The hardening and softening of a pregnant belly might be caused by several reasons depending on your body type, womb issues, the baby’s size and position in the womb, weight gain, uterus size, and contractions especially if you’ve recently entered your third trimester. Increased fluid levels and hormones that cause the muscles in the abdomen to relax may also contribute to the hardness and softness of your pregnant belly. All these reasons will not harm your baby but will make the pregnancy more uncomfortable for you.
But when the hardening of your stomach comes with severe pain, bleeding, vaginal discharge, and cold flashes, consult your doctor immediately.
It can be a warning sign of underlying conditions like high sugar levels, preeclampsia, or miscarriage.
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Why does my belly get hard and soft during pregnancy?
Imagine how your little one starts occupying the cramped-up space in your tummy. As the fetus grows bigger, it puts more pressure on your abdominal area. It also pushes against your skin to give the feeling of firmness that doesn’t stay long.
That’s because pregnancy hormones tend to mitigate the situation and soften your belly. So it is normal for moms to experience the fluctuation of stiffness with their pregnancy.
But your baby, uterus, and hormones alone are not the only variables involved in your tummy’s rigidness.
If you are active or when your bladder is full, you can also feel some changes in your belly.
Here are other factors that may affect your pregnancy appearance and touch.
1. Digestive changes
Constipation, bloating, diarrhea, gas – moms go around these series of digestive episodes throughout the pregnancy. Don’t worry though, it is not always about something you eat that causes the problem.
During pregnancy, your progesterone level spikes up and slows down your digestive processes while accumulating gas. Thus, you appear bloated on top of the pregnancy, which also affects the softness and rigidness of your belly.
Eating a high-fiber diet and avoiding carbonated drinks may help minimize the hardness of your pregnancy belly.
2. Just pregnancy weight gain
A pregnancy belly is normally soft in the first trimester. But your gradual pregnancy weight gain that becomes apparent in the second trimester may cause minor changes. That pregnancy hunger and cravings may already show their effect on your body.
The excess fat would build up in your tummy, giving you the feeling of tightness around the area.
3. Pressure around the stomach
Babies do not stay in place and continuously shift their position inside your tummy. Thus, there are days you will wake up with a softer and smaller pregnancy belly.
When they push against your abdominal muscles, you can feel the stiffness and tightening around the area. There is nothing you can do nor worry about since it is just another special thing about your baby.
4. Braxton hicks contraction
It is painless cramping and tightening of the muscles around your belly that occurs irregularly and infrequently. It occurs at the beginning of the pregnancy but not in the second trimester.
Braxton hicks’ contraction that happens in the late pregnancy that is frequent and pressing indicates pre-labor.
5. It might be womb issues
One of the most common health conditions followed by belly tightening is preeclampsia, a condition that indicates high levels of blood sugar in the body which can lead to a miscarriage in the first few months of pregnancy or even later if it’s not treated in time.
If the belly tightening is followed by fever, bleeding, spotting, nausea, cold flashes, or discharge, you should speak to your medical provider immediately.
6. Abrupt placenta
The placenta grows along with the uterus and provides the baby with food and crucial nutrients important for their healthy growth. It is the unborn baby’s life support system.
Unfortunately, if the placenta separates itself from the uterine wall before the mother gives birth, it can be deadly to the growing baby. Only about 1.5% of women around the world go through it but the low probability shouldn’t lull anyone into a false sense of security.
One of the main signs of this occurrence is belly hardening which is a result of the uterus going hard. Hardening can also be a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, which is rare but not an impossible one.
When to go to the doctor
While it’s completely normal for your pregnant belly to go from hard to soft, it could also be a sign of underlying issues.
Visit your doctor if you notice your belly tightening and softening accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Bleeding or spotting
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Intense pain when your belly hardens
- Less fetal movement
- The tightening occurs frequently
- Constant pain and cramping in the lower back
- Cold flashes
Is stomach pain normal after eating in pregnancy?
Overeating may cause stomach pain as well as sleeping after eating. It is normal, and the best way to avoid it is by avoiding large meals or drinking carbonated drinks. You can read more about it in this article.
How will I know that my contractions already mean labor?
The tightness in your belly that doesn’t go away is an indication of labor. It will also become tighter each time a regular and strong contraction occurs.
There will be bloody mucus discharges and a trickle of water (or a gushing one) which means that the amniotic fluid already breaks.
What if my belly is bulging on one side?
It could be because your baby is in a less comfortable position in the womb but most often it’s because your baby is on its way down into the birth canal.
Gravity is also another contributor to the appearance of your belly during pregnancy.
Should I be worried if my baby bump is small?
If the bump is exceptionally small, it might be that the baby isn’t growing.
If it’s particularly big then it could be that you are carrying a lot of fluid which can be a sign of a problem.
Pregnancy is unique to every woman, and every baby offers a different experience to a mother.
When strange things happen in the current pregnancy that she did not experience from the previous, she naturally worries.
It is time for a doctor consultation when you suffer from unmanageable pain, leaking fluid, or tummy size that never changes.
Otherwise, the fluctuations in your belly are natural and a good indication of a developing bouncing baby.