If you're pregnant and suddenly feel a sharp, shooting pain in your abdomen, it's hard not to worry. But while pelvic pain during pregnancy is never something anyone enjoys, this type of discomfort (referred to as round ligament pain) is just one of those nuisances that come with the territory.1 When you know more about round ligament pain, you'll have less reason to feel anxious—and some knowledge on how to get comfortable again.
What causes round ligament pain?
Your body's round ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue in the pelvis, connecting the front of the uterus to your groin. These round ligaments, one on each side of your body, surround and support your uterus as it expands to accommodate your baby's growth. As your pregnancy progresses, these ligaments stretch while carrying an ever-heavier load. That strain, which can be caused by rolling over in bed or making sudden movements, causes round ligament pain.2
What does round ligament pain feel like?
Round ligament pain is unpredictable, and it may feel different at various points of your pregnancy. Typically, it feels like a sharp pain in your abdomen, groin, or pelvic area—usually, but not always, on your right side. It may also feel like a pulling sensation, a sharp pain in your belly, or a dull ache that lingers.3
When does round ligament pain start and end?
Round ligament pain may appear in the first trimester, but it more typically shows up at the start of the second trimester4—right as that belly bump is beginning to feel a bit weighty. The not-so-fun news: it can continue sporadically until your baby is born, but then it goes away.5.
How can I treat round ligament pain, and when do I need to call a doctor?
Fortunately, round ligament pain is often acute, so it doesn't require medical treatment. You can reduce the chance of experiencing this pain by doing gentle stretches,6 continuing a pregnancy-safe exercise routine, flexing your hips, and changing movements slowly. In some cases, taking acetaminophen may help, but ask your doctor before using any medication.
Speaking of healthcare professionals, be sure to call your doctor if you experience other symptoms such as fever, chills, severe pain, bleeding, backache, contractions, or pain with urination. These could be signs of a more serious issue or even preterm labor, so it's better to make the call—just in case.7
Have more pregnancy questions? Our prenatal resource covers everything from folic acid to exercise.
1Management of acute abdomen in pregnancy: current perspectives↗
2Management of acute abdomen in pregnancy: current perspectives↗
3Obstetric and Intrapartum Emergencies↗
4Obstetric and Intrapartum Emergencies↗
5The Pregnant Patient: Managing Common Acute Medical Problems↗
6Use of pelvic tilt exercise for ligament pain relief↗