From the point of conception, the belly goes through a lot of weird stuff in a short amount of time. Considering the uterus is growing from the size of a peach to a watermelon in just 9 short months (even though it feels like the longest time ever), the belly is entitled to experiencing a whole bunch of feels along the way.
One prominent feeling that pregnant women will get in the belly is a tightening sensation. It’s worse than a stitch after exercising on a full belly and it’s maybe even worse than those irritating period cramps each months. After all, something is growing bigger and bigger each day inside the belly, so of course things are feeling rather tight around there, right?
There are many explanations for why belly tightening happens throughout pregnancy. The thing with it is that the tightening sensation will come and go. Most feelings with pregnancy aren’t the same for the entire 9 months. You already know about the hormonal rollercoaster, well consider this the belly tightening tea cup ride, if you like.
Generally speaking, a tight feeling around the belly is nothing to worry about. However, as with anything pregnancy related, you know your own body and know when things aren’t feeling right. That is the time to consult your doctor and get their advice.
In general, these are some explanations for why the belly may be feeling tight. They vary at different points of the pregnancy and certainly won’t be experienced by all women. But it might just give you an insight as to why your belly was loose as a goose yesterday and feeling super tight this morning. Pregnancy life!
12 An Abrupt Placenta
During pregnancy, another organ grows in the woman’s body. This is called the placenta and it is literally the life support for the growing baby. The placenta is what nourishes the baby and provides it with the food and nutrients it needs to grow bigger and stronger.
In very rare cases of pregnancy, the placenta can prematurely detach from the uterus wall. This is meant to happen during delivery and if it happens earlier it isn’t good news. This only happens in 0.5 percent of pregnancy cases so it is an unlikely explanation for stomach tightening. When this happens, the uterus starts to become more and more firm. The belly tightening is consistent, unlike other explanations where it comes and goes. If things are getting increasingly and consistently tight, go see the doctor. However, placental abruption is really uncommon, but just another one of those things to have in the very back of your mind during pregnancy.
11 Uterus Brushing Against The Bowel
It’s no secret that the uterus is growing during pregnancy. It is hosting a new life form and that life form is growing and developing at an exponential rate. So the uterus has to keep up to make a nice homely womb for baby.
As the uterus grows, it comes into contact with the bowel more frequently than before. When the uterus was just a little tiny peach, it and the bowel could live in harmony. Now however, the uterus is pushing against the bowel and displacing it somewhat. This leads to some pretty uncomfortable feelings.
When the bowel isn’t happy, your body isn’t either. Along with a tight feeling in the belly, bowel displacement can cause nausea and a feeling of being constantly full. You can’t do much about this one, except for eating plenty of fibre and exercising regularly. This will help lessen the tightening feeling when the uterus bounces over the bladder.
10 Gaining Pregnancy Fat
Yes, pregnancy makes women get fat. It’s probably the best type of fat to be, since there is a pretty valid excuse for gaining a few extra kilos. Of course, pregnancy fat messes with the body and it is a pain thinking about how to get rid of it once baby is in the real world. Pregnancy fat can also cause stomach tightening along the way, just in case women needed another excuse to be annoyed at their pregnancy weight.
With the excess weight, the body has to redistribute fat cells around and try to keep some balance, even though you feel like you’re going to topple over at any moment. Since the stomach is the first part of the body that is really getting fat, this is where things start changing. This can happen early on in the pregnancy and later on as well, but the expansion can lead to a feeling of tightness around the belly. This kind of tightening is more likened to what you experience with period cramps. But this time, instead of bleeding, you get fat! Being a woman totally rocks, right?
9 Unbalanced Diet And Toilet Troubles
Pregnancy is a time when the diet really needs to be under control. A healthy and balanced diet is going to mean a whole lot less discomfort around the belly, including that awkward and uncomfortable tightening sensation.
Basically, pregnant women are more prone to constipation and the annoying tightness this brings to the stomach. It is just one of those discomforts you really want to avoid during pregnancy. The constipation may not necessarily be due to an unhealthy diet as much as it caused by the uterus pressing on the bowel. Plus, the added release of progesterone in the body makes the gastrointestinal tract slow down.
Nonetheless, a healthy diet enriched with fibre, minerals, and legumes will make a positive difference here. As well as that, keep drinking plenty of water to flush things though. You’re going to have to pee a billion times a day regardless, so you may as well keep the fluids up.
8 Baby Bouncing Around
The first time the baby kicks in the womb is a magical moment. It means that the baby is developing strong limbs and progressing well, getting ready to join the real world. However, after about the 100th kick or something like that, there is no shame in wanting baby to calm down.
As the baby grows and starts moving around more and more, the belly can take a real blow. Each time this unexpected pressure and movement happens from the inside, the outside of the stomach can react by getting tighter. This is really just to accommodate baby’s activity, but it can be really uncomfortable for mom on the outside.
It won’t be a stabbing pain or anything, more just like an unexpected cramp or that feeling after you’ve eaten way too much for lunch. It’s the type of discomfort you can easily breath through without too much drama. Generally, this type of belly tightening will go away once baby settles back down.
7 Eating Too Much
Here’s a great irony with pregnancy: a growing baby is hungry and needs nutrients so mom develops an increased appetite and literally eats for two, but then mom’s belly gets so tight that she’s really uncomfortable, but at least baby is fed. Wow, talk about a catch 22.
Yes, you will need to eat more during pregnancy. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating more of the good stuff so that your diet is balanced and well. However, over eating anything can lead to the belly feeling really tight and uncomfortable.
Obviously, the best way to avoid this is not to overeat. That is easier said than done when you’re incredibly hungry just about all the time and have these weird cravings to appease. What can be done is staggering meals of even portion sizes. Eating more regularly is different to overeating in one sitting. Think of it as next level snacking for 9 months while baby grows.
6 Round Ligament Pain
So, the uterus grows during pregnancy. No surprises there. But what is also happening is that the ligaments which support the uterus are growing as well. These ligaments are connected to the groin and they have to stretch and thicken, basically from top to bottom of the uterus, as everything expands with the baby.
What this means for you is that you may experience sharp pains in the abdomen as the ligaments thicken and stretch out. This is most likely to happen in the second trimester when things really expand out. This pain can be most prominent when you go from sitting to standing really quickly. It can also present as a dull, tight ache around the belly.
It is uncomfortable, but it is also quite common. Round ligament pain isn’t going to negatively affect your baby is any way, rather it is quite necessary for baby! You can alleviate the pain and tightness by literally putting your feet up or switching positions.
5 Blame It On Braxton Hicks
So much in the last stages of pregnancy can be blamed on Braxton Hicks. It doesn’t even have to be related to the false contractions that are experienced under his name. Feeling a bit emotional? Blame Braxton Hicks. Sick of those swollen feet in the third trimester? Blame Braxton Hicks. He can totally be the pregnancy scape goat.
Braxton Hicks contractions are essentially fake contractions. Not all women will experience them, but those who do will want to punch Braxton Hicks in the face. Basically, these contractions of the uterus feel very real and make the belly feel exceptionally tight, but they do not cause the cervix to dilate, which is what real contractions do. When Braxton Hicks contractions occur, the stomach will feel really tight and hard, but it’s all just a warm up for the real event. These contractions are too irregular to set off labor, but have the potential to pester women from trimester two until delivery.
4 Potential Problems In The Womb
In rare cases, tightening in the belly can lead to more serious problems. These aren’t overly common and do need to be diagnosed by a doctor. Any belly pain or tightness is not an immediate symptom of these problems.
Some conditions associated with tightness in the belly include: an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg plants itself in the fallopian tube; preeclampsia, a condition where the blood pressure and protein levels in the urine are too high; and the most saddening result is miscarriage due to complications.
It is always good to get a doctor’s opinion when feeling any extreme pain or discomfort. For instance, severe pain along with spotting and vaginal bleeding, fever, chills, vomiting and nausea, and vaginal discharge are signs that you need to go to the doctor. Unless pain is constant and extreme, you will most likely be fine. However, you know your body best and know when to worry.
3 Back Pain And Pain All Round
As the pregnant stomach becomes more round, there ends up being pain all round. Since the body is changing, a lot has to happen to accommodate the expanding uterus and growing baby, and it can explain these uncomfortable feelings of pain and tightness.
Back pain is a common side effect of pregnancy. Pain in the lower back is really common, as these muscles have to work a lot harder to support the growing baby and keep mom standing upright. Pain in the hips is also really common, thanks to the ligaments connecting the uterus to the groin stretching and thickening.
These pains can cause tightness in the belly. The best way to alleviate them is to rest when they are too bad. Applying a heat pack or massaging with some natural oils can also help to soothe the muscles and aches. Pregnancy requires a lot of tender loving care, and for your sake and the baby’s, you should listen to when your body needs a break!
2 Feeling Gassy And Bloated
It’s not very charming, but it is part of the pregnant reality. That feeling of gassiness and bloating come hand in hand with the pregnant belly growing. These can make the belly feel really tight and uncomfortable, once again as if mom-to-be has just devoured everything possible at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Basically, during pregnancy, the hormone progesterone is released in full force. This hormone, amongst other things, slows down the gastrointestinal tract. This means that foods literally travel slower throughout so they are sitting around inside for longer than before. This can lead to constipation, bloating, and just feeling gassy and gross.
Progesterone is the winner here and you can’t do much to battle it out. Other than eating plenty of fibre and drinking plenty of water to flush things through, you kind of just have to accept it. At least no one will notice that you’re bloated since the whole pregnant belly thing you’ve got going on covers it up nicely.
1 Baby Is On The Way!
Towards the end of the third trimester, every tightening sensation in the belly is going to set mom-to-be on high alert that maybe baby is on the way. It might just be Braxton Hicks contractions or it might be the real deal. Oh, the surprises and suspense that come with pregnancy!
Basically, Braxton Hicks contractions usually only last for 30 seconds to a minute and they come at really irregular times, maybe once or twice an hour spread over the day. The tightness in your belly will typically go away if you change position.
When it comes to labor pains, the belly is going to get tight and it’s not going to stop being tight. These contractions come close together and last longer over time. With real contractions, you literally can’t do anything to stop them except for delivering the baby. This type of belly tightening is the last one you’re going to experience at the end of the 9 months. And it’s going to end with a bang!
Sources: Pregnancybirthbaby.com, Thebump.com, Beingtheparent.com, Parents.com