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Cramps in Early Pregnancy

Most pregnant women experience some abdominal aches, pains and cramping in early pregnancy. Not surprisingly these early pregnancy developments are accompanied by significant changes in the way your body functions. Many changes are happening during this time and your amazing body is registering some of these changes in the form of cramping. I know cramps can be a source of worry so it helps to know and understand what is happening and why. That said, here are 6 common causes for cramps in early pregnancy:

  1. Hormones — your body is producing a flood of hormones some of which cause cramps as the body prepares to expand and change. Virtually every organ system in your body needs to adapt to cope with the increasing demands that your pregnancy will make on it.
  2. Implantation— When the newly fertilized egg implants into the lining of the womb a woman can experience implantation cramps sometimes accompanied by a very small amount of bleeding.
  3. Your uterus — The uterus begins to experience changes as soon as the implanted egg burrows into the lining. As the uterus stretches and expands, some women experience aches and cramps. These pains can also be referred to the groin and hip area. These cramps reflect changes in the pelvis in particular your growing uterus. It can be perfectly normal to experience menstrual-type cramps in early pregnancy because this growth occurs where the ligaments and muscles attach and support your womb to the internal abdominal wall, one ligament especially, called the round ligament and results in cramps.
  4. Gas and constipation— Elevated levels of the hormone relaxin causes the body’s muscles to relax, including those that make up the digestive system, which slows down during pregnancy. This can result in excess gas and constipation, which produces a wide range of pains and pressures, bloating and cramping.
  5. Ectopic pregnancy— Cramping and pain may occur on either side of the pelvis and be accompanied by nausea, spotting and dizziness. An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency and you need to see a doctor right away.
  6. The corpus luteum cyst— This is the cyst of pregnancy and it is from this structure that your egg was released and subsequently fertilized. This cyst plays an important role in the early weeks of pregnancy as the corpus lutem cyst produces hormones that support the pregnancy. This corpus luteum cyst can vary in size and the larger ones can cause some tenderness and cramping. The presence of this cyst is usually assessed during your early pregnancy ultrasound and will resolves on its own.

Women in early pregnancy will experience quite a few strange and even uncomfortable sensations, twinges and cramping. Each pregnancy can be quite different; so consider these bumps along the road of an amazing journey!

Please note that if cramping is severe or prolonged this may not be normal and you must call your doctor immediately.

So those are some common causes for cramps in early pregnancy. If you have any questions or comments please join in the conversation in the forums at


Share your Thoughts
  • Fab

    How do you know the difference between ovulation cramping and spotting from implantation cramping and spotting?

    • Monica


      Thank you for contacting us. It can be difficult to tell the difference as the pain and cramping can be similar. Ovulation usually takes place mid cycle on or around day 14 in a 28 day cycle and implantation bleeding would take place 7 to 10 days after ovulation and fertilization so it would be more the timing that would indicate the difference.

      I hope this helps.

  • Fab

    Today is Day 18 of my cycle and I am bleeding again. I spotted day 16, bleed day 17 and now this morning it continues. I do not know what it is. It feels a lot like my period because I have light cramps I’m bloated and gaseous. This is my 3rd cycle off birth control. The first one was in February and my cycle was 21 days, my second was in march and my cycle was 28 days. So I do not know if I’m ovulating right now or if this is my period. Any help would be great! We’ve been trying to conceive since march

    • Monica

      It sounds as though your cycles are trying to regulate after coming off the pill. Ovulation bleeding is often pink or red and lasts for one to two days. A real menstrual period is usually much heavier. I would like to mention that bleeding that occurs less than 2 weeks apart may signal that ovulation is not taking place at all. It is unclear what time frame for ovulation to regulate. It can depend on the length of time that you were on the pill and what kind of pill you were taking. Try to be patient it can sometimes take months before pregnancy occurs. If the abnormal bleeding continues I would suggest a pelvic ultrasound to make sure there are no other underlying causes such as endometrial polyps or fibroids.

      I wish you well.

  • fab

    Someone told me that instead of ovulation bleeding this could be my period? Is that true? Could I have a period on day 16 of my cycle?

    • Monica

      Hi there Fab,

      If you experienced bleeding on day 16 that resembled a period it could be a period that’s true but usually if a period arrives 14 to 16 days apart then it is very likely that ovulation did not occur.

      I hope this helps.