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Cramping in early pregnancy

What they are and why you have them

Cramping? Should I worry?

At a glance

  • Stomach cramps are a normal part of early pregnancy
  • Gentle exercise or a warm bath can sooth cramps
  • Mention your cramps to your midwife or GP, especially if they get worse

Stomach cramps in early pregnancy are fairly common. Although early pregnancy pains are usually nothing to worry about, it’s worth mentioning them to your midwife or GP.

Are cramps in early pregnancy normal?

In most cases, mild tummy cramps are a normal part of early pregnancy. They’re usually linked to the normal physical changes your body goes through as it gears up for carrying your baby.

  • Some women get cramps with a little bleeding when the embryo implants itself into the wall of the womb. This happens at roughly the same time your period would normally start.
  • You may also feel some cramping as your womb starts to change shape and grow ready to accommodate your baby.
  • Some women experience cramps when they have an orgasm during sex – this can be a little scary, but there’s no reason to stop having sex unless your doctor tells you to.
  • At around 12 weeks lots of women start to feel sharp pains on one or both sides of their groin when they stand up, stretch or twist. This is just the ligaments that support your womb stretching as it grows.

What do early pregnancy cramps feel like?

Stomach cramps can often feel similar to a variety of other more familiar pains and cramps. You may experience pains that feel like heartburn or period pains in early pregnancy, but in most cases they manifest themselves as a stomach pain or tummy cramp.

How to soothe tummy cramps

You may find it helps with the pain of cramps if you:

  • take the recommended dose of paracetamol
  • try relaxing in a warm bath
  • do some gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming
  • curl up on the sofa with a magazine and a hot water bottle
  • ask someone to give your lower back a gentle rub.

When to call the doctor

Although mild tummy cramps are a very normal part of early pregnancy, it’s a good idea to mention them to your midwife or GP, especially if they get worse. They can check that there aren’t any underlying problems, such as constipation or a urinary tract infection.

If you have spotting or bleeding as well as cramps, it’s important to see your midwife or GP as soon as you can. Like cramping, these are often normal symptoms of early pregnancy, but can also be the early signs of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

Your midwife or GP will be able to examine you and, hopefully, reassure you. They may also refer you for an early scan to make sure that everything is OK.

A mum says...

"I had cramping pain at eight weeks. I called my midwife and she arranged an early scan for me as I felt terrified that something was wrong. The scan concluded that I had a small bleed next to the womb. I was assured that this can be normal and that the bleed would be absorbed in to my body as the pregnancy progressed. Sure enough, at my 10-week scan, the bleed had disappeared and my cramping pains have now gone."


At a glance

  • Stomach cramps are a normal part of early pregnancy
  • Gentle exercise or a warm bath can sooth cramps
  • Mention your cramps to your midwife or GP, especially if they get worse

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