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Difference between pregnancy cramps and menstrual cramps

One common symptom that expectant mothers experience is early pregnancy cramps. Some women experience pregnancy cramps during the same time as their usual menstrual period. If you’ve never been pregnant, it might be hard to tell early pregnancy cramps apart from menstrual cramps.

Early pregnancy cramps vs. period cramps

Before getting your period, you may experience tender breasts, abdominal cramps, tiredness, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, headaches or cravings, which are also symptoms of pregnancy. Morning sickness, is however, one obvious symptom that only pregnancy can produce.

RELATED: 6 signs that you’re pregnant

Why do pregnant women experience cramps?

During early pregnancy, progesterone levels rise quickly. This helps with the stretching of ligaments, which is the direct cause of cramping in the lower abdomen. This is perfectly normal and will continue to occur throughout the entire pregnancy. Early pregnancy cramps can also be caused by the implantation of the fertilised egg. This usually happens within five to 14 days after ovulation, so it might coincide with the date of your menstrual period. In most cases, pregnancy cramps are mild in nature.

Other reasons for early pregnancy cramps may be miscarriage or ectopic pregnancies. In the case of an early miscarriage, the expecting mother might experience cramps which are more intense. Bleeding might occur as well. An early miscarriage may therefore be easily misinterpreted as a period.

During an ectopic pregnancy, the egg is usually implanted in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, instead of the uterus. The cramping will be severe in most cases, and can be accompanied by pain while urinating. Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous because they can cause internal bleeding. If you suspect you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy symptoms, please seek immediate medical help.

RELATED: What happens in an ectopic pregnancy?

When do you need to see a doctor?

If you experience severe or persistent cramps, you should visit your doctor. Avoid taking pain medication or other remedies before seeing a physician because certain medications can be harmful for your foetus.

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