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What Does It Mean When Your Stomach Tighten Up During Pregnancy?

There`re lots of pains, aches or other various feelings you might have while pregnant, stomach tightening included.

This might begin in early pregnancy as the uterus increases in size. As the pregnancy evolves, it might be a miscarriage symptom, premature labor if you are in your 3rd trimester of pregnancy, or even impending labor. It could very well be typical contractions which do not evolve to labor.

Table of Contents

Causes of Stomach Tightening

Here is why you might go through stomach tightening at various pregnancy stages.

1st Trimester

There are lots of reasons why women might feel their stomach is tightening while pregnant in their 1st trimester, which include:

  • Stretching – While in the 1st pregnancy trimester, your uterus is increasing and stretching very fast to adapt for the growing baby inside. This might lead to abdominal cramps, shooting pains or stabbing along the abdominal side, as your ligaments as well as other tissues tend to stretch.
  • Gas & constipation – Obviously, you may know by now that gas pain is a rather common issue when expecting. It might lead to abdominal shooting pain and cramping, and yes, it could be quite painful sometimes. Constipation is a common problem as well, especially during early pregnancy. The pregnancy hormones that always seem to change might slow down the gastrointestinal tube. Also, the iron found in certain prenatal vitamins might harden stool and make it rather hard to go to the toilet. Both constipation and gas might make it feel as if your stomach is tightening at times.
  • Miscarriage – Not that often, abdominal tightening could be a miscarriage signal, meaning a pregnancy loss up to 20 weeks. Still, miscarriages are more common before the 12th pregnancy week. Other miscarriage symptoms may include: reduced pregnancy signs (breast tenderness, nausea), cramping, severe or mild back pain, vaginal discharge that include clots or tissues, brown vaginal discharge.

The miscarriage symptoms vary from one woman to another and, at times, women might not even experience any symptoms. It`s essential for pregnant women to received regular care while in early pregnancy, so that the doctor can be able to supervise the development of the future baby.

During early pregnancy, a woman should get in touch with her doctor if any vaginal bleeding occurs, especially if is similar to a period.

2nd Trimester

Stabbing, stretching or cramping pain along the uterus`s sides frequently continues during the 2nd trimester as well, which is generally known as round ligament pain. These round ligaments are found on both sides of the woman`s uterus and connect it to the woman`s groin.

While pregnant, these ligaments stretch while the womb increases, and this might lead to some sort of a sharp pain. This kind of pain happens when the position changes, like standing, bending down or sitting.

Lots of women begin feeling their womb contract and tighten from time to time while in their 2nd pregnancy trimester, kind of between weeks 14 and 28.  This type of contractions is also known as false labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions or practice labor.

The main goal of Braxton-Hicks contractions is for the woman`s womb to prepare for the difficult task of delivery. It`s believed that they aid to tone the uterus`s muscle and promote the flow of blood to the woman`s placenta.

This kind of contractions is quite common and completely normal. They normally last for about 30 – 60 seconds, but they can even stretch up to 2 minutes. They don`t lead to as much pain as standard contractions, but still can cause some discomfort and pain.

There are certain things which can worsen or at least trigger these contractions, such as:

  • Dehydration.
  • Acute kicking of the little one.
  • Orgasm or sex.
  • A full bladder.

Even though this kind of contractions are quite common while pregnant, it`s essential to still talk to your doctor about their existence during your prenatal visits. He`s able to make a determination if they are indeed Braxton-Hicks contractions or they represent a symptom of early labor. – Read this!

It`s essential to get in touch with your doctor if:

  • You experience vaginal bleeding.
  • Your contractions start getting closer together or stronger.
  • You experience fluid leaking.
  • Contractions aren`t alleviated by drinking water or rest.

A physician needs to evaluate this kind of signs to make certain that the woman doesn`t have preterm labor or other complications.

3rd Trimester

Stomach-tightening related with Braxton-Hicks contractions grows in frequency or strength while in the 3rd pregnancy trimester. This kind of contractions is a lot more common while in the last couple of pregnancy weeks as the body prepares to deliver the baby.

Still, it`s essential to notice and maintain some kind of track of these contractions. If you experience more than a couple of them in 1 single hour, you need to get in touch with your doctor.

There are a few things you might be able to do to alleviate stretching sensations and pain:

  • Drinking water: Sometimes, Braxton-Hicks contractions are triggered by dehydration. You could drink a glass of water and try to lie down for a couple of minutes.
  • Changing your position: At times, the position of your body could put some pressure on your uterus, therefore leading to Braxton-Hicks contractions. You could try and lie down or shift your position.
  • Drinking warm milk or tea: Herbal tea or milk can hydrate and relax you both at the very same time.
  • Taking a warm shower: Sitting in warm water might relax achy muscles, which obviously include your uterus.
  • Using the toilet: Full bladder is often associated with such contractions. At times, simply using the toilet to empty your bladder could help get rid of these contractions.

Read more: What Does Giving Birth Feel Like?

When to Contact a Doctor?

A hard tummy while pregnant could mean lots of things. Still, you need to get in touch with your doctor when:

  • You have a hard belly as well as difficulties when breathing while pregnant.
  • The tightening happens over 4-5 times in 1 single hour.
  • The tightness in your tummy while pregnant becomes more painful or intense.
  • Belly tightening in less than 36 weeks of pregnancy might also mean premature labor.

Belly tightening while pregnant could be quite painful as well as frightening at the same times. However, it is a normal part of many pregnancies. Still, if it happens to experience one contraction, first try to see why it happens. Among the most frequent reasons is due to Braxton-Hicks contractions or the growing baby. But if you have doubts, obviously, you should get in touch with your doctor right away.

Treating Stomach Tightening while Pregnant

The treatment of stomach tightening is usually very much dependent on the basic cause:

  • You don`t need a treatment for abdominal tightening cause by fetal movements or contractions due to the uterus.
  • Talk to a doctor about various breathing exercises that would aid you strengthening stomach muscles.
  • Take plenty of rest to always remain rejuvenated and vitalized.
  • If Braxton-Hick exercises represent the main cause, then change your body position. For instance if you`re sitting down, just take a walk or simply stand up, and you might notice an improvement.
  • Usually, stomach tightening while pregnant isn`t dangerous, but premature labor could make your stomach tight as well. You shouldn`t neglect this.
  • Stay well hydrated, so consume lots of fluids.
  • Abdominal tightening might curtail some of your daily routine you might have, like sleeping on one side, wearing various shoes or bending down. Breathing exercises might be able to aid you overcome issues caused by stomach tightening.

RELATED: How Do I Know If I`m In Labor?

Braxton-Hicks Contractions vs. Real Labor

This isn`t quite easy to distinguish, however, there`re certain symptoms that could aid differentiate real labor from Braxton-Hicks contractions. The first one would have to be that real labor is quite painful, and even though Braxton-Hicks contractions could become uncomfortable, they`ll rarely go all the way towards the back.

Real labor is also something regular, getting more and more intense with each passing minute. When being in real labor, pains won`t just become easier to bear when you change your position or walking. Even if you don`t eat anything, this won`t affect true labor. If you experience real labor, you should get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible.

You may have the feeling as your baby has dropped down in your lower abdomen and your vaginal discharge will increase, becoming either bloody stained or watery. Pain will become very hard to bear, you`ll find it very difficult to talk or walk, and your amniotic bag will break down when your contractions will become faster.

Keep in mind that a small discomfort is quite normal while pregnant. When it will become more than you are able to bear, you`ll know it right away, so you`ll need to call for medical assistance.

Image courtesy of huggies.com

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