What you should know about round ligament pain

by Kaiser Permanente |
Pregnant woman with morning sickness.

As the uterus grows during pregnancy, you might develop sharp pains or aches on one or both sides of your belly. This is called round ligament pain. It’s very common in pregnant people, and likely to occur in the second trimester.

Understanding what causes round ligament pain can help you treat or avoid it. Here’s what you need to know.

What is round ligament pain?

Your uterus is supported on both sides with thick strips of connective tissue, called round ligaments. They extend up from your groin into your stomach. As your uterus expands, the ligaments stretch and become thin to continue supporting the uterus.

Though it’s a necessary part of pregnancy, this stretching might cause abdominal pain, usually only lasting for a few seconds. Certain movements or actions such as coughing can trigger it. You might also feel discomfort if your baby presses against those ligaments.

Relieving round ligament pain

At home, you can take these steps to avoid or minimize round ligament pain:

  • Relax and put your feet up. Rest can be helpful for relieving round ligament pain.
  • Change positions slowly and try using your hands to support your weight when you shift positions.
  • Avoid quick, repetitive movements or activities that might trigger belly aches.
  • Flex (bend) your hips before you cough or sneeze.
  • Stretch gently throughout your day.
  • Wear a maternity girdle or belly band.

It’s also a good idea to try moderate exercise if your doctor says it’s okay. Activities such as swimming and water aerobics help take the weight off your uterus, back and joints. This allows the round ligaments to relax.

Ask your doctor about taking acetaminophen for pain. Be sure to follow their exact instructions, including what’s written on the label.

Keep your doctor in the loop if you try any home remedies for pain, since follow-up care is a critical part of your and your baby’s health and safety. Be sure to keep in mind that you should contact your doctor immediately if you have new or worsening pain, bleeding, or think you might be in labor.

Feeling round ligament pain can be uncomfortable, but by taking these simple steps, you can work through it. We encourage you to contact your care team if you’re not sure about the cause of your pain or discomfort.

Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.