Round ligament pain is a sharp, jabbing, aching, cramping pain on one or both sides of your abdomen. It may be short-lived pain or just discomfort. It's common during pregnancy, and you're likely to first notice it during the second trimester. It may be worse on one side than the other.
What is round ligament pain during pregnancy?
You have two round ligaments in your pelvis, one on either side of your uterus. As your uterus grows during pregnancy, the round ligaments stretch and thicken to accommodate and support it. These changes cause occasional spasm-like pains that are uncomfortable but generally harmless.
You may feel round ligament pain as a short, sharp or stabbing pain if you suddenly change position, such as when you're getting out of bed or a chair. You may feel it when you cough, roll over in bed, or get out of the bathtub. You also might feel it as a dull ache after a particularly active day, like when you've been walking a lot or doing some other physical activity.
Round ligament pain may feel like it starts deep inside your groin and moves upward and outward on either side to the top of your hips. The pain is internal, but if you were to trace it on your skin, it would follow the bikini line on a very high-cut bathing suit.
How is round ligament pain different from abdominal pain during pregnancy?
The sharp, jabbing sensation of round ligament pain shouldn't last longer than the few seconds it takes you to change position or get up. Although round ligament pain is a common – and harmless – pregnancy complaint, abdominal pain can be a sign of a serious problem, such as preterm labor, severe preeclampsia, or placental abruption, or a medical problem unrelated to pregnancy, like appendicitis.
When should I call my healthcare provider about abdominal pain during pregnancy?
Don't hesitate to call your provider any time abdominal pain during pregnancy continues after a short rest or is accompanied by:
- Severe pain or cramping
- More than four contractions in an hour (even if they don't hurt) or a contraction that doesn't end
- Lower back pain (especially if you didn't previously have back pain) or an increase in pressure in the pelvic area (a feeling that your baby is pushing down)
- Vaginal bleeding, spotting, or a change in the type or amount of vaginal discharge
- Fever, chills, faintness, or nausea and vomiting
- Pain or burning when you urinate
What can I do to ease round ligament pain during pregnancy?
Your provider can give you tips to help reduce the discomfort of round ligament pain. You can also try any of the following:
- Stop and rest. When round ligament pain strikes, sit down and try to relax. Resting comfortably should ease your symptoms.
- Practice good body mechanics. Pay attention to your posture: Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Avoid movements that make the ligament pain worse, such as reaching or stretching too far.
- Change positions. Try flexing your knees toward your stomach, or lying on your side with one pillow under your belly for support and another pillow between your legs.
- Slow down. If you notice round ligament pain when you're physically active, slow down a bit to see if that helps. When you feel better, gradually increase your activity until you find the right balance.
- Try light massage. Gently massage the painful area with your fingertips.
- Apply warmth. Use a warm (not hot) water bottle, or take a bath to relax the muscles.
- Wear a maternity support garment. Many moms-to-be find that wearing a maternity belt or girdle relieves round ligament pain, low back pain, and pelvic pressure by providing gentle, firm support for your growing belly. (A maternity belt or girdle has a cutout section so it doesn't put pressure on your baby bump.)
- Consider a mild pain reliever. If the pain is interfering with your everyday activities, ask your provider if it's okay to take acetaminophen.