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Encountering a hard belly may come as a surprise for those women who are going through their first pregnancy. As the baby grows inside and the mother's body expands, naturally, the stomach also expands and hardens a little bit. Although pretty normal during pregnancy, it can cause discomfort sometimes, and make the mother irritable and stressed out. This hardness of the belly may be due to many reasons, each depending upon the mother's body type. Nevertheless, this hardness can mean different things as well.
So how do you know when it is serious and when it isn't? More often than not, if there's too much pain accompanying the hardness, it might be time for you to visit your gynaecologist. Yet, learning more about the reasons will help you calm down and comprehend whether your hard belly is normal or needs serious checking from the ob-gyn. In this article, we present the 15 most common reasons behind stomach tightening or hard belly during pregnancy.
1. Expanding Uterus
During pregnancy, the baby grows inside the uterus which is positioned inside the pelvic cavity between the urinary bladder and the rectum. In the first trimester, as the baby grows in size, so does the uterus, thereby expanding the mother's waistline. This is because the uterus stretches and exerts pressure on the abdomen in order to accommodate the growing baby.
As the first trimester progresses into the second one, the uterus further expands and exerts pressure on the walls of the stomach, making it feel hard  . Around this time, you may also encounter sharp shooting pains on the sides of your abdomen because of the muscular expansion activity. In this case, you don't have to worry as this is perfectly normal and happens for all expecting mothers.
2. Developing Foetal skeleton
The baby's bones start out as soft cartilages, which then develop and ossify to become hard skeletal structures as the baby absorbs more and more calcium from the mother's body during the entire course of the pregnancy  . As this happens, the mother may get a feeling of excessive hardness in her belly. Moreover, the walls of the stomach also harden towards the last months of the pregnancy in order to keep the baby and stomach firm and in position.
3. Mother's Body Type
Based on the type of body you have, your belly hardness may also differ  . Usually, a mother who has a thin body is most likely to experience hardness during the early stages of pregnancy. Yet, a mother who has a fat body is more likely to feel the hardness in the third trimester. So, no need to worry even if you're on the early side. It's because of your body type and there isn't anything to worry about if it isn't accompanied by extreme pain.
4. Stretch Marks
We all have heard about this before, haven't we? Just like the name suggests, stretch-marks are more or less an inevitable part of pregnancy. As the belly expands, the skin stretches further and causes stretch marks, which in turn may cause hardening of the belly  . Although the good news is that stretch marks can be healed. Just massage the belly gently with creams that contain Vitamin A which helps rebuild the collagen in the skin.
Poor dietary habits can be an issue of concern during pregnancy. This is not just because the baby needs nutrients to grow, but not eating the right things at the right time can cause multiple problems inside the mother's body that will have adverse effects on the mother as well as the baby. One such result of improper food habits is constipation.
Though it may seem silly, it isn't something you should brush under the carpet while you're expecting. You may get constipated for different reasons. If you're in the habit of consuming food at a fast pace, it may cause constipation. Consuming certain food items and certain fruits and vegetables in large quantities may also cause constipation.
During pregnancy, constipation and improper bowel movements may cause bloating and hardening of the belly  . That's why you must preferably consume foods high in fibre while you're expecting. Also, hydrate yourself with plenty of fluids and water.
6. Carbonated Drinks
Drinking carbonated beverages contain lots of gas and their consumption leads to the build-up of gas inside the stomach. As a result of this, you may feel a little hardness and bloating inside your stomach  . But once the gas is dispelled, this discomfort eases and the hardness will fade away slowly.
You must be wondering how this works. On one hand, everyone advises you to eat up more and more nutrients in order to meet the needs of the growing baby, on the other hand, overeating is also not good for your health  . While it is true that you need to consume more food during pregnancy, consuming all of it in one go, till you think you're full, is not the answer.
The key is in eating a balanced diet containing the right nutrients and to increase the number of meals you consume in a day, i.e., to eat small portions more frequently. If you overeat everything in one go, chances are that you'll encounter a hard belly and weird discomfort.
The thought of a miscarriage can be very scary. But sometimes, a painful stomach along with hardening can indirectly be a symptom of a prospective miscarriage. If it's a miscarriage, then you must possibly be less than 20 weeks pregnant. So, how to know if it's a miscarriage? The most common symptoms of a miscarriage are - pain or cramping in the abdomen and/or lower back, bleeding, and fluid or tissue passing from the vagina  .
You may suffer a miscarriage because of multiple factors including genetic defects in the foetus, certain types of infections, diseases like diabetes and thyroid, cervical issues, etc. Consult your gynaecologist to know more about how you can avoid a miscarriage.
9. Round Ligament Pain
Round ligament pain usually happens in the second trimester of your pregnancy. Also, this is one of the most common things that expecting mothers complain about during the course of their pregnancies  . Round ligament pain is when you experience jabbing pain in the lower abdominal and/or groin areas. But why does this happen? When the belly grows along with the baby, there are multiple ligaments surrounding it and supporting the belly to remain in position.
Round ligament is one such ligament which connects the anterior portion of the womb to the groin. So as the belly grows, the ligament sometimes stretches because of sudden movements and causes the sharp jabbing pain. This round ligament pain is also often accompanied by tightening or hardening of the stomach. Yet, this is completely normal and goes away much quicker.
10. Gaining Weight
It is normal for every woman to gain weight during the pregnancy. While part of it is the body's natural response to accommodate and nurture another life, part of it is because of the food habits and lifestyles we follow. The stomach is no exception and is probably the part that gains the fat at the fastest pace  . This also causes abdominal tightening and hardening, along with discomfort and pain.
11. Placental Problems
So, everybody knows that placenta is an organ that grows inside a woman's body during pregnancy. It is the placenta that nurtures and nourishes the baby inside the womb by carrying out multiple functions. That's why, during delivery, when all the work is done, the placenta detached from the uterine wall and is delivered along with the baby.
But in very rare cases, the placenta can detach from the uterine wall before delivery  . As this happens, the uterus, as well as the belly, becomes tighter and harder. Yet, this is a very rare condition and is highly unlikely to be the reason behind your hard belly.
12. Uterus Pushing The Bowel
Since the uterus is located in the pelvic cavity, between the urinary bladder and the rectum, as it grows in size, it not just exerts pressure on the walls of the stomach but also on the rectum, thereby affecting bowel movements. Moreover, since bowel movements play such an important role in maintaining overall health, this pressure on the bowels causes a lot of discomfort along with other problems  . As the uterus pushes against the bowel, you may encounter feelings of fullness and hardness of the stomach.
13. Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Braxton-Hicks contractions are also called as 'practice contractions' or 'false labour' because of how much they seem to feel like the normal labour contractions. Although they're not as extremely painful as labour, lots of women mistake the Braxton-Hicks contractions for labour contractions and panic.
During the Braxton-Hicks contractions, the stomach may feel very tight and hard  . These can occur as early as the fourth month and display no specific pattern - they're irregularly timed. Yet, if you're experiencing extremely painful contractions along with a hard stomach and can't decide whether or not it's your labour, it's best to see the doctor as soon as possible.
This is of course if you're in the last lap of your pregnancy, i.e., the third trimester. If your stomach feels really hard in the last trimester, it's probably a sign a labour. Labour contractions are usually mild in the beginning and they increase in intensity over time. These generally have a pattern and occur in regular time intervals. In the beginning, the time interval between the contractions would be more and with time, the time interval reduces.
15. Trouble In The Womb
This is one of the rarest of the rare reasons that may cause a hard belly or stomach tightening during pregnancy. Yet, if this is the reason behind the hardness, the underlying problems could be serious and probably require immediate medical attention. Sometimes conditions like an ectopic pregnancy  , preeclampsia  , etc., may cause this hardness. In this case, only a doctor can provide the right diagnosis as well as prognosis.
These are the most common reasons behind your hard belly during pregnancy. Now that you are aware of them, if you have also encountered a had belly, you must make it a point to get more details from your ob-gyn. A hard belly during pregnancy is pretty normal, yet if it gets to the point where you're irritable and just can't concentrate on anything else anymore, you must get yourself checked at the hospital.
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