Pregnancy and you blog

Round ligament pain: Understanding this pregnancy complaint

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. September 10, 2014

So many changes occur in your body during pregnancy that it can be hard to keep up with all of them. Some changes are amazing, some are mildly irritating and others are downright painful. Round ligament pain can be one of those painful changes.

Women have a pair of ligaments in the pelvis — called round ligaments — that hold the uterus in place. As the uterus grows during pregnancy, these ligaments stretch to accommodate that growth. Before pregnancy, the uterus is about the size and shape of a pear and the round ligaments are thick and short. By delivery, it can feel like the uterus is as big as a beach ball and as heavy as a bowling ball. Like overstretched rubber bands, the round ligaments become long and taut.

Round ligaments can pull on nerve fibers and other structures in the pelvis. This causes sharp pain, which is short-lived and feels like a muscle spasm. (I remember almost going to my knees in a grocery store when a spasm hit.) Some women experience lingering soreness. The pain can occur on either side — though it's more common on the right side — and radiate into the groin. You might experience round ligament pain when you're turning over in bed, getting in and out of the car, exercising or simply getting up from a chair.

Pain in the lower abdomen can have other causes, too — some serious. If you have pain accompanied by fever or chills, pain with urination, pain with bleeding, or moderate or severe pain, call your health care provider.

Thankfully, you can help relieve and prevent round ligament pain. Start by modifying your activities to decrease the frequency and intensity of the ligament stretching. Move a little slower than usual and try not to rise quickly from the bed or chairs. Avoid sudden movements. Using a maternity belt or abdominal support garment, soaking in the tub or getting into a swimming pool can also help by lightening the load.

Sept. 10, 2014