Sharp Pain in Your Abdomen during Pregnancy a.k.a. Round Ligament Pain

Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain is a sharp pain often felt in the lower abdomen or hip area on one or both sides. It is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy and is considered a normal part of pregnancy. It is usually felt during the second trimester (beginning at around week 14 of pregnancy) and may increase when you move quickly, go from sitting to standing, cough, or laugh.

Causes of round ligament pain:
Several thick ligaments surround and support your uterus as it grows from about the size of a pear to the size of a beach ball (and the weight of a bowling ball) during pregnancy. The ligaments that surround and support your uterus and connect it to your groin (collectively called round ligaments) have to stretch and thicken to accommodate that change. Round ligaments can pull on nerve fibers and other structures in the pelvis. This causes sharp pain, which is short-lived and feels like a muscle spasm.

Symptoms of round ligament pain:
Round ligament pain is most common during the second trimester. The symptoms include a sharp, sudden spasm in your abdomen or hip area. It usually affects the right side, but it may happen on both sides and may radiate into the groin. The pain only lasts a few seconds.

How to reduce discomfort:

  • Rest is one of the best ways to help with this kind of pain. Changing positions slowly allows the ligaments to stretch more gradually and can help alleviate any pain.
  • Pain relief. Take over-the-counter acetaminophen or paracetamol for pain, if necessary. Ask your doctor if this is OK.
  • Get plenty of exercise to keep your stomach (core) muscles strong. Doing stretching exercises or prenatal yoga can be helpful. Ask your doctor which exercises are safe for you and your baby. However, if you find that you’re more prone to round ligament pain when you’re particularly active, cut back to see if that helps.
  • A helpful exercise involves putting your hands and knees on the floor, lowering your head, and pushing your backside into the air.
  • Flex your hips. Bend and flex your hips before you cough, sneeze, or laugh to avoid pulling on the ligaments.
  • Apply warmth. A heating pad or warm bath may be helpful. Ask your doctor if this is OK. Extreme heat can be dangerous to the baby.
  • Wear a Pregnancy belt while you walk.

When to call the doctor:
Always tell your doctor about any type of pain you have during pregnancy. Round ligament pain is quick and doesn’t last long.

Call your health care provider immediately if you have:

  • Severe pain or cramping, or more than four contractions in an hour (even if they don’t hurt), or a contraction that doesn’t end
  • Low back pain, especially if you didn’t previously have back pain, or an increase in pressure in the pelvic area (a feeling that your baby is pushing down)
  • Vaginal bleeding, spotting, or a change in the type or amount of vaginal discharge
  • Fever, chills, faintness, or nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or burning when you urinate

Abdominal pain during pregnancy can be due to many different causes. It is important for your doctor to rule out more serious conditions, including pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, severe preeclampsia, or placental abruption, or a medical problem totally unrelated to pregnancy, like appendicitis or inguinal hernia.

Diego Wyszynski
Dr. Diego Wyszynski is the Founder and CEO of Pregistry. He is an expert on the effects of medications and vaccines in pregnancy and lactation and an accomplished writer, having published 3 books with Oxford University Press and more than 70 articles in medical journals. In 2017, he was selected a TEDMED Research Scholar. Diego attended the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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