When a woman suspects pregnancy, abdominal cramping can cause concern. However, there are several reasons during pregnancy that a woman may experience pains in the abdomen ranging from mild twinges to cramps similar to a menstrual cycle. A common cause of abdominal cramping during early pregnancy is implantation of the embryo, according to the MayoClinic.com.
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Abdominal cramping may be one of the first indications that a woman is pregnant. However, she may not suspect pregnancy and instead may think that this is the beginning of her monthly menstruation. After an egg is fertilized, the embryo will travel from the fallopian tube to imbed in the lining of the uterus. During implantation, a woman may notice abdominal cramping and spotting. The bleeding associated with implantation will often appear pink and lighter than a normal period, according to the MayoClinic.com.
Implantation commonly occurs within 10 to 14 days after fertilization. Women ovulate about 14 days before the start of their next period so implantation often coincides with the time when a woman is expecting to menstruate.
In the beginning of pregnancy, women may experience cramping or aching in the lower abdomen due to stretching of the round ligaments in preparation for the enlargement of the uterus. Constipation may also cause abdominal pain starting in the early part of pregnancy and continuing throughout.
In some cases, abdominal cramping in pregnancy may mean something is wrong. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Women who have had positive pregnancy test and experience strong abdominal cramps, vaginal bleeding and passing of tissue through the vagina may be experiencing a miscarriage and should call their physician. Another cause of abdominal cramping may be an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo implants somewhere outside the uterus, commonly the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies often include sharp pain in the abdomen, strong abdominal cramping, vaginal bleeding and low levels of hCG.
If a woman experiences abdominal cramping during pregnancy, she should discuss any concerns she has with her physician. If a woman is unsure if she is pregnant, a urine or blood test can confirm the diagnosis. However, if a woman performs a urine test too early, she may receive a false negative as there is not enough pregnancy hormone, or hCG. While many commercial urine tests say that a woman may test as early as five days before her period, the American Pregnancy Association says that it is best for a woman to wait until at least one day past a skipped menstrual period for the most accurate results.