Cramping in Pregnancy

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Cramping during pregnancy is quite common and normal, but it should be observed closely to make sure there is no coinciding bleeding taking place. Discover healthy and worrisome cramping during pregnancy with helpful information from a certified nurse-midwife in this free video on pregnancy.

Part of the Video Series: Pregnancy Information
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Video Transcript

When you're pregnant and you may be having some cramping. This is Mavis Schorn professor and nurse midwife at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. I'm going to try to help sort out that cramping for you, about whether it's something to worry about or something that's normal. I will tell you that women cramp from conception all the way until they have the baby. O.k., sometimes we don't notice it. Some women notice it very early on and all the way through. So it can be very normal. Now and it also means different things at different stages of pregnancy. So let's kind of break it down. And in the first trimester, that's those first twelve weeks when your baby's implanting and all that growth going on and really that's the highest risk of miscarriage, in the first trimester. And probably if that's where you are that's your biggest concern. What we watch for is bleeding along with cramping and that kind of heightens that concern about potential miscarriage. It still doesn't mean that you will miscarry but it heightens the concern. If you have bleeding and cramping and you're in the first trimester, you do need to talk to your midwife or physician. There's not any particular thing that they can do to stop that if it is happening but they can give you some guidance and potentially look and see whether in fact that's what's going on. Your baby is you know a good size, several pounds and your uterus is stretching a lot. Now a very common thing during that time is trying to discern what's cramping, what's baby's movement, because you're feeling movement by this time and what is what we call round ligament pain. Now round ligament pain is really pulling on the sides. If you're feeling this cramping or pulling or tightening pain that's over on your side, either side or both, that's really not so worrisome. And it can be pretty strong. It typically gets better when you bend over or you curl up. But otherwise, you know, it may go away pretty quickly when you curl up. It only lasts for a couple of weeks during big growth spurts, so that's different than cramping, o.k. The only thing you might notice during that time period are specific tightenings of your uterus. So it's like, almost like the baby's getting in to a big ball and tightening up. And then that happens that's actually, those are what we call, those are contractions. They may not be true labor contractions, putting you in to labor, but they are contractions. Cramping is a little different. They are like contractions but they're real small contractions. They're not real strong and they happen really often. If you were to put it on a monitor or something, it'd be like high frequency, low intensity kinds of contractions. What's more concerning is if you're having those tightening that I described but you can identify with the baby balling up and they continue more than six in an hour. Then that's too many of those kind of contractions. You might even have some cramping in between those contractions. If you have six or ten of those kind of contractions in a day, that's very normal. So it's kind of that cut off between what's normal, what's not and the little bit of cramping you may have in between. If you're cramping at any time in your pregnancy, it gets worse, gets extremely painful, you start having diarrhea or vomiting or if you start having a fever, those are things you need to talk to your health care provider about. There may be something else going on. Now very late in your pregnancy, if you start cramping and it's time for the baby to come, and that cramping continues to worsen and then starts shifting in to those contractions I talked about, that just may be the beginning of labor.


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