Round ligament pain is a common complaint during – and even after – pregnancy. Here are answers to some of the questions our patients ask about causes of and relief for this normal, but uncomfortable, condition

What is round ligament pain?

Round ligament pain is an uncomfortable pulling or stabbing sensation in the lower abdomen, near the hips or into the groin area. It’s a “growing pain” that’s common and normal during pregnancy

The most recognizable symptom of round ligament pain is an intense, sudden spasm in your abdomen or hip area. Some pregnant women experience round ligament pain on both sides. The good news is that round ligament pain is temporary.

What causes round ligament pain?

Your round ligaments are rope like structures that attach from your uterus down into your pelvic floor. As your uterus expands during pregnancy, you may experience “growing pains” around the middle, or what your OB/GYN calls round ligament pain. This common, though uncomfortable, sensation is your body’s way of stretching to accommodate your growing uterus. When these “ropes” are stretched they can be painful.

As your belly grows, the following activities can all trigger round ligament pain: Being on your feet and or on the move for long periods of time. Coughing, laughing or sneezing or any sudden movement or contraction of your belly. Doing vigorous activities or rapid movements also can aggravate these ligaments. Even just rolling over in bed or standing up from sitting can also create these sudden pains.

Another common trigger of pelvic pain during pregnancy is increased pressure on pelvic floor muscles. As the pelvic area prepares for childbirth, changes in the pelvic floor muscles also occur. The baby’s growth creates more and more pressure from inside the uterus that increases stress on the pelvic floor muscle. This can feel like pelvic pain, lower abdominal pressure, vaginal pain, or even incontinence/leakage of urine or stool.

What does round ligament pain feel like?

Round ligament pain feels like a deep, sharp, stabbing or stretching sensation that begins or worsens with movement. It can be on one side or both sides of the lower belly, into the hips or even the groin area. Sometimes it’s more of a dull ache that lasts longer in those same areas. Some triggering movements may include rolling over in bed or taking a step. The pain may travel upward or downward, from the hips into the groin. 

Where is round ligament pain felt?

Round ligament pain is usually felt in the lower belly. It can be on both sides or one side between the pubic bone and the hips.

When does round ligament pain start?

Round ligament pain usually starts in the second trimester as the pregnant belly stretches and becomes larger which places stress on these rope-like ligaments that hold the uterus in place.  It’s also common and uncomfortable in the third trimester as balance shifts and the body prepares for childbirth.

How long does round ligament pain last?

Round ligament pain can feel like sharp and short pains or it can be dull and longer acting aches. Sometimes it is aggravated by movement and sometimes gentle stretching can help it to feel better.

Am I feeling round ligament pain or Braxton Hicks?

Preterm labor can feel like round ligament pain. But unlike round ligament pain which stops after a couple of minutes, preterm labor pain continues intermittently. Braxton Hicks is another name for early contractions that are not actually labor.  Braxton Hicks contractions feel a little like menstrual cramps. They are felt in the front of your abdomen, but not in your back or lower part of your uterus. It’s uncomfortable but not painful.

Braxton Hicks contractions are a tightening in your abdomen that comes and goes. These contractions don’t get closer together, they don’t increase in how long they last or how often they occur and they don’t feel stronger over time. Braxton Hicks contractions can feel like mild menstrual cramps and be uncomfortable. They often come with a change of position and stop with rest. You can talk, walk and go about your normal activities during Braxton Hicks contractions.

Can round ligament pain feel like period/menstrual cramps?

Round ligament pain is usually associated with pregnancy although the actual feeling can be similar to period cramps for some people.

Am I feeling round ligament pain or labor contractions?

Labor contractions are very different from round ligament pain. Labor contractions cause discomfort or a dull ache in your back and lower abdomen, along with pressure in your pelvis. Some people might also feel pain in their sides and thighs. Some describe contractions as very intense menstrual cramps. During a true labor contraction, it might be hard to talk or walk. Labor contractions get more painful and come more frequently as labor progresses.

How can I relieve round ligament pain?

Hands-on muscle work and gentle chiropractic adjustments are effective at limiting round ligament pain. Other things you can do yourself include: gentle self-massage in little circles over and around the painful area. Try a warm compress, heating pad or water bottle on the painful areas. Work on breathing and contract your core, while lifting your belly with your hands as you turn over in bed, bending over, or going from sitting to standing.

When sleeping on your side at night use a wedge pillow to support the belly which prevents overstretching and/or compressing one of the round ligaments.

Modify exercises and movements that are aggravating round ligament pain.

Do most women experience postpartum round ligament pain?

Postpartum recovery looks different for different bodies. It’s heavily dependent on how delivery went, whether there was trauma, tearing, prolonged labor or a c-section. The natural hormone relaxin that loosens the pelvis to allow for vaginal delivery also can leave the pelvis feeling unstable or weak. This paired with fatigue and newborn care can leave the new parent feeling sore and unstable. Resting during this time is very important and for those without support, pelvic discomfort can be aggravated.

Do belly bands help with round ligament pain?

Belly bands are often recommended for certain conditions during pregnancy such as lower back pain, round ligament pain, sciatica, and symphysis pubis dysfunction. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, a belly band is a low-cost tool that may help relieve some of your pain. Ask your chiropractor to check you with and without the belly band to determine if it fits properly. Some chiropractors also use kinesiotaping too.

What is the best position to sleep in with round ligament pain?

Laying on your left side for a while and taking it easy will reduce the pressure. Be sure to put a pillow between your knees to keep the pelvis aligned and use another pillow under your stomach if needed. Drawing your knees up to the chest also helps to reduce strain on the ligaments. Alternating sides while sleeping helps balance the body and prevent more strain.

The Bottom Line

Most women feel different aches and pains, almost every week, and because taking medications during pregnancy is discouraged, you will want to do everything possible to stay healthy and manage your discomfort.

Chiropractic care addresses the whole body, including the true source of pain and discomfort, in order to prepare you for delivery. Our chiropractic methods can also help a baby to position itself properly for delivery. It is gentle, safe and effective.  Call our office at 508-243-4000 to schedule an appointment, or learn more about chiropractic care during pregnancy.

For Local Pregnant Women

The Bayside Chiropractic Experience

Your pregnant body has an amazing ability to function the way it’s supposed to. We help your body to adapt for every stage of pregnancy, birth and postpartum healing. Our goal is to direct change in support of healthy development and delivery. 

Regular chiropractic care — monthly in the 1st trimester, gradually escalating to weekly in the 3rd trimester — can help you stay ahead of the changes to come and support the body’s natural means of accommodating. 

Our chiropractic doctors coordinate care with your obstetrician or midwife and doula to manage pain, prepare you for labor, and feel your best all through your pregnancy. 

If you’re based in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts, call our office to make an appointment. Let us help you stay strong and healthy throughout your pregnancy!

Medically reviewed by:
Paul J. O’Brien Jr, DC
Bayside Chiropractic, PC
Seekonk, Massachusetts

Located in Southeastern Massachusetts, near Providence, Rhode Island

Call our office to make an appointment and start improving your well-being today.

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