According to the March of Dimes, short-term cramping can be a normal part of pregnancy, but severe pain–with or without bleeding–is not. Having a basic understanding of what is normal with cramping and bleeding in pregnancy can help you stay calm when you experience twinges. It can also help you to know when to get immediate help.
Cramping can occur throughout your entire pregnancy, but the reason for the pain often changes based on the trimester you are in. The American Pregnancy Association reports bleeding is common during the first trimester, but it is something you should not see once you enter the second trimester.
Different types of cramping are possible. The distinction often occurs based on the trimester you are in and in the severity of the pain. The March of Dimes reports period-like cramps can occur when the embryo implants in the uterus. In the second trimester, you may have some period-like cramping or achiness when your uterus begins to cause its supporting muscles to stretch. The stretching muscles can also cause a sharp pain on one side of your body when you change positions. In the final trimester, cramping can indicate your body is ready for labor. With bleeding, you may have spotting, where you will see a few drops of blood on your underwear or toilet paper, or heavy blood flow, which is enough blood to fill a maxi pad.
Aside from implantation and stretching muscles, even more causes for bleeding and cramping are possible. The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report bleeding can occur as a result of intercourse or an infection in your cervix. Beginning in the fourth month of your pregnancy, the cause may be a serious condition like vasa previa, abruptio placenta or placenta previa.
While there is no guaranteed preventive measure that will stop cramping or bleeding from occurring, some things should be considered. The Mayo Clinic recommends you avoid smoking, using illicit drugs and drinking alcohol; gain weight according to your doctor’s recommendations; attend regular well-baby visits for your doctor to monitor your process; eat a well-balanced diet; and manage any pre-existing medical conditions as recommended, especially if you are at risk for preterm labor. The March of Dimes suggests taking a warm bath and resting as a way to reduce cramps.
Severe pain at any time, regardless of whether you are experiencing vaginal bleeding, could be the result of a serious complication, according to the March of Dimes. In your first trimester, it can indicate an impending miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. In your second or third trimester, it may indicate early labor.
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