Pregnancy is often full of mysterious aches and pains and hormonal changes that can mess with your mood and cause stress and anxiety. If you're pregnant and constantly checking your progress week by week to better understand what is going on, you might have spotted the term round ligament pain. Round ligament pain is perhaps a lesser-known physical side effect of pregnancy along with the usual suspects like morning sickness, swelling, tender breasts and fatigue. So, what exactly is it and should I be worried?
What is round ligament pain in pregnancy?
The NHS describes round ligament pain as an example of 'harmless stomach pains' which occur during pregnancy, along with constipation or trapped wind. Round ligament pain typically feels like a sharp cramp, jabbing pain or ache on one or both sides of your groin or lower abdomen.
Round ligament pain is basically the technical way of describing pregnancy growing pains. Midwife and author, Denyse Kirkby, explains that "Round ligaments are cord-like structures that originate beneath the groin region and extend to the top of the uterus on both sides". As these ligaments and muscles connect your womb to the groin, it is under a lot of pressure.
The pain you feel is caused by these ligaments supporting your womb as they stretch, spasm and thin to accommodate the increasing weight and to make room for your baby. Sudden movements can aggravate round ligament pain, so you’ll probably only notice it when you’re getting up, stretching or twisting. Importantly, the pain should only last for a few seconds to a few minutes. Pregnant women may also suffer from pelvic girdle pain which is in a similar region but is slightly different.
When does round ligament pain occur?
Round ligament pain is often reported to start around the second trimester (between week 14 and week 26) of pregnancy as your body is going through a period of rapid growth. However, some women are more sensitive and more susceptible to round ligament pain so could experience it in the latter weeks of the first trimester. It is likely that most women will have experienced round ligament pain at least once by the final trimester of pregnancy as it is a simple side effect of your growing womb. But, if you're lucky you might not notice it at all.
How to ease round ligament pain
Simply putting your feet up and resting should put a quick stop to round ligament pain. Try to relax and this should ease the symptoms.
Is round ligament pain dangerous?
Although any pain in your stomach, when you're pregnant, is worrying, round ligament pain is a common side effect of pregnancy and it is totally normal. The NHS explains that "It's probably nothing to worry about if the pain is mild and goes away when you change position, have a rest, do a poo or pass wind".
There is no diagnosis for round ligament pain because it is a normal part of pregnancy. However, abdominal pain that is severe, lasts for a continued length of time and does not improve when you change position or rest, could be a sign of something more serious.
Abdominal pain could signal other pregnancy complications such as premature labour, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption or a medical issue which is unrelated to pregnancy, especially if it is accompanied by fever, bleeding, pain when urinating or difficulty walking. If you are suffering from stomach pain and you are worried, ring your midwife, GP or the hospital.