Your body undergoes lots of changes during pregnancy as your body makes room for your little one. These changes are often exciting, but they can also come with some discomfort.
Aches and pains, especially in the abdomen or belly area, can be scary, but are often a normal part of pregnancy.
One common cause of abdominal pain during pregnancy is round ligament pain. Although it creates some discomfort, it’s nothing to be worried about. While all pregnant people are at risk of developing round ligament pain, 10% to 30% will experience it.
Here’s what you need to know about round ligament pain, including what causes it and how to alleviate aches, pains and discomfort.
What is round ligament pain?
Round ligaments are two rope-like bands of tissue that support the uterus. These bands run along either side of the uterus and insert into the groin region (specifically, the labia majora, or the outer lips of the vaginal opening).
As your uterus grows during pregnancy, these ligaments stretch and thicken to support your baby’s growth. The stretching and extra load placed on them can cause you to experience growing pains.
What does round ligament pain feel like?
Round ligament pain can feel like a sharp, pulling pain or dull ache on one or both sides of the lower belly, hips or groin area. “Usually you’ll feel a sharp, sudden pain on one or both sides, often starting on the sides of the abdomen and traveling down to the groin,” said Emilee Sandsmark, MD, an OBGYN at Banner Health Clinic in Loveland, CO.
Pain can happen at any time, but it can flare up when you change positions quickly (such as rolling over or sitting up in bed), sneeze, cough or laugh. You may experience more discomfort after physical activity, such as walking or being on your feet all day.
How long does round ligament pain last?
“Ligament pain can start anywhere in the early second trimester and persist through childbirth, however the most common time to experience it is the middle to end of the second trimester when your uterus undergoes rapid growth,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
Generally, the pain should come and go, lasting only a few seconds, but it’s not unusual for some pregnant people to feel a dull ache all day—especially if the ligaments have been overworked with physical activity.
When should I call my provider?
Abdominal pain is common during pregnancy, but there are some other causes to be aware of, including:
- Braxton Hicks contractions
- Urinary tract infection
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Placental abruption
Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe and/or constant pain
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge (leaking from the vagina)
- Rhythmic pain (labor/contractions) or cramping
- Pain or burning during urination (peeing)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
“Any time you have concerns during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider so you and your baby can be evaluated,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
Tips for treating round ligament pain
The good news is that round ligament pain can often be treated at home and usually resolves around the third trimester. In the meantime, here are some tips that may help alleviate some of the pain.
Rest. While staying physically active is important during pregnancy, don’t overdo it while exercising or during your daily routine. If you start to experience ligament pain, take it easy and focus on self-care and relaxation.
Take a dip in a pool. Swimming is one of the safest, low-impact activities during pregnancy. It offers a full-body workout but also decreases pressure and gravity on the ligaments. The feeling of weightlessness, especially during the late stages of pregnancy, can be a welcome relief as well.
Wear a pregnancy support belt. A maternity brace that helps lift your tummy can help relieve pressure on your ligaments.
Change positions carefully. Avoid sudden, quick movements. Take your time when getting up from sitting or lying down.
Take a warm bath. There’s nothing more relaxing than a warm bath to calm your mind and body and help you relax. Just make sure the water is warm and not hot. Avoid the use of heating pads on your belly as they can raise the baby’s temperature.
Try prenatal yoga. Ask your provider if yoga for pregnant people is right for you. Although stretching isn’t likely going to help with this particular problem, gentle stretching can help with overall aches and pains.
Take a pain reliever. Tylenol is safe to use during pregnancy. However, talk to your provider before taking any new medication.
Round ligament pain is a common pregnancy symptom that signals your body is working hard to support your growing baby. It’s also a reminder to take it slow and enjoy this journey. Still, it’s always a good idea to bring up any pain or discomfort with your health care provider.
To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.
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