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Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy

Dr. Shawn A. Tassone

Reviewed by
Dr. Shawn A. Tassone

What Is Round Ligament Pain?

During pregnancy, one of the parts of the body where pain is most often felt is the abdominal area. Most of the time, it’s round ligament pain. The role of the round ligaments is to support your uterus, and as your uterus grows, this role becomes burdensome. There are two round ligaments, one on either side. They are attached to the groin area at one end and the uterus at the other.

Although this condition is painful, especially during the first and second trimesters, it happens because of the normal changes that are occurring in your body as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus enlarges. The first time a pregnant mother experiences this pain, it can be very scary. It manifests as a sharp pain that radiates from the abdominal, hip, or groin area, and although it’s most common on the right side, the pain can be felt on either side as your round ligaments stretch or spasm.

Though it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if the pain becomes unbearable, round ligament pain is not usually a cause for concern, and usually goes away by the third trimester.

What Causes Round Ligament Pain?

Although it can be scary, it’s important to remember that your body is changing rapidly as it adapts to the growth of the baby. As your baby grows, your body transforms, especially in your pelvic area, and more specifically your uterus. Your uterus is supported by very thick ligaments, one which is called the round ligament. As your uterus grows in size and weight, the ligaments begin to stretch like a rubber band. As the round ligament stretches, it can cause severe, sharp pain. Exercise can sometimes worsen the pain. The pain normally resolves if you lie still and do not move, so if you are suffering from unexplained abdominal pain, try lying still; if the pain subsides, this will confirm that it was just round ligament pain.

When Do You Seek Medical Care?

Even though you may feel something is seriously wrong with either you or your baby, generally this is not the case. You do need to be on the lookout for other symptoms though, as these symptoms coupled with round ligament pain can be a sign of a very serious problem. Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Painful Urination
  • Difficulty Walking
  • Bleeding
  • Severe Pain even if you are lying down and not moving at all.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s probably time to call the doctor or head to the emergency room. If you’re just not sure whether the pain you’re experiencing is round ligament pain, seek medical attention immediately. Other issues, such as ovarian cysts, appendicitis, preterm labor, bladder infection, stomach flu, food poisoning and intestinal cramps can cause pain similar to round ligament pain.

Treating Round Ligament Pain at Home

Just like menstrual pain, round ligament pain can sometimes be treated with heat. Using a heating pad or cloth or simply taking a hot bath can help to reduce the pain. If your pain is due to a position you’re sitting or lying in, try switching sides or changing positions. Also, try decreasing your movements and avoiding heavy lifting. Avoiding sudden movements can help to decrease the incidence of spasms.

[Page updated December 2015]