Most people describe round ligament pain as sharp, triggered by movement, and located deep within one or both sides of the lower abdomen or groin.
Round ligament pain is a common pregnancy symptom, affecting between 10 and 30 percent of pregnant women. It can be uncomfortable but is harmless. Many women begin to experience it in the second trimester.
In this article, learn more about what round ligament pain feels like and how to get relief.
Share on Pinterest Round ligament pain occurs mostly in pregnant women.
Round ligament pain is one of the most common pregnancy discomforts.
The round ligaments are two ropelike cords of connective tissues that support the uterus on each side.
These ligaments connect the uterus to the groin and pubic region. As the uterus grows during pregnancy, the round ligaments can stretch.
When a pregnant woman moves, it can cause the round ligaments to spasm painfully.
Round ligament pain is considered rare in women who are not pregnant, but may occur in those with endometriosis.
Round ligament pain feels like a deep, sharp, stabbing or stretching sensation that begins or worsens with movement. Some triggering movements may include rolling over in bed or taking a step.
The pain may travel upward or downward, from the hips into the groin.
Pregnant women usually experience round ligament pain on the right side of the lower abdomen or pelvis. However, some experience it on their left side or both sides.
When a person is not pregnant, the round ligaments that support the uterus are shorter and firm but flexible.
During pregnancy, these ligaments lengthen, thicken, and stretch, much like a rubber band.
In people who are not pregnant, the ligaments stretch and contract slowly. During pregnancy, they are under so much tension that they may stretch and contract rapidly, causing a ligament to spasm or pull on nerve endings.
Certain movements commonly trigger round ligament pain in pregnant women, such as:
- rolling over in bed
- standing up quickly
- other sudden movements
Most of the time, round ligament pain goes away on its own. However, people can take some steps to prevent it.
To avoid triggering round ligament pain, try:
- resting on one side, with the knees bent and pillows between the legs and under the belly
- changing positions slowly
- soaking in a warm (not hot) bath
- applying a heating pad
- wearing a maternity support belt
- taking acetaminophen
- practicing prenatal yoga
Some people find that changing their daily routine to include more rest and fewer sudden movements helps alleviate round ligament pain.
If a person experiences this pain frequently, they can speak to a doctor, who may recommend stretches and gentle exercises to help relieve discomfort.
Round ligament pain should resolve completely after childbirth.
Most of the time, a person will not need to see a doctor for round ligament pain.
However, sometimes pain in the lower abdomen and groin during pregnancy requires a doctor’s attention.
Pregnant women should speak to a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- sharp lower abdominal pain that lasts for more than a few seconds or does not go away after changing positions
- premature uterine contractions
- pain or burning during urination
- pain accompanied by cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- bleeding or spotting
- an increase or any other change in vaginal discharge
- fever or chills
- nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain
- an increase in pelvic pressure
- difficulty walking
These symptoms can indicate that the pelvic pain is unrelated to the round ligaments.
Other issues that can cause pain in the area include:
- urinary tract infections
- pregnancy-induced constipation
- kidney stones
- sexually transmitted infections
- placental abruption
- preterm labor
During pregnancy, round ligament pain is a common complaint that often begins in the second trimester.
Most of the time, the pain is sharp, short-lived, and located in the side of the lower abdomen or groin. Round ligament pain generally resolves on its own or after resting.
A person can take steps to reduce round ligament pain, including moving slowly, resting, and wearing a support band.
If severe pain in the lower abdomen does not resolve on its own or with rest, it is best to speak to a doctor.
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Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 11:11am EDT
Round ligament pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. Even though this type of pain doesn’t last long (just a few seconds), it can be extremely painful. If possible, how to avoid round ligament pain during pregnancy, is something that all women would like to know about.
Since the symptoms of round ligament pain can mimic other, more serious ailments (such as an appendicitis or premature labor), it is recommended that a health care professional makes an accurate diagnosis of the abdominal pain you are experiencing. Once a proper diagnosis is confirmed, below is list of tips that many pregnant women may find helpful, to limit and even avoid round ligament pain.
- Adding doctor recommended daily stretching exercises can reduce the duration and intensity of round ligament pain. Kneeling exercises and pelvic tilt-type exercises are some of the top recommended stretching positions.
- Prenatal yoga is an excellent way to stay physically healthy and mentally focused, during pregnancy. To avoid round ligament pain, two particular yoga poses are recommended: the “cat cow” and the “savasana.”
- The cat cow pose starts off with your hands and knees on the floor, fingers should be spread wide apart and pointed forward. Take a deep breath in and round your back high, allowing your head to fall naturally forward. When exhaling, pull your belly towards the floor, while extending the back and stretching the round ligament.
- The savasana pose is commonly used as the last pose in a series of yoga sequences. Using a pillow to support your head, curl into a fetal position.Pregnant women should be performing this exercise on their left side. A pillow propped between the legs will alleviate any pressure from the lower back.
- Utilize available pillows. By strategically placing a pillow under your belly while sleeping, can help to relieve pressure on the ligaments. Having a pillow between your knees has also been said, to add overall comfort and relieve physical stress.
- Extra pressure is placed on ligaments that are already stretched; when a pregnant lady is standing or sitting for long periods of time, without having breaks often to shift their position. It is important to take as many breaks as possible, if you need to stand or be in a sitting position for longer than 60 minutes at a time.
- Proper posture can and will minimize pain, especially discomfort associated with the round ligament. Knees should not be locked and hips should be pushed slightly forward, to minimize a lower back arch and minimize pain.
- Make yourself comfortable by whatever means necessary. Adjust a chair and use cushions, and many health care professionals recommend not to cross your legs while in a sitting position.
- Pelvic supports aids, such as maternity belts are used to support and raise the uterus and hips, as well as support ligaments. In addition, specialized maternity belts can relieve back pain by providing added support.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine. These simple lifestyle changes will help to keep your body’s overall health, including the over stretched muscles and ligament. When properly hydrated, unwanted issues like constipation, can be avoided.
- Working closely with a physical therapist while pregnant, can help to reduce potential pain associated with round ligaments. A trained physical therapist will have extensive knowledge of the human musculoskeletal system, and will be able to recommend safe stretching exercises that are effective, to perform while pregnant.
- Round ligament pain can be triggered by sudden movements. In order to avoid an episode of sharp pain, it is advised that when a pregnant woman feels a cough or sneeze coming on, she should bend slightly at the hip and knees, to minimize the overall impact on her body.
- Massage therapy is a recommended type of non-invasive treatment that is said to bring relief from common ailments and discomforts. Prenatal massage is a special type of massage that is targeted toward increasing the comfort of the mother-to-be, and decreases the discomforts associated with pregnancy, such as round ligament pain.
- Acetaminophen is said to be a safe over-the-counter pain reliever for pregnant women, but make sure to check with your health care professional, before taking any type of medication that has not been medically approved by your attending doctor.
It is advised that you consult with a doctor, if you experience any pain during pregnancy. If you incur round ligament pain during pregnancy, seek immediate medical attention if the discomfort is accompanied with bleeding or vaginal discharge. In addition, contact a physician immediately, if the intense pain lasts more than second or two. Constant pressure in the abdomen can be a symptom of a more serious ailment.
Don’t let this pain get in the way of your prenatal running routine.
Weight-bearing exercise, like running, is a great way to stay fit during pregnancy. However, as pregnancy progresses, the anatomical changes in your body can trigger painful conditions that may sideline your running.
A common cause of pain in prenatal runners are strained round ligaments. These are the two thick bands of ligamentous tissue that span from each side of the uterus to the groin.
They provide support for the uterus. However, as the fetus grows, the round ligaments can become strained until they have time to adjust.
During periods of round ligament stretching and adjustment, the impact of running can create additional strain, causing discomfort or pain with movement.
The pain may start with a sharp pain on one or both sides of your abdomen with movements such as rolling over in bed or twisting to the side, and progress to causing pain during runs.
The good news is you can help ease round ligament pain with the following tips.
Invest in a good quality belly support band.
A support band (these have amazing reviews) will do exactly that: support those ligaments and alleviate some of the load.
The band should be made of breathable and flexible fabric that’s machine washable. It will ideally also feature a Velcro closure that spans the entire width of the band for a secure fit.
It should be wide enough to support the lower belly, but not so wide that it cuts into your tummy or is uncomfortable with movement.
Band placement is crucial. To fit the band for the best support, wrap it around your back.
Pull the two ends in front and below your belly button. Take a breath in and tighten your tummy as you fasten the Velcro snuggly in front.
The band should feel supportive, but not so tight that you can’t move or breathe comfortably. Make sure that the band is below your belly button so that it provides sling-like support for your tummy.
You may need to adjust the band during exercise to keep it feeling snug and correctly placed under your tummy.
If you don’t feel up for running, you can try Aaptiv’s walking workouts. View them in the app today.
Switch it up.
Maura Shirey, RN, CPFE, and owner of Bodies for Birth says that some pregnant women find that a belly support band (like this one) can help them continue running during pregnancy.
But, for others, even with a belly support, their round ligament pain is persistent. If that’s the case for you, she suggests determining when your round ligament pain kicks in during a run, and to keep your distance below that duration.
But, she says, if your round ligaments hurt from the start of running you may need to switch to non-weight bearing exercises, such as swimming or stationary cycling for a while.
Swimming can be a great way to ease up the effect that gravity has on your round ligaments, and time in the water can allow them to rest.
Try modifying your usual routine by mixing it up with a combination of fast walking and running, or splitting between running and non-weight-bearing exercise to see if that helps reduce pain.
Most pregnant women find that their round ligament pain ebbs and flows throughout pregnancy. Using these techniques during the week or two after you notice the pain can help keep you moving as your round ligaments adjust.
Strengthen your core.
Your abdominal muscles play a crucial role in providing belly support during pregnancy. But, prenatal anatomical changes can reduce how well those muscles support the abdomen, resulting in more strain on the round ligaments.
The large rectus abdominis muscle that spans vertically on either side of your abdomen becomes separated (termed a “diastasis recti”) as the connective tissue that joins the two sides of the muscles thins and widens as the fetus grows.
As the distance between the two halves of the recti muscles increases, there’s a loss of support.
Cue the transverse muscle group—it’s located below your belly button and spans across your tummy like a sling.
Maintaining strong transverse muscles will help provide belly support throughout your pregnancy, reducing strain on your round ligaments.
Check out these transverse and recti muscle isometric exercises that will help strengthen and support your abdominal wall.
Sitting Diaphragmatic Breathing
Start in a comfortable seated position with your back straight. Place your hands on your tummy and take a deep breath in, breathing from your belly. (You should feel it expand outward with your breath).
As you slowly exhale, draw your entire abdomen inward (think of pulling your belly button towards your back).
Practice this movement several times and then do five to ten repetitions several times each day.
Breath and Hold
Take a deep breath in. Hold your abdominal muscles tight as you continue to breathe for a count of five. As you become stronger, you can increase the hold duration to ten or more seconds for each repetition.
Repeat five to ten times.
Take a deep breath in. As you slowly exhale to the count of ten, incrementally contract your abs tighter as you count.
Once you reach ten, slowly inhale, relaxing your abs again in increments as you reach ten. Repeat three to five times.
Ab Contractions with Kegel
For extra credit add a Kegel exercise into the mix to increase your abdominal strength and support.
With each exercise, contract your pelvic floor muscles in the same sequence as you contract your ab muscles.
This is a more advanced exercise, so it may take time for you to be able to coordinate both a Kegel and abdominal contraction.
Start with trying a few Kegels with your belly contraction and continue to add as you become stronger and more coordinated. Repeat three to five times.
Maura encourages any pregnant women who are experiencing round ligament pain to consult with a physical therapist (PT) that specializes in women’s health.
A physical therapist can provide exercises and techniques that can target tight round ligaments and work with you on body mechanics that can help prevent further pain.
As with any issues during pregnancy, if pain persists, or is accompanied by cramping that continues even with rest, consult with your health care provider.
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Many expecting mothers suffer from round ligament pain. With the increasing girth of abdomen in later stages of pregnancy, pressure effects and aches and pains are very common. The round ligament pain is experienced as a sharp pain on one side of lower abdomen. It can be on either side and sometimes is felt on both sides. There are special stretches that provide some relief for round ligament pain. Before doing any exercise or stretches during pregnancy, do check with your health care provider if these are suitable for you.
Stretches for Round Ligament Pain
1. Pelvic Rock
To perform this stretch, get in the hand and knees position. Now tighten your abdominal muscles, and raise your lower back. Let your head hang loosely. Hold the position for five seconds then get back to the starting position. You can repeat this several times.
2. Pelvic Tilt
Pelvic tilt is one of the very effective stretches for round ligament pain relief. To perform this, you have to lie down on the floor with your back straight, your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath and tighten the abdominal muscles. Hold your breath in and push the small of your back on the floor using the abdominal muscles. Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly exhale and resume the starting position.
3. Gentle Stretching
Round ligaments provide support to the uterus. These extend from the uterus to the groin and can get irritated during pregnancy due to increase in the size and weight of the uterus. This can lead to pain which usually gets better with stretching the back and abdominal muscles.
To do this, get on your hands and knees and put your head on the floor while lifting the backside if your body upwards. This gentle stretching can be very helpful to ease the round ligament pain.
4. Learn About Yoga During Pregnancy
There are certain yoga poses which are very helpful in relieving the aches and pains of pregnancy. The cat cow pose and the savasana pose are great stretches for round ligament pain.
- To do the cat cow pose, get on to all fours and keep your hands flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in and arch your back upwards. Let your head hang down. Then exhale and move your belly towards the floor. Do several repeats.
- For the savasana pose lie down in a fetal position with your head supported by your arm. Keep a pillow between your legs and if you are pregnant lie on your left side.
5. Side Reach Stretch
To perform the side reach stretch, stand or sit on the floor comfortably. Then stretch your right arm towards the left side and slightly bend your body to the left side. Hold for a couple of seconds and resume the resting position. Repeat for five to ten times on both sides.
6. Hip Hiker Exercise
There are many stretches for round ligament pain relief and if you are having a lot of this pain, you can do the hip kicker exercise many times a day.
- To perform the hip hiker exercise stand next to a counter top or a piece of furniture which you can hold. Keep the painful side facing away from it and keep one hand on it for support.
- Lift the other leg and keep your foot in air then move the hip bone outwards too.
- Hold this for twenty or thirty seconds and resume the resting position. You can repeat it several times a day.
7. Knee Lifts
Stand infront of a wall and put your hands on the wall for support. Keep the knee facing outwards and lift the leg. This will release pressure from the round ligament. Hold the leg in air for 20 to 30 seconds. Do on the other side as well.
Other Remedies to Relieve the Pain
The practice of doing stretches for round ligament pain is well tried and tested. There are some other ways to relieve the pain as well.
1. Lie Down on Your Side
Round ligament pain can be felt on either side. Most of the times, it is felt on the right side. If you have pain on the right side, try to lie down on your left side. This will ease the discomfort.
2. Try to Move Slowly
Make sure that you do not move abruptly. Changing positions and postures very quickly can put pressure on the round ligament and the pain can get worse. Whenever you want to sit up from a lying down position or are standing up after sitting for a long time, move slowly to avoid spasm of round ligament.
3. Keep the Painful Area Warm
Heat is a very effective way to relax muscles and ligaments. It is not safe to use a heating pad during pregnancy but you can do certain things to relieve the round ligament pain.
- Have a nice and relaxing warm bath. This will sooth the aching muscles and will relieve any pain and cramps.
- Put a warm compress on both sides of your pelvis. Make sure it is not too hot.
- Sitting in a warm pool can also be very relaxing but avoid sitting in hot tubs and Jacuzzis if you are pregnant.
4. Get Some Massage
Massage is a very effective way to relax the aching body parts. If you have round ligament pain gently rub the painful area. If the pain is severe, contact a trained professional for a massage. It is very important to select the rightly trained professional for massage during pregnancy.
5. Use a Maternity Belt
A maternity belt supports the growing tummy and can prevent many problems such as backache and round ligament pain. If you have sciatica or hip pain you can wear this belt under your clothes for support and pain relief.
When to Worry
Round ligament pain is not very severe and the duration is usually short. Doing stretches for round ligament pain is an effective way to get rid of this pain. If you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor immediately.
- Excruciating or severe pain
- Fever, chills or rigors
- Pain lasting for more than few minutes
- Pain while passing urine
- Difficulty in walking
Lower abdominal pain during pregnancy is fairly common and most of the times it gets better by itself. Serious health issues that can lead to severe pain in abdomen during pregnancy are
- Inguinal hernia
- Liver, kidney or stomach problems
- Pre-term labor
If you have severe pain in abdomen contact your doctor immediately for evaluation and correct diagnosis.
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability,and feminism.
Monique Rainford, MD, is the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Health.
Occurring in 10 to 20% of pregnancies, round ligament pain (RLP) is a common cause of discomfort in pregnancy.
Usually beginning at the end of the first trimester or beginning of the second trimester, RLP can feel like a brief sharp pain in the lower abdomen or groin on one or both sides, or it can be a longer-lasting dull ache.
RLP is not usually dangerous for a parent or baby but can have similar symptoms to other conditions that are more serious, so pain during pregnancy should not be automatically dismissed as RLP.
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Wong Sze Fei / EyeEm / Getty Images
The symptoms of RLP include:
- A sudden, brief, sharp pain on one or both sides on the lower abdomen or hip area
- Pain on one or both sides of the lower abdomen that comes on suddenly with movement or changing positions
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen on one or both sides
- Pain or discomfort that goes down into the groin
- A dull ache on one or both sides of the lower abdomen
RLP can be triggered by:
- Sudden movement
- Standing up quickly
- Rolling over in bed
- Getting out of bed, out of the bath, or up from a chair
- An active day
When to Call Your Healthcare Provider
While round ligament pain is not usually harmful, its symptoms can be similar to other conditions that are.
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Fever or chills
- Intense pain or cramping
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Premature contractions
- Painful urination
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Nausea or vomiting with abdominal pain
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Difficulty walking
- Low back pain (especially if not previously experienced) and/or pressure in the pelvic area
- If resting doesn’t ease the pain
- If the pain is long-lasting
- More than four contractions in an hour (even if they are not painful)
- You feel concerned
Diagnosis for RLP is based mainly on symptoms, and sometimes a physical exam.
If other symptoms are present, such as bleeding, the healthcare provider may order or perform more testing, such as an ultrasound, to check for another cause for the pain and symptoms.
During pregnancy, the uterus grows from 70 g to 1,110 g. It changes from a pelvic organ into an intra-abdominal organ by about 12 weeks gestation. By 20 weeks gestation, the uterus can be felt at belly-button level. This is a lot of growth in a relatively short amount of time.
Attached at the top and sides of the uterus, extending to the bones of the pelvis, are two ligaments (one on each side). These ligaments support the uterus and stretch as the uterus grows.
When not during pregnancy, these ligaments are short, firm, and flexible. During pregnancy, they get softer, stretch, and become under tension as the uterus becomes bigger.
These ligaments tighten when the pregnant person moves, which causes temporary pain. This pain can be sharp and sudden with a movement such as getting out of bed, or it can be dull and achy, such as after a busy, active day.
RLP will usually resolve on its own in the third trimester or after the baby is born. It does not usually require any specific treatment, but there are things that can be done to ease the pain and discomfort or prevent it from occurring. This includes:
- Rest, both when there is pain and as a general habit
- Avoid strenuous activity or prolonged periods of activity
- Avoid rapid or repetitive movements
- Change positions slowly
- Take a warm (not hot) bath
- Use a maternity support belt
- Flex hips before coughing or sneezing
- Gentle stretching
- Rest on one side with knees bent and pillows between the legs and under the belly for support
- Try to avoid specific movements that trigger RLP
- Keep active with moderate exercise (if deemed safe by a healthcare professional)
- Swim or do water exercises
- Avoid laying flat on the back
- For a sudden pain in the abdomen, bend forward to the point of pain to relieve tension and relax the tissue
If these do not provide relief, acetaminophen can be taken, if okayed by a healthcare provider.
Not All Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy
Acetaminophen is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy if necessary and advised by your healthcare provider, but other pain medications may not be.
Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medication while pregnant or nursing.
A Word From Verywell
Round ligament pain is an uncomfortable but normal pregnancy experience in response to your growing uterus. It will usually go away on its own by the third trimester of pregnancy.
In the meantime, the discomfort can be managed with controlled movements, lots of rest, and acetaminophen if recommended by your healthcare provider.
If you are experiencing symptoms in addition to RLP, or are concerned, check in with your healthcare provider.
In this Article
In this Article
In this Article
- Causes of Round Ligament Pain
- Symptoms of Round Ligament Pain
- Treatment of Round Ligament Pain
- When to Call the Doctor
Round ligament pain is a sharp pain or jabbing feeling often felt in the lower belly or groin area on one or both sides. It is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy and is considered a normal part of pregnancy. It is most often felt during the second trimester.
Here is what you need to know about round ligament pain, including some tips to help you feel better.
Causes of Round Ligament Pain
Several thick ligaments surround and support your womb (uterus) as it grows during pregnancy. One of them is called the round ligament.
The round ligament connects the front part of the womb to your groin, the area where your legs attach to your pelvis. The round ligament normally tightens and relaxes slowly.
As your baby and womb grow, the round ligament stretches. That makes it more likely to become strained.
Sudden movements can cause the ligament to tighten quickly, like a rubber band snapping. This causes a sudden and quick jabbing feeling.
Symptoms of Round Ligament Pain
Round ligament pain can be concerning and uncomfortable. But it is considered normal as your body changes during pregnancy.
The symptoms of round ligament pain include a sharp, sudden spasm in the belly . It usually affects th e right side, but it may happen on both sides. The pain only lasts a few seconds.
Exercise may cause the pain, as will rapid movements such as:
- rolling over in bed
- standing up too quickly
Treatment of Round Ligament Pain
Here are some tips that may help reduce your discomfort:
Pain relief. Take over-the-counter acetaminophen for pain, if necessary. Ask your doctor if this is OK.
Exercise. Get plenty of exercise to keep your stomach (core) muscles strong. Doing stretching exercises or prenatal yoga can be helpful. Ask your doctor which exercises are safe for you and your baby.
A helpful exercise involves putting your hands and knees on the floor, lowering your head, and pushing your backside into the air.
Avoid sudden movements. Change positions slowly (such as standing up or sitting down) to avoid sudden movements that may cause stretching and pain.
Flex your hips. Bend and flex your hips before you cough, sneeze, or laugh to avoid pulling on the ligaments.
Apply warmth. A heating pad or warm bath may be helpful. Ask your doctor if this is OK. Extreme heat can be dangerous to the baby.
You should try to modify your daily activity level and avoid positions that may worsen the condition.
When to Call the Doctor
Always tell your doctor about any type of pain you have during pregnancy. Round ligament pain is quick and doesn’t last long.
Call your health care provider immediately if you have:
- severe pain
- pain that lasts for more than a few minutes
- pain on urination
- difficulty walking
Belly pain during pregnancy can be due to many different causes. It is important for your doctor to rule out more serious conditions, including pregnancy complications such as placenta abruption or non-pregnancy illnesses such as:
- inguinal hernia
- stomach, liver, and kidney problems
Preterm labor pains may sometimes be mistaken for round ligament pain.
American Pregnancy Association web site: “Round Ligament Pain.”
Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health web site: “Pregnancy: Body Changes and Discomforts.”
Ratcliffe, S. Family Medicine Obstetrics, 3rd edition, Elsevier Mosby, 2008.
Ferri, F, Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2013, 1st edition, Mosby Elsevier, 2012.
Marx, J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice, 7th edition, Mosby Elsevier, 2009.
Pregnancy is often full of mysterious aches and pains and hormonal changes that can mess with your mood and cause stress and anxiety. If you’re pregnant and constantly checking your progress week by week to better understand what is going on, you might have spotted the term round ligament pain. Round ligament pain is perhaps a lesser known physical side effect of pregnancy along with the usual suspects like morning sickness, swelling, tender breasts and fatigue. So, what exactly is it and should I be worried?
What is round ligament pain in pregnancy?
The NHS describes round ligament pain as an example of ‘harmless stomach pains’ which occur during pregnancy, along with constipation or trapped wind. Round ligament pain typically feels like a sharp cramp, jabbing pain or ache on one or both sides of your groin or lower abdomen.
Round ligament pain is basically the technical way of describing pregnancy growing pains. Midwife and author, Denyse Kirkby, explains that ‘Round ligaments are cord-like structures that originate beneath the groin region and extend to the top of the uterus on both sides’. As these ligaments and muscles connect your womb to the groin, it is under a lot of pressure.
The pain you feel is caused by these ligaments supporting your womb as they stretch, spasm and thin to accommodate the increasing weight and to make room for your baby. Sudden movements can aggravate round ligament pain, so you’ll probably only notice it when you’re getting up, stretching or twisting. Importantly, the pain should only last for a few seconds to a few minutes. Pregnant women may also suffer from pelvic girdle pain which is in a similar region but is slightly different.
How to ease round ligament pain:
2) Change position
3) Avoid activity that makes the pain worse
4) Reduce your activity levels
5) Stretch it out
6) Apply heat
7) Try a support belt
When does round ligament pain occur?
Round ligament pain is often reported to start at around the second trimester (between week 14 and week 26) of pregnancy as your body is going through a period of rapid growth. However, some women are more sensitive and more susceptible to round ligament pain so could experience it in the latter weeks of the first trimester. It is likely that most women will have experienced round ligament pain at least once, by the final trimester of pregnancy as it is a simple side effect of your growing womb. But, if you’re lucky you might not notice it at all.
Is round ligament pain dangerous?
Although any pain in your stomach, when you’re pregnant, is worrying, round ligament pain is a common side effect of pregnancy and it is totally normal. The NHS explains that “It’s probably nothing to worry about if the pain is mild and goes away when you change position, have a rest, do a poo or pass wind”.
There is no diagnosis for round ligament pain because it is a normal part of pregnancy. However, abdominal pain that is severe, lasts for a continued length of time and does not improve when you change position or rest, could be a sign of something more serious. Abdominal pain could signal other pregnancy complications: premature labour, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption or a medical issue which is unrelated to pregnancy, especially if it is accompanied by fever, bleeding, pain when urinating or difficulty walking. If you are suffering from stomach pain and you are worried, ring your midwife, GP or the hospital.
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Your Care Instructions
Round ligament pain is a common pain during pregnancy. You may feel a sharp brief pain on one or both sides of your belly. It may go down into your groin. It’s usually felt for the first time during the second trimester.
This pain is a normal part of pregnancy. It will go away as your pregnancy continues or after your baby is born.
Your uterus is supported by two ligaments that go from the top and sides of the uterus to the bones of the pelvis. These are the round ligaments. As your uterus grows, these ligaments stretch and tighten with your movements. This may be the cause of the pain. You may find that certain activities seem to cause pain. If you can, avoid those activities.
Your doctor can usually diagnose round ligament pain from your symptoms and an exam. If you have bleeding or other symptoms, your doctor may also do an imaging test, such as an ultrasound. Your doctor may suggest that you take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- If certain movements seem to trigger the pain, see if you can avoid them while you are pregnant.
- Stay active. If your doctor says it’s okay, try moderate exercise. Many pregnant women find that water exercise is most comfortable. Examples are swimming and water aerobics.
- Ask your doctor about taking acetaminophen for pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You think you might be in labor.
- You have new or worse pain.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
Enter R110 in the search box to learn more about “Round Ligament Pain: Care Instructions”.
Current as of: October 8, 2020
Medical Review: Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine & Rebecca Sue Uranga MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology