pregnant woman holding her belly

How to Ease Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy

By Marisa Iallonardo
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
September 29, 2023

Ever felt a quick, sharp pain while standing up from sitting or rolling over in bed? You may have experienced what’s known as round ligament pain.

“Round ligament pain is a normal part of the uterus growing,” says Alissa Conklin, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

According to the International Journal of Women’s Health, round ligament pain affects up to 30% of pregnancies. It’s not a sign of a problem but can be alarming to experience.

Here, we take a closer look at what exactly causes round ligament pain—and ways to help you feel more comfortable.

Round Ligament Pain, Explained

In the pelvis, the uterus is supported and anchored by structures called ligaments, and that includes the round ligaments, explains Chasity Jennings-Nunez, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at OB Hospitalist Group, Adventist Health Glendale, in California. There are two round ligaments—they run from the top portion of the uterus down to the lower quadrants of the pelvis.

“As the uterus increases in size to accommodate the growing pregnancy, these support structures have to elongate and stretch,” Jennings-Nunez says. “When the uterus shifts and moves, the pulling and stretching of these ligaments can cause pain.” This can be a result of your own movement or your baby’s movement.

What round ligament pain feels like can vary from person to person. For some, it might be a sharp, stabbing or shooting pain. It can “feel a bit like lightning and be just as quick,” Conklin says. But others may experience it as aching or cramplike and find that it lasts for a few hours. It’s common to feel it in the lower abdomen, and the pain can even extend into the vaginal or groin area.

How to Recognize Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain is typically associated with movement. You may experience it when you’re getting in and out of the car, turning to talk to a friend, or standing after sitting at your desk. It can also result from coughing, laughing, or using the toilet, Conklin says.

It tends to be a second-trimester issue, typically occurring anywhere from about 14 weeks to 27 weeks, when the uterus is growing quickly.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Round ligament pain isn’t dangerous, but definitely tell your doctor about any pelvic pain you experience. Pelvic pain is also a symptom of other conditions, such as appendicitis, which need to be evaluated, Jennings-Nunez says.

Watch for the following symptoms, which are signs of something other than round ligament pain:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Contractions (tightening)
  • Worsening pain,
  • Pain that lasts for more than a few hours
  • Pain that doesn’t get better after resting

How to Ease Round Ligament Pain

There are a few things you can try that may help ease round ligament pain:

  • Resting
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen, if your doctor has okayed it
  • Modifying your activities, like walking slower or taking more breaks
  • Wearing a maternity support girdle or maternity belt
  • Finding ways to keep the uterus still, like lying on your side or resting on a recliner or couch

Round ligament pain can really hurt, but thankfully it usually isn’t a cause for concern. Just keep your doctor posted, since other types of pelvic pain aren’t quite as harmless. “In the end, if more serious causes of pain have been ruled out—preterm labor, appendicitis, and others—know that it’s pain that will likely improve on its own with time,” Jennings-Nunez says.

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