profile picture of Joanne Van Zuidam
Joanne Van Zuidam

Abdominal Tightening During Pregnancy

Is that tightening sensation in your belly freaking you out? Find out if your tightening abdomen is something to be worried about.

A tightening sensation that spreads across your abdomen can be a shocker—is it a cramp? Or a contraction? Read on to learn what can cause abdominal tightening during pregnancy, what you can do about it and when to call the doctor.

Why Does My Stomach Tighten Up During Pregnancy?

Early in your pregnancy, that abdominal tightening might be your ligaments stretching. “As the uterus grows, it's pushing out on your abdominal musculature,” says Robert O. Atlas, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. All that stretching and pushing can lead to round ligament pain, which feels like a sharp pain in your abdomen.

Later in your pregnancy, it could be a few things: Baby might just be moving around in there, you could be having gas, or maybe your uterus is contracting— Braxton Hicks contractions are par for the course in the second and third trimesters and aren’t a reason to worry. If the tightening is more constant and doesn’t let up, it could be  preterm or full-term labor.

When To See A Doctor

If you’re in a high-risk pregnancy, get in touch right away! If not, don’t worry—chances are you’re just feeling your belly getting bigger. But if the tightening is happening more than four times an hour, then definitely give your OB a call.

How To Deal With Abdominal Tightening

So what can you for that tightening sensation? It depends on what’s causing the symptoms. If it’s Braxton Hicks contractions, you can try switching positions. Stand if you’re sitting, or sit if you’re standing, and they’ll likely go away. If it’s preterm labor, you’ll need to seek medical attention.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Preterm Labor

Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy