Cramps are one of the most common signs of pregnancy. They are also one of the first. Cramps can occur as early as 8 to 10 days after conception.
Cramps are familiar to all women who have been pregnant. Normally, these cramps feel exactly the same as menstrual cramps. The uterus has to expand to accommodate the growing fetus. When the pressure on the walls of the uterus increases excessively, cramps occur. As the pregnancy advances, you may experience cramps in your stomach and abdomen. This is because the digestive system starts adjusting to the new situation. Digestion slows down because food (fluids and nutrients) has to be passed on to the growing fetus.
In early pregnancy, cramps may be mild or severe. Cramps can also be caused due to hormonal changes that occur during the course of pregnancy. Levels of progesterone shoot up during pregnancy, and this may result in cramps.
Cramps can be relieved by applying heat or taking medication such as acetaminophen; however, you must consult a doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.
Cramps in pregnancy can also be caused due to constipation. Since the process of digestion is slow during pregnancy, the body ends up adding more water to the bloodstream. This results in constipation and consequently cramping.
Excessive cramping can also be a sign of a serious condition called ectopic pregnancy. In this condition, the fertilized egg fails to reach the uterus and starts growing in the fallopian tubes. This can be painful and cause severe cramps. Though cramping is a normal sign of pregnancy, if it is accompanied by excessive bleeding, a doctor must be consulted.
Another common sign of pregnancy is nausea. Normally, nausea and vomiting occur between 5 and 15 weeks of pregnancy. Severity of nausea experienced varies for every woman. Mild nausea and vomiting during the course of pregnancy is termed as “morning sickness.”
In most women, nausea is usually the worst in the 9th week of pregnancy, but improves in the third trimester.
Causes for nausea are attributed to psychological factors, changed hormone levels and adjustment of bodily organs and systems to the new situation. Other causes of nausea should also be considered, especially if vomiting starts after the 10th week of pregnancy and is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, headache, high blood pressure, constipation or enlarged thyroid.
Mild nausea does not require treatment; however, if any of these symptoms are seen, a doctor must be contacted immediately:
1. Repeated vomiting especially with blood.
2. Symptoms of dehydration such as infrequent urination and darkened urine color.
3. Inability to ingest food or to keep it in for 12 hours.
4. Severe pelvic pain or abdominal cramping.
The aim of the treatment of pregnancy-related nausea is to allow the expectant mother to eat enough to get all the required nutrients.
Most women overcome cramps and nausea associated with pregnancy fairly well without requiring any medical treatment. Interestingly, it has been seen that women who experience mild nausea and vomiting during their pregnancy are less susceptible to miscarriages and stillbirths than women who don’t show these symptoms.