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  • Writer's pictureJessica Lagrone

Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy: Causes & Remedies

Updated: Dec 4, 2023


pregnant woman in pain

Pregnancy is a big journey filled with joy, anticipation, and a few discomforts along the way, including round ligament pain. While this pregnancy symptom is normal, understanding the causes and remedies can help alleviate some of the discomfort. If you know about round ligament pain from personal experience, you know what we're saying when we say discomfort. Ouch!


Below, we'll discuss the causes of this sharp pain and when to expect it if you haven't already. Since ligament pain can be confused with abdominal pain, we'll discuss the differences so you'll feel more confident deciphering between the two. Then, we'll get to the best part and offer ways to find sweet relief from this irritating pain. Finally, we'll wrap up by making sure you know when to call your healthcare provider if symptoms get worse or become questionable.


What Causes Round Ligament Pain?


Ligament pain is a common discomfort in the lower belly, groin, or pelvis area that many pregnant women experience. The uterus grows during pregnancy as your baby grows, and those (round) little ligaments stretch. The stretching and thinning of the ligaments can cause sharp, stabbing pains on one or both sides of the abdomen, usually felt during sudden movements or changes in position, like when you're getting out of bed or picking something up off the floor.


You may also, and I'm not joking here, feel pain when you sneeze. Yes, sneeze! If a surprising pain isn't enough, pregnant women may also feel a dull, aching sensation that lingers for longer periods throughout the day.


When Does Round Ligament Pain Start in Pregnancy?


Round ligament pain, a type of pregnancy pelvic pain, typically begins in the second trimester of pregnancy, around the 14th week, sometimes peaking around the 18th week. Unfortunately, this annoying belly pain can last through week 26 of pregnancy.


For many women, the pain tends to diminish as the body adjusts to the changes in the uterus and surrounding structures. So, cross your fingers that you're one of these women! The pain may come and go, and its duration can vary. Some women may experience round ligament pain for only a few seconds or minutes, while others may have more prolonged discomfort.


How is Round Ligament Pain Different from Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy?


Round ligament pain can feel like plain ole stomach pain during pregnancy. However, there are key differences between the two. So, how do you know which is which?

  • Abdominal pain symptoms: feelings of having gas, being constipated, or experiencing a more serious condition like placental abruption or preterm labor.

  • Round ligament pain symptoms: sharp or stabbing pain on the lower side of the abdomen that typically occurs during movement or when a woman changes positions.

Unlike general abdominal pain, round ligament pain is usually harmless and can be managed with gentle stretching, warm baths, and supportive clothing. Knowing the difference between stomach pain and round ligament pain is important so that the pain can be more easily identified and a plan for relief can be made as soon as possible.


How Do Pregnant Women Get Relief from Round Ligament Pain?


Here's the news you want to hear—round ligament relief is possible! There are a variety of methods through which pregnant women can find relief:

  • Gently stretch the pelvic area. This can help to alleviate tension and discomfort in the ligaments. The cat-cow stretch, child's pose, or butterfly stretch are good stretches to try. Prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga videos are a good way to stretch at home.

  • Wear a pregnancy support belt. Yes, we said belt. A belt can provide relief by providing extra belly support and reducing ligament strain.

  • Apply heat or cold packs. Applying heat or cold packs to the sensitive area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

  • Use a pregnancy pillow. They may take up a lot of room, but it's worth it as they help alleviate pressure on the ligaments.

  • Take a warm bath. Taking a warm (not hot) bath can be a natural pain reliever for the groin area, like using a heat pack.

Check with your healthcare provider before trying any new methods of pain relief to ensure they are safe for both you and your little one. When it comes down to it, you may have to take advantage of a combination of methods to find the relief methods that work best for you.


When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider About Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy?


It's the big question: is this stomach pain or discomfort serious enough to call a doctor, or is it normal?


Most of the time, abdominal pain is a normal part of the process as your body adjusts to your growing baby. However, there are certain times when you should call your healthcare provider as soon as possible, like when:

  • Pain is severe or persistent

  • You have bleeding or spotting

  • You experience dizziness or fainting

  • You have a fever

  • Pain is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing

When in doubt, call and ask your doctor what they think. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your and your baby's health. Your healthcare provider will be able to assess the situation and provide you with the necessary guidance and care to ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy.


Conclusion


While round ligament pain is literally a pain, remember that it is temporary, and there are a variety of simple exercises or things to try to find the relief you're looking for. To help prevent prolonged bursts of pain, avoid sudden movements and see if that helps. Differentiating between abdominal pain and ligament pain can be confusing. One way to remember is by noting if the pain is only in the lower abdomen and if ligament support provides relief. Of course, if there are any doubts or if the pain seems severe, it's important to contact your doctor or midwife to ensure the pain is normal and not a more serious issue.


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