Lower Back Pain and Cramping in Early Pregnancy: When to worry

woman laying in bed presses hands to her lower back

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Early Pregnancy Cramps

Quick! Think about early pregnancy signs…what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Morning sickness?

Missed period?


While each of these side effects is one of the better-known early pregnancy signs, they’re not the only physical indicators an expectant mother might be feeling.

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Cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy are also quite common. And also scary.

We’re inclined to think that any time we experience low back pain or cramping during pregnancy, we must inevitably be losing the pregnancy.

And while experiencing these sensations could be a warning sign that something of going wrong, such as a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, low back pain can also be perfectly normal in early pregnancy!

There are SO many reasons you might experience back pain in pregnancy.

From those pesky pregnancy hormones to implantation, several common factors could be causing your cramps and back pain.

Early Pregnancy Cramps: Most common causes of early pregnancy lower back pain

It’s not unusual to feel a little uneasy about cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy. Thankfully, however, these troublesome symptoms are usually nothing to worry about.

backside of a woman's lower back with hands holding it in pain

Is cramping normal in early pregnancy?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 50-70% of women experience low back pain in pregnancy that poses no risk to the pregnancy. And that doesn’t mean that 30-50% of low back pain cases do indicate trouble–plenty of women experience no pain at all!

Before you start to panic about the things you feel, it’s good to consider whether your cramping and back pain stems from one of these common causes:

(1) Implantation

After each of my IVF transfers, I obsessively performed mental body scans in search of possible signs I was pregnant. Each time, I experienced a subtle twinge within my uterus. A mild cramping that was barely noticeable but still present to the overly-paranoid mind.

At first, I worried that these cramps were a bad sign that my transfers were unsuccessful. On the contrary, however, I learned that when a fertilized egg attaches to your uterine wall, it’s quite common to experience slight implantation cramping.

A few days after these cramps, you may also experience vaginal discharge or light spotting, usually dark and brownish in color. According to the Mayo Clinic, implantation bleeding usually occurs around the time of your missed period and is “light, stops on its own, and doesn’t require treatment.”

(2) Pregnancy Hormones

Most of us have heard talk about pregnancy hormones, but usually, the conversations revolve around irrational mood swings and crying over spilled milk.

It’s also worth noting, however, that changing pregnancy hormones can lead to lower back pain in early pregnancy.

When a woman is pregnant, her body will produce increased amounts of a hormone called relaxin

This hormone helps to relax the walls of her uterus and her ligaments in preparation for delivery. Unfortunately, though, the increased flexibility of her body can lead to annoying back pains (and other pains, as well.)

(3) Digestive Troubles

While not the most glamorous side effect, pregnancy can lead to tummy troubles like constipation and gas. These gestational conditions can often cause cramping and lower back pain during pregnancy.

(4) Round Ligament Pain

Last but not least, it’s important to discuss round ligament pain, aka the bane of my pregnant existence.

As a woman’s uterus stretches and grows to make more room for the baby, the tissues that join the uterus and abdominal wall become stretched.

While this is a normal and necessary part of pregnancy, it can lead to frustrating cramping and back pain known as round ligament pain.

For most women, round ligament pain manifests as a sharp pain in the lower abdomen, hip, low back, or upper pelvic area. It catches you off guard and can leave you breathless, and while it’s most common during the second trimester, it can absolutely occur in early pregnancy, as well.

It’s often most noticeable with sudden movement–when you sneeze, cough, or change positions.

(5) Sex

That’s right. Sex can cause cramps in early pregnancy because orgasm causes your uterus to spasm.

It can also cause light spotting, which leads many women to feel terrified, especially if their spotting is combined with uterine cramps.

But if these symptoms occur and you’ve been sexually active, know that can be a cause.

What Do Early Pregnancy Cramps Feel Like?

While some women might be more sensitive to pregnancy cramps, they’re not usually a significant problem.

If you’re wondering how many women describe what early pregnancy cramps feel like, however, many claim they’re comparable to mild period pain.

They’re also often described as small twinges or pulling sensations in the back, sides, or stomach.

And if it’s round ligament pain, it can be acute and intense–for just a second. That pain can feel sharp or like a muscle pulling.

Lower Back Pain Early Pregnancy: When should i worry about back pain in pregnancy?

While most cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy is nothing to be concerned about, both can be signs of serious problems. Contact your medical provider immediately if you’re concerned.

Back pain and abdominal pains in early pregnancy can sometimes be the first thing women notice if they’re suffering from a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (which occurs when the embryo implants itself outside of the uterine cavity.)

Abdominal pain in early pregnancy is predominant with both of these conditions, but it is often confused with lower back pain.

If you’re experiencing cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy that will not let up, increase in intensity, or occur at regular, close intervals like contractions, call your OB or midwife.

Also contact your doctor if your stomach pain is accompanied by bleeding or spotting, especially heavy bleeding with bright red blood.

It’s easier said than done, we know, but try not to worry too much until you talk to your healthcare provider. Always call your doctor if your cramping and lower back pain are accompanied by other symptoms, especially vaginal bleeding or passing tissue.

But feel free to contact them anytime you’re concerned. That’s what they’re there for!

Lower Back Pain Early Pregnancy relief

Once you’ve determined that a critical problem is not causing your cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy, the fun part begins–trying to figure out how to find pregnancy back pain relief!

A sad reality of pregnancy is that cramping and lower back pain can continue throughout the entire pregnancy.

This means looking for ways to alleviate the problem since many medications are not recommended during pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about relief methods that are safe for you. Here are some that the mothers in our community have found to be the most effective for pregnancy back pain relief.

(1) Getting the Right Pregnancy and Maternity Essentials

From pregnancy support belts to low-heeled shoes, shopping for the right types of maternity essentials for your wardrobe is key to remedying lower back pain in early pregnancy and beyond.

(2) Take a Bath

Growing up, I always heard old wives’ tales about how baths were a big no-no during pregnancy.

Well, no disrespect to those wives, but I’m sticking with science on this one, and science says they’re fine (as long as the water’s not too hot!). While hot tubs are a no no due to risk of dangerously increased body temperature, the American Pregnancy Association says that baths that are not “uncomfortable” or “scalding” are a-okay.

Not only can taking a bath be an excellent treatment for pregnancy stress, but it can also help with any aches and pains you might be experiencing.

Cold and hot massage techniques can also provide the same sorts of benefits that baths do for pain.

(2) Sleep On Your Side

As if you needed one more excuse to spend some time on Amazon, you might want to start looking into one of those amazing pregnancy pillows

Sleeping on your side and supporting your belly in bed are great ways to decrease the amount of cramping and lower back pain you’re experiencing.

(3) Consider Acupuncture of Chiropractic Treatment

If you’re really struggling to stay comfortable during pregnancy, it might be time to call in the professionals.

Chiropractors and acupuncturists have been known to help treat lower back pain during pregnancy, but make sure you clear these methods of low back pain treatment with your doctor. Never seek these treatments without the prior approval of your healthcare provider.

Dealing with lower back pain and Cramping (Early Pregnancy)

When many women find out they’re expecting a baby, the joy is something tremendous to behold. The fear of losing that baby, however, is another beast entirely.

Trying to deal with cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy can be stressful. While it’s easy to tell yourself there’s nothing to worry about, the constant fear of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy can lead to extreme stress and anxiety.

During my own pregnancy, for example, I struggled endlessly with round ligament pains.

While I’d spoken to my doctor about them and was calmed by their lack of concern, every time I experienced a pain that was worse or different from the others, the panic would settle back into my mind.

I began searching for ways to deal with the stress of cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy.

Here were some of the options I landed on:

  • I began taking walks for extra exercise and to keep my body moving.
  • I reduced the number of “extra” responsibilities I had to allow more time for lounging around and relaxing.
  • I read all of the important “What to Expect” pregnancy books, so I would have a better grasp of what was going on with my body.
  • I started doing daily meditations and gentle pregnancy yoga.

Cramping During Early Pregnancy FAQs

How much cramping is normal in early pregnancy?

Cramping is a normal symptom of the first trimester of pregnancy, and cramping in the abdomen and lower back can be a sign of pregnancy even before a confirmed positive test. Early pregnancy cramping should feel like a general pulling sensation in the abdomen (like mild period cramps).  If you experience prolonged cramping or severe cramping during early pregnancy, you should contact your doctor immediately.

How long does cramping last in early pregnancy?

It is normal to feel infrequent cramps throughout the first and second trimesters of pregnancy as the uterus stretches to accommodate your pregnancy. Many women experience round ligament pain (short, painful spasms) through the second trimester as the ligaments around the uterus stretch during baby’s growth.

When do pregnancy cramps start?

Some pregnant people can experience cramping as early as implantation (6-12 days after conception), although this is not the case for every pregnancy. Often, early pregnancy cramps begin during the first trimester as the uterus and surrounding ligaments stretch to accommodate the pregnancy.

How do I know if my cramps are from pregnancy?

Cramping is common in both PMS and early pregnancy, unfortunately, so the most clear way to tell if your cramps are from pregnancy is to wait for a missed period and pregnancy test. Some sources suggest that pregnancy cramps are generally lower in the abdomen than period cramps.

Is lower back pain a sign of pregnancy?

Lower back pain can be a sign of early pregnancy. Some pregnant people experience implantation cramping that can be felt in the abdomen or lower back. Cramping can also occur in early pregnancy after implantation as the uterus and surrounding ligaments stretch.

Where do implantation cramps hurt?

Implantation cramps generally hurt in the lower abdomen or lower back and are caused by the implantation of the embryo into your endometrium (uterine lining). Some people experience implantation cramping on either the left or right side of the abdomen.

Don’t let Pregnancy Cramps cramp up your pregnancy experience!

We understand that cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy can be confusing, painful, and stressful. Despite this, however, it is important not to let those symptoms ruin the incredible experience you’re in the middle of.

While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what’s happening with your body, the end result is really something to marvel at.

If you’ve experienced cramping and lower back pain during pregnancy, what types of pregnancy back pain relief did you use?

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