Pregnancy is all about newer experiences. You need to understand that it is something that your body has never really gone through before. So, certain changes might be a bit overwhelming and give you a bit of worry when it comes to pregnancy. Amongst all, your belly getting hard during pregnancy is one. But when does your stomach get hard during pregnancy? And why does it happen in the first place? Do you need to go check in with the doctor? Or do you need to prepare for the welcome of the little one?  

Well, for starters, the trigger for a hard belly totally depends on the trimester you are in. It can also be determined by monitoring some other symptoms.  

The most common reasons behind it may include a very mild stretch in the muscles or some labor contractions. In the worst cases, it might be a sign of miscarriage.  

In this article, we shall unveil the intricacies of a hard belly during pregnancy. This might help you determine what is normal and when you need to rush to your doctor without wasting any bit of time.  

General Overview  

General Overview

There are a number of pains, aches, and other feelings that you may experience in the course of your pregnancy. Stomach tightening or hardening may begin as early as your first trimester with the growth of the uterus.  

With progress in the pregnancy, it might signal towards a possible miscarriage in the earlier weeks. It also signals premature labor if your due date is not close or if it is approaching labor. It might also be your normal contractions that do not progress towards labor.  

When Does Your Stomach Get Hard During Pregnancy? 

Stomach tightening or hardening does not really happen until the second or the third trimester. This mainly happens when the uterus shifts and expands to prepare for your labor.  

However, in some cases, it might begin in the first trimester too. 

When Does Your Stomach Get Hard During Pregnancy: The Reasons 

when does your stomach get hard during pregnancy

There are many reasons why your stomach gets harder during pregnancy. However, these reasons vary from one trimester to the other. Meanwhile, tightening or hardening may be more common during the final trimester than during the first trimester.  

When you have the correct information about what to expect in each trimester, it becomes easy for you to decide what to do when your belly does get hard.  

During The First Trimester  

1st Trimester

There are multiple reasons why you may be experiencing a hard stomach. The reasons may include:  

Stretching  

In the first trimester, your uterus grows and stretches at a rapid pace to accommodate the growing baby.  

This may cause other sensations like sharp shooting, stabbing pain, cramps along the side of your abdomen, and a tightening sensation. This happens with the stretching of your ligaments or other tissues.  

Constipation Or Gas  

Pain from gas is way more common than you expect during pregnancy. It may result in cramps or near-death pains in the abdomen.  

Constipation and bloating, on the other hand, are also too common during this time. The ever-changing hormones in your body during pregnancy are one of the reasons behind the slowing down of your gastrointestinal tract.  

Add in the growing uterus – and you get one of the most uncomfortable feelings in your stomach. 

Miscarriage  

While this is one of the rarest occurrences, hardening of the abdomen can be one of the signals that you may have had a miscarriage – the loss of pregnancy within 20 weeks.  

However, miscarriages are most common within the 12th week of pregnancy. Some other signs of miscarriage might include:  

  • Brown or bright red bleeding from the vagina  
  • Mild to very severe back pain  
  • Cramps 
  • Clot or tissue discharge from the vagina  
  • Reduced pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and breast tenderness.  

The symptoms of miscarriage may vary from one woman to the other. In some cases, the woman might not even experience any symptoms at all. Hence, it is important for every woman to go for proper prenatal care so that doctors can properly monitor the development of the baby throughout the pregnancy.  

During the early days of pregnancy, if you experience any vaginal bleeding, particularly one that looks like menstruation, call the doctor’s office as soon as you can.  

During The Second Trimester  

2nd Trimester

Cramping, stretching, and shooting pain along the abdominal sides continue till the second trimester. By this time, they are commonly known as round ligament pain. These round ligaments are present on either side of your uterus. They help in connecting the uterus to the groin.

At the time of pregnancy, ligaments stretch with the growing uterus. This is the reason why you experience such sharp pains. It may result in a very slight pulling sensation on your pelvis. This may sometimes also be felt as stomach tightening.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

In between 14 to 28 weeks, or the second trimester, most women tend to feel the uterus contact and tighten at certain times. These contractions are more popularly known as Braxton Hicks contractions. They are a lot like practice contractions or false labor.

The main intent of Braxton Hicks contractions is to prepare the uterus for the intense work of labor and delivery. It is considered that they help in toning the muscles present in the uterus and promote the flow of blood into the placenta.  

Braxton Hicks is pretty common and normal during pregnancy. They usually last for around forty to sixty seconds. In some cases, they might extend for as long as two minutes. They are certainly not as painful as your labor contractions but may still cause substantial discomfort and pain.  

Certain things that are known to trigger Braxton Hicks contractions are:  

  • Dehydration
  • Orgasm or sex 
  • A sharp kick by the baby 
  • A full bladder 

The position of the baby  

Based on the position of the baby at the present moment, you might feel a bit more tightening in the stomach. As the baby in the womb moves constantly, there is a chance for them to push a new uterine area or its nearby organs.  

Preterm Labor  

Hardening of the stomach is not in itself a sign of preterm labor. But if you are experiencing hardness along with a certain pain that gets worse, it is best that you play safe and contact your doctor immediately.  

In The Third Trimester  

3rd Trimester

The third trimester welcomes the excitement of meeting your little one. But, with a rapidly growing baby, hardening of the stomach gets way too common. Remember that the reasons behind a hardening stomach during the third trimester will not vary much from the other trimesters.  

Here are the reasons why you may be experiencing stomach hardening during the third trimester.  

Round Ligament Pain  

While this situation arises during the second trimester, it worsens during the third with the rapid growth of the baby.  

Braxton Hicks Contractions  

Just as you get them in the second trimester, Braxton Hicks is also very common in the third trimester. Your body is just getting ready for the delivery. It is completely normal.  

A Wiggly Baby  

Room to wiggle in the uterus becomes lesser by the time you reach the third trimester. So, every time your baby changes its position, you may be able to feel it with more intensity. This may be one of the reasons behind stomach tightness.  

Labor  

In the later part of the third trimester, labor contractions may result in the feeling of stomach tightening. The uterus contracts way stronger in comparison to the usual Braxton Hicks. You will also be experiencing the signs of labor with this. If the hardening gets too strong and powerful over a period of time, does not ease on its own, or keeps on happening in very consistent patterns, this might be the moment you have been waiting for. If you feel like your body is going into labor, call your doctor immediately for the next steps.  

Treatment And Cure  

Treatment And Cure

If you experience mild and irregular stomach hardening, try out the following tips to see if they work for you:  

  • Drink a large glass of water and stay as hydrated as possible.  
  • Try out constant body movements to see if newer positions help ease the discomfort.  
  • Try not to get up very quickly from your bed or any other position.  
  • Go for a pregnancy massage to relax those tired muscles. 
  • Use a heating pad or a warm water bottle. You may also go for a warm bath or shower. In case of warm baths, try to avoid certain essential oils as they may be harmful for pregnancies.  

If these DIY remedies do not help you ease the pain, or there are other concerns, too, it is better to call your doctor as soon as possible.  

Rush to the hospital right then if your pregnancy is less than 36 weeks and if you have certain preterm labor symptoms like:  

  • Fluid leakage  
  • Bleeding  
  • Pressure in the vagina or the pelvis  

You must also contact your doctor if you go through four to six contractions in the span of one hour, regardless of the timing. Hospitals very often get calls from women who have no idea about the different sensations during pregnancy. Practically speaking, it is better to be safe than sorry if you suspect anything wrong with your pregnancy.  

Braxton Hicks Vs. Labor Contractions  

Braxton Hicks Vs. Labor Contractions

Many women tend to get confused between labor contractions and Braxton Hicks. There is nothing to worry about, as this is one of the most common things during pregnancy. As a first-timer, it is okay not to know everything. Many women tend to contact or visit the hospital due to Braxton Hicks contractions, particularly during the end of their pregnancy. Because Braxton Hicks becomes too strong and more frequent, it kind of feels as if your labor has started for real.  

There are a couple of differences that set both types of contractions apart.  

Braxton Hicks Contractions  

  • Uncomfortable  
  • Have an irregular frequency and intensity  
  • No other labor signs  
  • You might get relieved using homely measures like lying down or drinking water  

Actual labor  

  • Painful  
  • Become closer together and increasingly stronger 
  • Home remedies do not relieve them  
  • The other signs of labor would be too prominent 

Some other signs of labor are:  

  • A bloody vaginal discharge, or the bloody show  
  • Leaking of fluids from the vagina  
  • Cramping or back pain  

When To See A Doctor?  

When To See A Doctor

While hardening of the stomach is not in itself a concern that needs to be checked by a doctor, certain cases require medical attention for the best. There are certain instances that suggest you visit a doctor as soon as you can. Some of those instances are:  

  • Back pain along with stomach hardening  
  • The stomach hardening becomes more and more intense over time  
  • The tightening happens every five to six minutes, and you are preterm.  

When it comes to pregnancy, playing it safe is one of the best things to do. No matter how irrelevant or small, if there is something that is bothering you, call your doctor. They are there to help you. So, as long as you feel that your baby is not in a safe spot, do whatever you can to get a breath of relief.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How Early In Pregnancy Does Your Stomach Feel Hard? 

With the growth of your uterus and the baby’s development, your stomach can start to feel hard or tight even during the early days of your pregnancy. You feel the stomach getting hard because the abdominal muscles getting too stretched. This mainly starts around the 7th or 8th week of pregnancy.  

Is Pregnant Belly Soft Or Hard? 

It is also very common for pregnant mummies to experience a soft tummy at 17 weeks of their pregnancy. This is a very common concern within the first two trimesters. However, every pregnancy is different, and the fetus moves independently. So, it will probably get hard as you move along in your pregnancy.  

What Does A 1-Week Pregnant Belly Look Like? 

A week’s pregnancy does not show up at all. In the first two weeks of pregnancy, you are not pregnant at all. So, expecting to see the bump is an unrealistic expectation.

The Bottom Line  

If you have ever worried about “when does  your stomach get hard during pregnancy” or anything related to it, call your doctor. These things are not meant to be taken lightly. It is about the well-being of your baby, and you have every right to ask questions. 

Hardening of the stomach happens due to multiple reasons. But as long as it is only a tight stomach, you would not have to worry a lot. If things get a bit too serious, like vaginal bleeding, cramps, or back pain, make sure you visit the doctor as soon as possible.  

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