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Round ligament pain in pregnancy
In this article
- My belly aches sometimes. Is this normal?
- When should I call my doctor or midwife?
- What can I do to relieve my aching belly?
- Could the pain be caused by something else?
My belly aches sometimes. Is this normal?
Yes. While you’re pregnant, it’s quite normal for your lower tummy to hurt. It’s likely to be caused by ligaments coming under strain as your baby grows (Aquilera 2014, Murray and Hassall 2014).
Ligaments are tough tissues that connect your bones and tissues. Some ligaments support your organs so that they stay in the right place.
The round ligaments hold your womb (uterus) in place. You have two round ligaments. They stretch from the top of your womb down the front of your belly, through to the inside of your pelvis.
At the start of pregnancy, the round ligaments are short and thick. Pregnancy hormones make them more flexible so that, as your baby grows, they become long and thin (Aquilera 2014, Murray and Hassall 2014). When your round ligaments are under strain, they can stretch and tense, like an elastic band (Aquilera 2014, Murray and Hassall 2014).
If you suddenly change position, it may cause these ligaments to tense quickly, resulting in a jabbing sensation or a sharp, stabbing pain (Aquilera 2014, Murray and Hassall 2014). It can sometimes feel like painful cramps, but they are different from the cramping sensations of contractions .
It’s more common to feel round ligament pain on the right-hand side rather than the left (Murray and Hassall 2014), especially from the second trimester. This is because, as your womb expands and lifts up out of your pelvis, it rotates slightly to the right. As a result, the right-hand ligament comes under more strain (Murray and Hassall 2014).
Sudden movements, such as getting up from a bed or chair, coughing or getting out of the bath may trigger the pain. If you roll over suddenly in your sleep, you may even wake up with the pain (Aquilera 2014). You may also ache when you exercise in the later stages of pregnancy.
When should I call my doctor or midwife?
The kinds of aches caused by your round ligaments straining and stretching are normal. However, if you have an aching belly as well as any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or midwife:
- pain or burning when you wee
- spotting or bleeding
- fever and chills
- fluid leaking from your vagina
- a feeling of faintness
What can I do to relieve my aching belly?
Round ligament pain is part of a normal change to your body , so there may not be a way to prevent it or to make it go away during pregnancy.
You could try the following:
- Moving slowly and smoothly from a sitting or lying position. Getting up slowly gives your muscles and ligaments time to adapt and support you before you change position (Aquilera 2014).
- Try tilting your pelvis backwards by slumping your back before you stand up (Andrews and O’Neill 1994).
- Using a hot water bottle or wheat bag to warm the area that hurts (Aquilera 2014).
- Lying on the opposite side to the side that hurts (Aquilera 2014).
- Relaxing in a warm bath (Aquilera 2014).
Your midwife or a physiotherapist may have some other suggestions.
Could the pain be caused by something else?
Aching in your lower belly can sometimes be a symptom of a urinary tract infection (Chandraharan and Arulkuma 2008, Vernami et al 2010). You may also have a fever and feel unwell, or find it painful to wee. See your doctor or midwife if you’re not sure. She will be able to test your urine for signs of infection.
If you feel pain on or around your pubic bone at the front, you may be suffering from symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) (Vermani et al 2010). SPD is a condition to do with particular ligaments in your pelvis. If you think that this may be a problem, talk to your doctor or midwife, or ask to be referred to a physiotherapist.
There are other more unusual causes of abdominal pain, which may be unrelated to your pregnancy, such as appendicitis. For more information, see our article on abdominal pain in pregnancy .
Aguilera P. 2014. Pregnancy Round Ligament Pain. www.emedicinehealth.com [Accessed May 2015]
Andrews C, O’Neill LM. 1994. Use of pelvic tilt exercise for ligament pain relief. J Nurse Midwifery (39)6: 370-4
Chandraharan E, Arulkuma S. 2008. Acute abdomen and abdominal pain in pregnancy Obstet Gynaecol Reprod Med 18(8): 205-212
Murray I, Hassall J. 2014. Change and adaptation in pregnancy. In: Marshall JE, Raynor MD. eds. Myles Textbook for Midwives. 16th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 143-77
Vermani E, Mittal R, Weeks A. 2010. Pelvic girdle pain and low back pain in pregnancy: a review. Pain Practice 10(1):60–71
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