Pregnancy is the weird ride and the most exciting adventure in a woman’s life. It brings a jumble of emotional thoughts. You feel happy but simultaneously experience sudden, strange physical changes. But you don’t have to worry. It’s a natural step-by-step process as the baby grows. While pregnant, you feel your stomach differently, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. A stomach cramp is also one of those pregnancy symptoms.
Stomach tightening is a normal sensation during pregnancy and may result from various causes. A tight stomach is usually caused by specific physical factors such as digestive system problems or hormonal changes. The things that trigger your Tommy to get hard depend on which trimester of pregnancy you are in and other pregnancy symptoms that may appear. If you are expecting your first baby and want to know “when your Tommy gets hard during pregnancy”, don’t just stop there. Go through this article, and it will benefit you.
When & Why It Happens?
Your pregnant belly may start to feel like your uterus is growing during the first trimester. Around the halfway mark of your pregnancy, your abdominal area may fully get hardened and tightened. It might make you uncomfortable, but it’s a natural process. No need to worry about it. Ten pregnancy weeks ago, your uterus was small enough to fit inside your pelvis, but right now, your baby is big enough that everything starts to move up and into your Tommy. The area above the pubic bone is the first part of your stomach that hardens when you’re pregnant.
Dr Jennie Mao, MD, medical director of the UW Medicine Women’s Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, emailed Romper to say that the uterus can usually be felt by the 20th week of gestation at the belly button. And the women experience a larger bump as the pregnancy progresses. In other words, as the belly grows, pregnant women may undergo various other body changes, such as the growing uterus for the growing baby, breast tenderness, and weight gain. These are a few reasons why your belly gets hard during pregnancy.
It’s not your actual uterus that gets hard, explains Dr Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, to Romper via email. Pregnancy-related hormones soften the uterus, and this tightness in your stomach comes from the content that puts pressure on the belly’s skin.
Aside from your growing baby and the uterus expanding, many other factors can cause stomach tightening in many women.
What Causes Belly Tightening During Pregnancy?
The most common causes of stomach tightening include labour-related contractions, muscle stretch (usually at the beginning of the pregnancy), or a possible miscarriage. Here, let’s talk about the causes of stomach stretching or tightening feeling during each chapter of your preggo journey.
During The First Trimester
In the early pregnancy (during the first week of pregnancy up until the thirteenth week), you may start feeling tightness in your belly, Tommy stretch marks, and the red or pink streaks on the belly as the first signs of pregnancy. But, your uterus is still under the pelvic bone so the expansion is not noticeable. The causes of stomach tightening during this period are:
Abdominal Muscles’ Stretching
The belly may start to firm up early in pregnancy. This is why your uterus grows, at the same time uterus expands, and your internal organs move apart to make more space for accomodating the growing fetus. The other sensation you may experience is the sharp shooting pains on one of your abdomen sides as your abdominal muscles stretch and lengthen.
The main cause of feeling tightness in your stomach is the excessive stretching of the abdominal muscles. Your lower abdomen appears to be more swollen and harder than you were not pregnant. As this is the normal finding, there is no specific treatment required for this belly tightening. But if the feeling becomes uncomfortable, you should consult with your OB-GYN.
Is It Miscarriage?
The painful feeling of stretching in your belly at the early pregnancy may be a sign of miscarriage. Miscarriage is the loss of pregnancy before the 20th week, mostly it happens before week 12. In addition to the feeling of tightness in the belly, the other symptoms that a pregnant woman can experience for miscarriage are cramping in the lower back, seeing fluid or tissue pass from the vagina, or bleeding or spotting.
If you experience such painful sensations at the start of pregnancy, immediately visit your doctor, so may assess your baby and the placenta through ultrasound.
Gas Or Constipation
Gas in the gastrointestinal tract or constipation is another major problem that occurs throughout the pregnancy. This happens because of the rapid hormonal changes that mostly occur in the first few weeks after conception. This rapid hormonal change can slow down the intestinal fluid which may lead to increased gas formation. Because of this gas, your pregnant belly may become bloated and harder.
Many women also use iron supplements which can make the stool harder as well as their stomach. So, what should you do if you experience tightness in your stomach due to constipation or gas? To reduce the discomfort you should continue to hydrate yourself throughout the day, have a diet consisting of fibers, fruits and vegetables rich in water, and grains. You can also reduce the emergence of stretch marks on your stomach by eating a healthy diet.
During The Second Trimester
The second trimester covers the pregnancy period of the 14th to the 27th week. When does the pregnancy belly get hard during the second trimester? Let’s have a look!
Braxton Hicks Contractions
After the 14th week of pregnancy, you may have mild discomfort, or your pregnancy belly may get hard and you may experience Braxton Hicks Contractions. These pregnancy symptoms are sometimes called “False contractions” or “Practice Contractions”. These contractions usually occur in the upper to mid-abdomen, in the front of your mid-section, and are infrequent in the second trimester but are more common in the third pregnancy phase. Most women suffer from these contractions more than others and they usually last only 20 to 30 seconds.
Some things which may trigger Braxton Hicks Contractions are:
- A full bladder
- Sharp kicking by the baby
- Orgasm or Sex
However, to experience Braxton Hicks Contractions is not as painful as regular contractions. They often occur with activities such as sex or exercise. When these contractions happen, they make the whole pregnancy belly feel tight and usually last for about 2 minutes. There is no specific treatment required for them as they are completely normal and natural contractions that prepare the muscles for the actual labor. If they are making you uncomfortable, drink enough fluids and inform your midwife or OB-GYN to prevent premature delivery.
Round Ligament Pain
As the pregnancy progresses, belly tightening and sharp pains, known as round ligament pain can develop. This uncomfortable feeling is more common during the second trimester and the back pain spreads from the abdomen to the hip and groin area. This back pain is also considered totally normal. At this point in pregnancy, the abdominal muscles and ligaments continue to stretch.
To prevent the inflammation of the round ligament, you need to rest and avoid lying in the same position for long periods of time. Wearing an abdominal brace may help relieve the pain.
During The Third Trimester
The time of the last three weeks during pregnancy is included in the third trimester. It’s the last period of pregnancy and you may experience the same sensations that you were experiencing during the previous trimesters i.e, false labor or contractions, round ligament pain, constipation, etc. However, the most important reason why your belly gets hard is the labor contractions during the third trimester.
Labor contractions may start out mild but become stronger as time passes. Braxton Hicks Contractions are much more similar to labor contractions. But true labor contractions are much more intense over time than practice contractions. Getting hard of your stomach at the last period of pregnancy may be because of these labor contractions. Braxton Hicks Contractions are often called false labor, you may experience them also in the last week of the third trimester. It’s normal for the woman’s water to rupture if she is having labor contractions at the end of the pregnancy period.
If you observe or feel any abnormality at any point of your pregnancy or have frequent contractions during the second or the third trimester, or intense hardening of the stomach, do not ignore it. Visit your OB-GYN so he/she may find out whether the feeling you are having is normal or you need to go through a further evaluation. If you are unable to reach them, you should go to the emergency or labor unit immediately and take deep breaths.
What To Do If You Are Experiencing A Hard Pregnant Belly During Pregnancy?
Making your tight stomach chill is the most important thing. Although stomach tightening is totally normal, here we are going to provide you with the knowledge of things you can do to make your bump chillax already.
Take enough water to make yourself hydrated. Keep a water bottle with yourself and sip it regularly.
Pamper yourself and get a regular parental massage that can make the tightened muscles and ligaments relax.
If the abdominal muscle or uterus contractions are exerting enough pressure on the belly and making it hard to such an extent that you start feeling pain, take a warm bath because sitting in the warm water can make the itchy muscles get relaxed. A warm bath, heating pads, and hot water bottles are now your besties.
If you are having true or false contractions, do not panic. Just switch your position and use belly support. Sometimes lying down or sitting in a different position can manage your pain.
Do not stand quickly and walk quickly while you are pregnant and have a pregnancy belly.
If none of the above prevention measures work while you have a pregnant hard belly, it is completely okay to call your doctor if you are concerned. Safety first!
If you observe the following symptoms before 36 weeks of pregnancy, you need to get yourself to a hospital ASAP for the sake of your health.
- More than 4 or 6 contractions per hour
- Period-like cramps in your belly or back
- Leaking clear fluid or blood
- Sudden pressure in your pelvis
- Vomiting or diarrhea
But keep in mind, tightness in your stomach remains constant during the whole pregnancy period.
The Bottom Line:
Braxton Hicks Contractions and belly tightening are the normal part of many pregnancies. But, if you ever find tightness in your stomach serious and you are worried, don’t hesitate to call your midwife or OB-GYN. Though Braxton-Hicks contractions become more frequent in the third phase of pregnancy, it’s also possible that the tightness in your belly means it’s the real deal. Call your doctor or rush to the hospital if there’s any risk that you’re in labor.
Moreover, if your stomach feels extreme pain in the first trimester of pregnancy, it might not be because of tightness in the pregnancy belly. So, don’t underestimate it and visit your doctor. It may be the sign of ectopic pregnancy (a rare condition in which the egg implants itself somewhere aside from the uterus like a fallopian tube). Ladies’ health visitors (LHV) should provide strict sourcing guidelines about stomach tightening during pregnancy to the people in the rural areas where women are illiterate.