Round ligament pain: Why is my belly so sore?!

Round ligament pain is a common complaint during pregnancy, and can be a bit alarming if you don't know what it is. You might be thinking, "OMG I'm barely into my second trimester, WHY is my belly so sore?!"

 

round ligament pain

If this isn't your first rodeo, chances are you experienced round ligament pain sooner this time. Yes, it's annoying, and totally unfair, even if it is a normal part of pregnancy.

What's a round ligament anyway?

During pregnancy, your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby. Your round ligaments are what support your uterus inside of your abdomen, and when your uterus stretches, your round ligaments stretch and soften as well. Think of it like a very thick rubber band that's stretchy but has lots of resistance.

What does round ligament pain feel like? What causes it?

As your round ligaments are stretched and pulled by your growing uterus, they can pull on sensitive nerves and cause pain. Most women experience round ligament pain as a sharp, stabbing sensation on one side of their abdomen, sometimes both. For some, it almost feels like ovulation pain or an abdominal cramp. It can be caused by changing positions too quickly, sneezing, sleeping funny, exercise/overdoing it, or just plain old being pregnant. Whatever the cause, it's no fun! We've been there, done that, and gotten the uncomfortably stretchy t-shirt.

What can I do about round ligament pain?

As annoying as it is, there are things you can do to help relieve round ligament pain, like...

Rest: If you're experiencing pain in your abdomen from exercise or overdoing it, the best thing you can do is stop and rest. You may need to modify your routine to minimize pain and pressure.

Support: Particularly in the latter part of pregnancy, your round ligaments can feel sore from the weight of carrying your baby. A support band, girdle, or simply wrapping your belly with a ring sling or wrap you already have can help take the pressure off. Your doula may also have some additional suggestions for you.

Change positions slowly: Since round ligament pain can be caused by sharp movements, changing positions slowly can help you avoid that unpleasant cramping sensation.

Exercise/Stretching: If you have the okay from your provider, you can utilize some simple stretches to help with round ligament pain. One common stretch is a knee-chest position, where you place your knees and chest on the floor, legs apart, with your bottom in the air. It's not the most flattering, but many find that this stretch really helps.

If you are experiencing extremely sharp pain, particularly pain that extends into the groin area, let your provider know. That could be another type of pregnancy-related pain called symphysis pubis dysfunction, or SPD. 

With SPD, the ligaments that keep your pelvis aligned stretch and relax too soon before birth. This can cause intense pain and pressure in the groin area, and should be dealt with under the care of a physician and likely a pelvic floor physiotherapist. SPD is different from round ligament pain and affects a different area of your body.

Your doulas will never minimize your complaints, no matter how small, and will always provide a listening and understanding ear. If you don't have a doula yet but want one, let us know and we'll get you taken care of!