 20-week scan is very detailed we enjoyed watching our baby on the large TV screen. We got some beautiful photos. The nurse was very pleasant and talked us through all the measurements and anatomy. I would highly recommend this scanning clinic.”

Áine Gibney

I had the best experience at the Merrion Fetal Health clinic for my 20-week big scan. The staff were so friendly and so nice and the lovely lady who did my ultrasound scan was amazing. She was so thoroughgoing to absolutely everything and gave me such reassurance on how my baby was growing and developing. I would recommend any Mother to be to attend here if you are looking for a comfortable, reassuring and super pleasant experience.”

Linda O'Sullivan

Highly recommend! We had an early scan due to a little scare at the start of pregnancy and then another at 12 weeks to make sure all was good again. Helen who was scanning on both days was fantastic. We felt totally relaxed and un-rushed while she took her time finding the best angle of baby to get us the clearest pictures as keepsakes all while making sure everything was perfect with baby. She reassured us throughout and I can honestly say it was the best money we ever spent getting both scans done.

Please let Helen know we are 18 weeks now and flying along Highly recommend!



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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.