Round ligament pain during pregnancy is a common complaint among women, and it is felt most often in the second trimester. It is described as sharp pains in the lower abdomen, particularly on the sides, though it may only appear on one side for some women. The round ligament is what connects the groin to the front of the uterus, and it becomes stretched during pregnancy, causing discomfort. Though the pain may occur at anytime, it is usually brought on by sudden movements, including a sneeze, cough, standing up too quickly, or exercise.
The round ligament is responsible for holding the uterus up inside the lower abdomen, and when the uterus is its normal size, it does this job well. During pregnancy, however, the uterus grows in size, slowly stretching out the round ligament until it is quite thin and tense. Since the ligament is already stretched out uncomfortably, any sudden movement that requires it to stretch more can cause a short, sharp pain in the area. Going from a sitting to standing position quickly, rolling over in bed too fast, and exercising can all cause the pain. Unfortunately, simple movements like sneezing, coughing, or even laughing too hard can cause the same pain.
Though round ligament pain during pregnancy is normal and typically nothing to worry about, it can be prevented most of the time. Switching positions or standing up slowly can keep a ligament spasm from occurring. Before coughing, laughing, or sneezing, it is helpful to bend at the hips to keep the round ligament from being pulled too tightly. Exercising while pregnant is healthy and should not be avoided out of fear of round ligament pain during pregnancy, but it is helpful to replace jerky movements with smooth ones, and to stretch sufficiently before working out.
Some women may assume that their discomfort is due to round ligament pain during pregnancy, when it is really another issue not related to being pregnant. Ligament spasms should be short and sudden, and are usually felt just after a quick movement, which means that a dull ache, a stabbing pain that lasts for more than a few seconds, or long-lasting cramps are usually indicative of another issue. For example, appendicitis can cause pain in the sides of the abdomen, but is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and pain that gets worse over time. Ovarian pain also often lasts much longer than a ligament spasm, and is usually due to a ruptured cyst, not round ligament pain during pregnancy. In any case, if the pain lasts longer than a few seconds, and seems to be getting worse with various other symptoms, it is likely time to call a doctor.