What Does Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy Feel Like?

Medically Reviewed By Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
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The round ligaments are rope-like bands of tissue that support the uterus. During pregnancy, these ligaments stretch, which can cause lower abdominal pain. Round ligament pain is a common symptom in the late first trimester or second trimester of pregnancy. You may feel a quick, sharp pain on one or both sides of your abdomen. In some cases, this pain may extend to the groin.

Round ligament pain is typically not a cause for concern. Treatment includes home care and over-the-counter pain relievers.

This article will discuss round ligament pain during pregnancy, including causes, when it occurs, home treatment, and when to contact your doctor or midwife.

What is round ligament pain?

Pregnant female lying on bed holding lower part of belly
Kristen Curette & Daemaine Hines/Stocksy United (person appearing is a model and used for illustrative purposes only)

The round ligaments attach from the top and sides of the uterus to the pelvic bone. They support and hold the uterus in place.

During pregnancy, these ligaments expand as the fetus grows. This stretching can cause pain, cramping, and tightening on either or both sides of the abdomen.

Round ligament pain occurs in about 10–30% of pregnancies.

Round ligament pain on its own is not serious and typically resolves with rest. If pain continues or worsens, contact your obstetrician or midwife.

What does round ligament pain feel like?

Some people with round ligament pain describe it as an aching pain stretching from the side of the belly to the groin. You may also feel other symptoms, including:

  • quick, sharp pain on one or both sides of the lower abdomen
  • pain that extends into the groin
  • cramping
  • a tightening or pulling sensation
  • pain that becomes worse when you move

How long round ligament pain lasts

With rest, round ligament pain typically resolves on its own within 30 minutes to an hour.

If your pain continues for longer, is severe, or worsens, contact your obstetrician or midwife for a prompt evaluation.

When does round ligament pain occur?

Round ligament pain often develops in the late first trimester or second trimester as the fetus grows.

After delivery, the round ligaments shrink back to their regular size. You may experience round ligament pain after giving birth, but this is unusual.

Can you get round ligament pain if you are not pregnant?

While round ligament pain can happen outside of pregnancy, it is uncommon. When there is no pregnancy, the round ligaments remain flexible. Sudden movements in the pelvic area do not typically affect them.

What causes round ligament pain?

As the fetus grows and the uterus expands during pregnancy, the round ligaments that support the uterus become stretched. This stretching can cause pain, cramping, and tightening in the lower abdomen.

What are treatments for round ligament pain?

Round ligament pain typically goes away on its own with home care.

Home care for round ligament pain

Steps you can take at home to relieve round ligament pain include the following:

  • Lie down on your side. Avoid lying on your back.
  • Use pillows to support your belly, legs, and back.
  • Place a heating pad or warm compress on your lower belly.
  • Take note of which movements or positions trigger your pain and avoid them.
  • Check with your doctor about doing daily stretching to relax muscles.
  • Ask your obstetrician or midwife about taking over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief. Talk with your doctor about any pain medications to ensure they are safe to take during pregnancy.

When to contact a doctor

Round ligament pain by itself is typically not a cause for concern. However, pain with other symptoms could indicate a more serious condition that needs prompt medical attention.

Contact your obstetrician or midwife if you experience abdominal pain along with symptoms including:

Can you prevent round ligament pain?

It may not be possible to prevent round ligament pain entirely. However, there may be steps you can take to reduce your risk of round ligament pain or manage your symptoms.

If you notice certain movements or activities trigger round ligament pain, try to avoid them. Low impact exercises can help strengthen the muscles in the abdomen and ease pressure on the round ligaments. These types of exercises include yoga and stretching.

Contact your obstetrician or midwife if you experience recurring round ligament pain or have other pain that concerns you.

Other frequently asked questions

These are some other questions people often ask about round ligament pain. Stacy A. Henigsman, D.O., has reviewed the answers.

Does round ligament pain affect the baby?

No. The round ligaments support the uterus and the fetus inside. Healthy fetal development causes the uterus to expand, stretching the round ligaments.

Is walking good for round ligament pain?

The answer varies from person to person. Some people may find walking helps relieve round ligament pain. For others, walking or other physical activity can make round ligament pain worse.

Does round ligament pain mean the baby is growing?

Round ligament pain occurs when the fetus grows in the second trimester, causing the uterus to expand. The round ligaments that support the uterus begin to stretch to accommodate the developing fetus.

Summary

Round ligament pain is a common symptom that occurs during pregnancy. The round ligaments are rope-like bands of tissue that support the uterus. As the fetus grows and the uterus expands, the round ligaments stretch, which can cause pain.

Round ligament pain typically occurs in the late first trimester or second trimester. This pain is not usually a cause for concern and resolves with home care. Home care can include rest, applying a heating pad, or taking acetaminophen for pain relief.

Contact your obstetrician or midwife if you have pain with other symptoms such as bleeding, discharge, or pain that persists or worsens.

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Medical Reviewer: Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Last Review Date: 2022 Jun 30
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