Any mother – including your own – can tell you how it feels: You sneeze a bit too loud or laugh a bit too hard, and suddenly get a sharp, jabbing pain in your pregnant belly. Although the feeling is well known, the name isn’t; it’s called round ligament pain, and you may very well experience it during your pregnancy.
Most of the time, round ligament pain is just one of the normal discomforts of pregnancy. But it does help to know what causes these symptoms, as well as some strategies for reducing the pain. Most of all, it’s important to know when to call us.
What are round ligaments? What is round ligament pain?
Round ligaments are bands of tissues found on either side of your uterus. Their purpose, quite simply, is to hold the uterus in place. As the uterus enlarges during pregnancy and these ligaments stretch, you may feel a brief tugging sensation in one or both sides of your lower abdominal area. Sometimes the tugging might feel like a quick, sharp pain. Not pleasant!
What triggers the pain?
Round ligament pain is most likely to occur after sudden movement, even (or perhaps especially) a sudden involuntary movement. For example, you might feel round ligament pain when you:
- Roll over in bed
- Stand up too quickly
- Exercise too vigorously
When can I expect it to happen?
If this is your first pregnancy, you may feel round ligament discomfort beginning at 20 weeks of gestation and any time thereafter. If you have been pregnant before, you may feel round ligament pain as early as 10 weeks.
Is there anything I can do?
Here are some suggestions from the American Pregnancy Association:
- Change positions slowly. This allows the ligaments to stretch more gradually and can help alleviate any pain.
- Flex your hips: If you know that you are going to sneeze, cough, or laugh you can bend and flex your hips, which can reduce the pull on the ligaments.
- Try a stretching routine: If you are having consistent round ligament pain, we can recommend daily stretching exercises. The most common exercise is done by placing your hands and knees on the floor, lowering your head to the floor, and keeping your bottom in the air.
- Rest: If all else fails, take a break.
Should I ever call a doctor?
YES. Please call our office immediately regarding any belly pain lasting more than a few minutes. In addition, please call us ASAP if:
- Pain persists after resting
- Pain is severe
- Pain is accompanied by any bleeding, cramping, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or change in vaginal discharge.
- You have difficulty walking
Next week: The joys (NOT!) of leg cramps