What is Round Ligament Pain, and How Do You Get Relief?

Pregnancy comes with it’s fair share of aches, pains, and sometimes sickness, as any woman who has been pregnant will tell you. One of the most common pains you can expect to deal with? Round ligament pain.

While not as pervasive and bothersome as some other body ailments resulting from pregnancy, round ligament pain is certainly not pleasant, and it will definitely wear on you when it starts to flair up.

In fact, most women will experience round ligament pain at some point during their pregnancy, and while it may only last a few moments when it does occur, it’s still something you want to avoid if possible, or at least make an effort to lessen.

Fortunately, there are more than a few routes you can take when it comes to round ligament pain treatment. Before we get to that however, let’s first go over what round ligament pain is, and what even causes it in the first place. 

Round Ligament Pain, Explained

Mostly occurring during the second trimester, round ligament pain typically feels like sharp pains in your abdomen or hips, which may get worse when you make a sudden move, such as going from sitting to standing, coughing, or laughing. That pain can sometimes extend to your groin area as well, and may feel like cramps at times too.

Be aware that this pain is very common, as it’s almost guaranteed to happen during pregnancy.

There’s also a chance it could be more painful if the pregnancy is not your first. Lovely, right?

Causes of Round Ligament Pain

The root cause of round ligament pain is actually fairly simple.

The round ligament connects the front portion of the uterus to the groin. Essentially, the round ligament anchors the uterus in the pelvis and maintains its anterior flexion during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the round ligament that supports your uterus expands in size significantly, while also stretching. This stretching and contracting can lead to pain and cramping. This pain is often described as a pulling sensation.

So, any sudden movement that stretches these ligaments by causing them to contract quickly results in pain. Think of it like a stretched rubber band snapping back into place when you let go — that’s more or less what’s going on.

This pain should typically only last a few seconds, but that doesn’t make it any less bothersome. It can also make sleeping and laying down more difficult, as certain positions can aggravate the ligament.

Can Round Ligament Pain Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, there is really no effective way to fully prevent round ligament pain. Each person experiences pregnancy differently. Some women experience round ligament pain and others don’t.

Unfortunately the only true cure is delivery.

5 Ways to Treat (or Ease) Round Ligament Pain

As I’ve mentioned, round ligament pain cannot be avoided entirely, but there are a number of ways to treat or help reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing.

Rest– The best remedy for round ligament pain is rest. This helps to relax the ligament. Rest may not be easy depending on your work and lifestyle. At the very least try to avoid prolonged standing and heavy lifting.

Stretching – Since the main culprit of round ligament pain is the reduced elasticity of the ligament itself, some light stretches can go a long way in improving the strength and flexibility of the round ligament.

The most common stretch is to put your hands and knees on the floor while lowering your head, and then slowly pushing your butt up in the air in a gentle fashion. Be sure to not push too hard. Doing this a few times a day for a minute or two can go a long way in helping.

Exercising – Light core exercises are another great way to improve the strength and flexibility of your round ligament. Light yoga targeting the core is one the most effective ways to go about it. Swimming can also provide great relief if you have access to a pool.

It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routines. In general, exercise is safe during pregnancy as long as you exercised before pregnancy. If you are high risk, check with your doctor before continuing exercise.

For more information about how to stay fit during pregnancy, check out my article here.

Warmth – Sometimes a light amount of heat can be applied to the area in order to help improve elasticity of the round ligament. This can be in the form of a heating pad or hot bath.

Avoid Sudden Movements – Perhaps the most practical way to get round ligament pain relief is to simply avoid any of the sudden movements that trigger it. I realize this is easier said than done, but with some practice you can certainly sidestep many of the triggers.

Over time you will subconsciously begin to be more cautious in how you move your body, whether that’s sitting up slower, or finding ways to rest and position your body in ways that avoid the pain.

Pain Relievers If none of these other methods seem to be working for you, tylenol, or acetaminophen can help in bringing some respite. As always, avoid NSAIDs during pregnancy, such as advil and motrin if possible.


What if the Pain Persists, or Seems to Get Worse?

Round ligament pain is something that should only last a few seconds or minutes, depending on what you’re doing. If the pain seems to be getting worse over time, or lasting a longer than it should, don’t take any chances; contact your doctor immediately to see what’s going on. Your doctor may refer you to physical therapy to help provide you with pain relief.

Final Thoughts

Round ligament pain is likely not the worst symptom you’ll experience during a pregnancy, but it can often be more than just an annoyance. Still, with rest, a little exercise/stretching, and being a little more mindful of your movements and reactions, you can go a long way in reducing its effects throughout the day, and when you go to bed.