If your round ligaments weren’t on your radar before, they certainly may be by the time you hit your second trimester. A sudden change in position may spur a painful sensation. Or you may notice a constant feeling of discomfort, especially during the third trimester. Welcome to round ligament pain, my friend. Another totally normal part of pregnancy.
Since abdominal pain during pregnancy can be unsettling, we’re walking through the basics: why round ligament pain happens, how to tell it apart from other sensations, and what you can do to manage it.
What Causes Round Ligament Pain?
The Mayo Clinic describes the round ligaments as “a pair of cordlike structures in the pelvis that help support the uterus by connecting the front of the uterus to the groin region.”
As your pregnancy progresses, and your body changes, the round ligaments become softer and stretch. This stretching during pregnancy makes the round ligaments more likely to spasm, tighten, or become easily irritated. Since these changes to the ligaments are a normal part of pregnancy, feeling pain from your round ligaments is considered physiological and totally normal.
You’ll most likely experience these twinges as pain or discomfort in the abdomen or hip area, or as discomfort extending into the groin. The sharp or shooting pain is typically felt on one or both sides of the abdomen. Rolling over in bed, walking, changing positions from sitting to standing, or even just laughing are all movements that tend to trigger round ligament pain.
Fortunately, round ligament pain should only last a few seconds but since so many activities can trigger it, it may feel constant throughout the day.
Round Ligaments or Contractions?
First, don’t worry if you’re wondering how to distinguish round ligament pain from contractions. It can be easy to confuse the two. Luckily, there are some key differences you can look for to tell them apart:
- Contractions can occur at any moment vs round ligament pain which is triggered by movements
- Contractions may occur intermittently, lasting longer than several seconds (tracking contractions can help you see how long the sensation lasts)
- Round ligament pain is sharp, shooting pain that lasts a few seconds at most.
- Contractions may increase in strength
When should I be concerned?
Round ligament pain is a normal part of pregnancy, but if you experience abdominal pain or discomfort that worries or confuses you, speak with your OB or Midwife. You’re not in this alone. A positive pregnancy experience can be many things, but most of all it is one where you feel reassured and well informed. Your provider can help clear up any confusion, walk you through what you’re feeling and judge whether further investigation might be needed.
Other signs and symptoms you’ll want to contact your provider about:
- Severe pain accompanied by pelvic pressure
- Pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding
- Sudden lower back pain
How can I ease round ligament pain?
Now here’s the good news. There are several things you can do, even now, to ease the pain.
- Rest! Get comfy on your left side, prop a pillow under your belly and another between your knees for added support.
- Slow it down. It’s quick movements like rolling over in bed or going from sitting to standing too fast that often trigger pain. Making an effort to move slower and be gentle with your body will help.
- Take a bath. Like with labor, water therapy will often help relax your muscles and relieve tension.
- Extra support. The round ligaments are supporting your growing baby and uterus, and that is no small undertaking. You can help your body by using a maternity belt or traditional rebozo for added support and comfort during the day when your most active.