Cramping During Early Pregnancy

Mild cramping in early pregnancy (about 5 to 6 weeks) can be completely normal. Many women acknowledge having mild cramps in the first trimester, without any serious consequences. However, cramping during pregnancy may be considered a severe concern if there is consistent abdominal pain. Here we have listed both the harmless and serious causes for cramping early into pregnancy.

Harmless Causes of Cramping in Early Pregnancy

Implantation cramping

This cramping occurs 8 to 10 days after ovulation in the lower abdominal region and is caused by the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall. These cramps should be dull, mild in severity, and should not persist for more than a day or two. This type of cramping in early pregnancy is nothing to be worried about. The implantation cramping is normally accompanied by light spotting, which is called implantation bleeding. The blood flow should be very light and also light in color. This is also a completely normal occurrence during this time. However, if the bleeding is heavy and bright red in color, it may be a sign of a miscarriage; you should consult a doctor immediately.

Uterine stretching

The uterus is a muscle and will therefore stretch in the early stages of pregnancy when the baby is increasing in size. This stretching will result in dull cramps that are considered completely normal by health professionals. During the first trimester of pregnancy, your uterus expands from the size of a fist to a grapefruit. However, if these cramps are accompanied by heavy blood flow, you should contact a health professional immediately.

Constipation or gas pains

During pregnancy a woman will experience an increase in gas, both due to the hormones that slow your digestion and the pressure of the expanding uterus on the digestive tract. Constipation results from the same causes that lead to abdominal discomfort. Both constipation and gas discomfort can feel extremely similar to abdominal cramps, but are nothing to be concerned about. They are normal symptoms of early pregnancy.

Serious Causes of Cramping in Early Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy

This is an abnormal pregnancy where the embryo becomes implanted outside the uterus. The site of implantation during an ectopic pregnancy is typically in the fallopian tubes, but in rare cases it can also occur in the ovary, cervix, and abdominal cavity. The baby will not survive during an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs in about one in 50 pregnancies. Mild cramping on one side of the pelvis is experienced during this condition, with other symptoms following. These symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, lower back pain, nausea, and pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis. This type of cramping is not normal and you will need to visit a health professional.


This signifies the end of the pregnancy as the fetus has died. The first sign of a miscarriage is bleeding, followed by cramps a few hours or days afterwards. These cramps greatly fluctuate in severity, sensation, and location for each woman. They can be sharp or dull, persistent or erratic, and either mild, moderate, or acute in severity.

When to See a Health Professional

If you experience extremely severe cramps accompanied by other symptoms like bleeding, it is recommended that you visit a health professional. If you are prone to stress or anxiety, it is in your best interest to visit a doctor just to prevent further stress caused by worrying about a potential health concern, as stress can be harmful to both you and your unborn child.

What Can You Do?

If you have been to the doctor and were reassured that everything is fine with your pregnancy, there are a few things that you can do to dull the cramping. Applying a heated hot water bottle or heating pad to your stomach can reduce the severity of the cramps, as it relaxes the muscles. Ingesting more water and fiber can help prevent the development of constipation, reducing this type of abdominal discomfort.

Cramping in early pregnancy, from 5 weeks all the way through to 12 weeks, can be a completely normal experience. Yet it may also be a major concern. Hopefully this list of cramping causes will enable you to determine what you are experiencing and decide if you need to visit a doctor.