≡ Menu

Early Pregnancy Cramps: What Is Normal and What Is Not?

Early pregnancy cramps are a common occurrence for as many as 50% of all pregnant women. Such abdominal discomfort at the time of implantation and a slight pain are the result of uterine disturbance, caused as the fertilized egg attaches itself to the endometrial lining. Although, cramps along with spotting are often considered to be an unmistakable sign of pregnancy, neither abdominal pain nor scanty period-like discharge is exclusive to conception.

In other words, there can be a variety of reasons to experience these symptoms. It is imperative to understand that vaginal bleeding and uterine pain are also symptoms of ailments, related to the reproductive system and some other chronic health issues. Also, a missed birth control pill can cause spotting and pain similar to early pregnancy cramps. So, here is a look at how to distinguish pregnancy pains from PMS aches and other afflictions.

Early pregnancy cramps are a common occurrence for as many as 50% of all pregnant women. Such abdominal discomfort at the time of implantation and a slight pain are the result of uterine disturbance, caused as the fertilized egg attaches itself to the endometrial lining. Although, cramps along with spotting are often considered to be an unmistakable sign of pregnancy, neither abdominal pain nor scanty period-like discharge is exclusive to conception.

In other words, there can be a variety of reasons to experience these symptoms. It is imperative to understand that vaginal bleeding and uterine pain are also symptoms of ailments, related to the reproductive system and some other chronic health issues. Also, a missed birth control pill can cause spotting and pain similar to early pregnancy cramps. So, here is a look at how to distinguish pregnancy pains from PMS aches and other afflictions.

Implantation Cramping: What Does It Feel Like?

This is a distinct pain in the lower abdominal area, particularly below the belly button. It is also possible for the ache to spread to the lower back and even to the legs. Early pregnancy cramps have a distinct ‘on and off’ trait. So, while the pain may be experienced continuously for a few minutes or even hours, it can suddenly stop on its own and restart after a day or two.

In about half of all pregnancy cases, slight vaginal bleeding is usually accompanied by implantation cramps. Some cells of the endometrial layer in the uterus are displaced. This process causes feelings almost similar to PMS spasms. However, the discharge during this time is very different from the menstrual bleeding. Most women describe implantation pain as a pinching, pulling sensation in the lower abdomen. It is significant enough for you to feel it, but not severe to take any medications.

Read also: Cervical Mucus After Implantation: How to Detect Egg Embedment?

Implantation Cramping and 7 Other Implantation Symptoms

Implantation Cramps or PMS Cramps?

Implantation Symptoms: Main Indicators of Possible Motherhood

Is the Cramping You Feel Normal or Something to Be Concerned About?

Early pregnancy cramps are not intense enough to make you double over in pain; yet, the discomfort can be felt distinctly and it is usually accompanied by the sensation of bloating. As mentioned above, the vaginal discharge associated with implantation is just spotting. In other words, if the pain is unbearable and/or you experience significant bleeding with it, this is definitely a cause for concern.

Similarly, a milky white discharge which is linked to the thickening of the vaginal cells is normal after conception. However, it mustn’t be with a foul odor, clots or other unusual things in it. Typically, most women will also experience other symptoms of hormonal changes if the cramps are really pregnancy related.

The Difference Between Period and Early Pregnancy Cramps

Although for most it can be hard to tell the menstruation pain apart from the abdominal implantation discomfort, women who are prone to PMS aches will be able to feel the difference in the location, nature and the intensity of the pain. Here are some distinctive factors about cramping felt during conception:

• The pain will be localized to the lower abdomen, particularly within the uterus and the cervix. As opposed to this, PMS aches are more general and can be felt in the upper and lower abdomen

Early pregnancy pain will often be experienced with consistent backache and headache. This discomfort felt in different parts of the body is related to the change in hormonal levels.

• If bleeding is experienced along with the cramps, it will be very slight and the discharge will be pink or brown. For most women, using a panty lining is quite adequate.

• Not everybody will have spotting with cramping. In fact, many women do not notice such signs at all.

• The pain is not continuous but can last from several minutes to several hours.

• Although sitting down or changing positions while sleeping will help to relieve the pain, techniques like raising your legs when lying down, which works for PMS pains, will not yield the desired results.

• Tenderness in the nipples and breasts will frequently be felt along with the cramping.

• Mood swings are also common during this phase; the same is true for constipation and nausea.

• Unlike the stabbing pain felt in the abdomen, when you are expecting your periods, pregnancy cramps can only be described as a dull ache that comes and goes on its own.

• For many women the PMS discomfort is felt on the day they are expecting their period but the aches linked to implantation can start 1-3 days before spotting is observed.

• The bloody discharge, linked to implantation, will be thinner than the menstrual fluid.

What Are Possible Abnormal Causes of Implantation Cramping?

To begin with, it is imperative to understand that heavy implantation bleeding, although rare, is not impossible. Some women have had heavy blood flow for as many as four days and since it coincided with their period, the symptom was dismissed as menstruation. However, when both cramping and bleeding are intense, these signs may be attributed to pregnancy related concerns, such as:

Miscarriage (complete): The risk of miscarriage is most significant during the first 12 weeks after conception. In fact, in the first trimester, heavy bleeding is often linked to a miscarriage. Nearly 50% of women, who bleed profusely within the first few weeks of pregnancy, usually miscarry. However, without other symptoms bleeding alone is not considered a surefire sign of a miscarriage. Particularly, the abdominal cramps experienced in the event of a miscarriage will be very intense and the blood will have noticeable tissues in it.

Ectopic pregnancy: This is when the embryo starts developing outside the uterus, typically in the Fallopian tubes, where the egg was fertilized. The narrow pathway is not designed to handle fetal growth and may even burst. So, such pregnancies have to be terminated immediately. Although the condition is dangerous, it has an incidence rate of a mere 2%. In terms of pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy usually leads to unbearable cramping accompanied by lightheadedness.

Threatened miscarriage: Abdominal discomfort and vaginal bleeding can also be experienced in case of a threatened miscarriage or abortion. This is when the fetus is still inside the uterus, but the outcome of the pregnancy is not clear. The condition is brought on by physical duress and the abdominal cramping in this case will usually be felt after sex or heavy lifting.

Incomplete miscarriage: Once again, woman experiences acute abdominal pain and heavy bleeding with thick clots and tissues in the discharge. The pelvic exam reveals that the cervix is open.

Blighted ovum: This is a condition, in which the intrauterine conception happened, but the embryo doesn’t develop. The abdominal cramping in this case is more than strong.

Early pregnancy cramps and bleeding may also be caused due to cervical changes, hard intercourse or a pap test. Other reasons for pain and discharge can be an infection of the vagina, cervix or uterus or a sexually transmitted disease.

Heavy Implantation Bleeding and Cramping: When Should You See Your Doctor?

First of all remember, that heavy implantation bleeding and pain are not abnormal also. However, if you notice the following signs accompanying these symptoms, you need to see your doctor at once:

• Prolonged bleeding even after the pregnancy has been confirmed.

• Post menopausal bleeding.

• Extreme pain throughout the abdominal area along with fatigue and lightheadedness.

• Recurrent and heavy bleeding that starts along with abdominal discomfort and is experienced apart from regular menstruation.

• Frequent spotting which can be a sign of the uterine cancer and fibroids.

The Most Widespread Diseases of Female Reproductive System

Chlamydia: This is a sexually transmitted affliction, which can be diagnosed with a special screening test. The symptoms of this condition include abdominal pain, frequent urination and burning sensations during it.

Pelvic inflammatory disease: PID is a generic term used for infections of the various organs, which belong to the reproductive system, including the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the lining of the uterus. The infection is sexually transmitted and it usually starts in the uterus and spreads further. The pain in the abdominal region that is linked to PID can be very diverse. While some women find it too dull to be even taken into consideration, others will not be able even to stand due to the intensity of the ache.

Endometriosis: If you experience a sharp pain, that feels like cramping, but is considerably more intense, than period one, and the timing of the pain is during the first day or two of menstrual periods, chances are that you could be suffering from endometriosis. This is an abnormal patchy growth in the endometrial lining of the uterus and it leads to abdominal discomfort during sexual intercourse.

Molar pregnancy: This condition is very rare and it is caused due to abnormal tissue growth inside the uterus instead of the fetus. In some cases, the cells may be malignant and the cancer can spread quickly to the other parts of the body. Symptoms, connected to molar pregnancy, include severe abdominal pain, which usually appears with rapid swelling of the uterus.

A ruptured ovarian cyst: The pain felt in this case will be not very intense, but then it will significantly decrease in a few hours. It can be accompanied by vaginal bleeding, nausea and fainting.

Degeneration of uterine fibroids: The onset of the pain is sudden and intense and is usually felt within the first 12 weeks of conception.

Adnexal torsion: This is the twisting of the ovaries. In such case painful feelings appear suddenly. They are experienced along the one side of the abdominal cavity and peak quickly.

Ovarian cancer: Pain develops gradually and is experienced on and off over several days. There can also be bleeding after menopause or in between periods.

Other Possible Abnormal Symptoms, Which Can Be Felt Along with Abdominal Cramps

Abnormal symptoms that should never be ignored if they are experienced along with abdominal discomfort are:

• Lightheadedness.

• Loss of consciousness (even for a few seconds).

• Dangerous drop in blood pressure.

• Fever and chills.

• Vaginal discharge with foul odor and tinged yellow or greenish.

• Sudden and severe throbbing or stabbing pain.

• Excessive sweating and shivering.

Conception typically occurs within the ovulation window. Implantation itself takes place about 6-14 days after the egg fertilization. This means that the timing for early pregnancy cramps and bleeding will possibly coincide with your period. However, by paying close attention to the kind of pain, the nature and duration of the bleeding and other symptoms, you should be able to tell if the abdominal discomfort you are experiencing is related to conception or not.

Prev1 of 11