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Round Ligament Pain in Pregnancy

What to know about this common cause of pregnancy pain.
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Last updated July 25, 2021

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What is round ligament pain?

Round ligament pain is a common problem of pregnancy, usually occurring in the second and third trimesters. It feels like a sharp, pulling pain or dull ache in your lower abdomen or groin area.

The pain usually goes away quickly, lasting a few minutes at most. How often you feel round ligament pain depends on how active you are and your daily routine.

You can treat it with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or rest. If those don’t work and the pain continues, you should call your doctor.

While all pregnant women are at risk of developing it, 10% to 30% of pregnant women experience it.

Dr. Rx

The round ligament supports the uterus. But as the uterus gets bigger, it puts more tension on the round ligament, which stretches from the side of the uterus down into the groin. It is like a rubber band or bungee cord. It snaps back real fast when there is a sudden movement or change in position. —Dr. Jessica White-Videa

What round ligament pain feels like

Round ligament pain during pregnancy feels like a sharp, pulling pain in the lower belly or groin. The pain can be on one or both sides and usually last no more than a few minutes.

Main symptoms

  • Pain is felt in your lower abdomen or groin.
  • Pain feels sharp or pulling.
  • Pain feels like a dull ache.

Causes

The round ligament is fibrous tissue that helps hold your uterus in place. You have two ligaments, one on each side, and they connect your uterus to your groin area. As your uterus grows during pregnancy, these ligaments stretch and are put under a lot of tension.

When you’re further along in your pregnancy and make a sudden movement, like standing up quickly, turning in bed, or coughing, the round ligaments “snap back,” which leads to pain.

Pro Tip

Round ligament pain usually starts around the 14th week of pregnancy (in your second trimester). One of the most common misconceptions is that it’s a sign that something is wrong, i.e., you’re going into labor. —Dr. White-Videa

Treating round ligament pain

If you experience round ligament pain, stop doing whatever caused the pain—for example, stop walking or change your position in bed. The pain should go away within a few minutes. During this time, continue to rest and try gently massaging the area that hurts in a circular motion. You can also try specific stretches (described below).

If the pain is more intense, take acetaminophen (Tylenol). (Ibuprofen, like Motrin, should always be avoided during pregnancy.)

If the pain does not go away, even after taking acetaminophen, or it becomes more intense, call your doctor. Also call your doctor if you have other symptoms like bleeding, painful urination, fever, or chills.

Round ligament pain stretches

To help ease the discomfort caused by round ligament pain, you can try doing specific stretches such as:

Half kneeling hip flexor stretch

Standing, with your left leg in front of your right, kneel down on your right knee (use a mat or pillow under your knee). Keep your back straight and shift your weight and hips forward. Reach up with arms for a stretch. Hold for 5 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

Bird dog

Starting on your hands and knees, slowly extend your opposite arm and leg out straight, while keeping your hips parallel to the ground. Only extend to hip and shoulder height. Hold for 3 seconds. Do this 10 times. Repeat using the opposite arm and leg.

Pull aparts

Standing up straight, hold an exercise band in your hands at chest level, shoulder-width apart. Then keeping arms straight, pull them apart, stretching the band outward. Do 1 set of 10.

Preventative tips

While it’s not possible to completely prevent round ligament pain in pregnancy, it is possible to reduce how often you feel it.

  • Avoid sudden movements (like rolling over in bed quickly).
  • Move slowly when going from a seated to standing position.
  • Consider wearing a maternity support belt.
  • Don’t overdo it, both while exercising and in your daily routine.
  • Talk to your ob/gyn about seeing a chiropractor or physical therapist to address pregnancy-related changes in your body.
  • Try prenatal yoga to help with overall aches and pains of pregnancy.
Share your story

Dr. White-Videa is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree in 2002, in Psychology from Barnard College in New York City . Dr. White-Videa then attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) starting in 2005. During that time, she participated in several medical mission trips and also mentored high school students who wanted to pursue careers in medicine. Dr White-Videa graduated from PCOM in 2009 and went on to complete her residency at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Obstetrics and Gynecology (2013). In 2013, she moved to South Florida where she met her husband and now has two sons.

Currently, Dr White-Videa is in private practice in Margate, FL. Dr. White-Videa believes that the relationship an OB/GYN has with their patients is one of a kind. She enjoys being a part of some the most significant milestones in a woman's life. Educating and empowering women at different stages of their life to make the best decisions as their reproductive and gynecological needs change is her ultimate goal. Dr White-Videa joined Buoy Health in 2020 as a medical writer and looks forward to using this platform as another way to continue her mission of educating and empowering women.

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