A hard stomach might be indicative of a number of conditions like gastrointestinal issues, irritable bowel syndrome, or even overeating or having too much of carbonated drinks. However, pregnancy is a different deal altogether!
Generally, one can expect a hard stomach when pregnant. This hard-feeling stomach is caused by the pressure of the growing uterus and the resulting pressure put on the abdomen. This hardness of the stomach while pregnant can be more pronounced if the woman is on a low-fiber diet or drinks a lot of carbonated beverages.
On experiencing severe pain along with a hard stomach, one should consult one’s obstetrician or gynaecologist or seek immediate medical attention. Sometimes severe pain in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is an indicator of miscarriage.
Although this hardness of the stomach is more common in the third trimester, one can also feel the stomach hardening in the early days of pregnancy or in the first trimester itself. During the first trimester, the uterus is growing and stretching rapidly to accommodate the growing fetus. This might lead to abdominal cramping or sharp, stabbing, or shooting pains along the side of the abdomen, as the ligaments and other tissues stretch. This phase is also a time for transformation of pregnancy hormones which takes a toll on the gastrointestinal system leading to gas and constipation as well, both of which further contribute to stomach hardening.
Coming to the second trimester, one can feel constant tretching, cramping, and stabbing pain along the sides of the uterus continuing from the first into the second trimester, and is known as round ligament pain. The round ligaments are located on either side of the uterus and connect the uterus to the groin.
During pregnancy, the ligaments stretch as the uterus grows, which can cause the sharp pain. This pain commonly occurs with changes in position, such as sitting to standing or bending down.
Most women start to feel their uterus contract and periodically tighten some time during the second trimester, the point in their pregnancy between 14 to 28 weeks. Such discomfort can come from labor contractions or Braxton-Hicks contractions which refer to sporadic contraction of the uterine muscles and are usually harmless in nature, also known as ‘false labor’ pains.
The purpose of Braxton-Hicks contractions is for the uterus to prepare for the hard work of labor and delivery. It is thought that they help to tone the muscle in the uterus and promote blood flow to the placenta.
Braxton-Hicks contractions typically last for around 30 to 60 seconds but can be as long as 2 minutes. They are not as painful as regular contractions, but can still cause considerable pain and discomfort.
Some things may trigger or worsen Braxton-Hicks contractions:
Even though Braxton-Hicks contractions are common during pregnancy, it is important to mention them to the doctor at prenatal visits. The doctor can help determine whether they are Braxton-Hicks contractions which normally pass. If the contractions do not pass and become more persistent, it might be a sign that one is actually going into labor.
When in the third trimester, stomach-tightening associated with Braxton-Hicks contractions increases in strength and frequency. These contractions are especially common during the last few weeks of pregnancy as the uterus prepares for birth.
However, it is still important to notice and keep track of them. If a woman has more than a few in an hour, she should speak to her doctor.
There are certain easy and simple steps that a person can adopt in order to relieve the pain and stretching feeling. They include,
It is important to call a doctor if home remedies do not relieve stomach tightening or if there are more than four contractions in an hour.
If the stomach feels hard and swollen for more than a few days, one should visit the doctor or seek medical attention, also in case one is facing other symptoms such as: