Round ligament pain in pregnancy

Learn what causes the sharp (but harmless) abdominal pain known as round ligament pain and how to relieve it.

Pregnant woman with belly pain
Photo credit: Karla Martin for BabyCenter

What is round ligament pain?

You have two round ligaments in your pelvis, one on either side of your uterus. As your uterus grows during pregnancy, the round ligaments stretch and thicken to accommodate and support it. These changes cause occasional spasm-like pains that are uncomfortable but generally harmless.

medical illustration of round ligament and where it causes pain during pregnancy
Photo credit: Jonathan Dimes


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What does round ligament pain feel like?

You may feel round ligament pain as a short, sharp, or stabbing pain when you suddenly change position, such as when you're getting out of bed or a chair. It may also feel like tugging or pulling in the pelvic area.

You may feel it when you cough, roll over in bed, or get out of the bathtub. And it may even strike as a dull ache after a particularly active day, like when you've been walking a lot or doing a lot of physical activity.

Round ligament pain may feel like it starts deep inside your groin and moves upward and outward on either side to the top of your hips. The pain is internal, but if you were to trace it on your skin, it would follow the bikini line on a very high-cut bathing suit.

When does round ligament pain start?

Although round ligament pain can occur most any time during pregnancy, it's most common in the second trimester. That's because your uterus and the surrounding ligaments are really starting to expand to make room for your baby.

How is round ligament pain different from abdominal pain during pregnancy?

The sharp, jabbing sensation of round ligament pain shouldn't last longer than the few seconds it takes you to change position or get up. Although round ligament pain is a common – and harmless – pregnancy complaint, abdominal pain can be a sign of a serious problem, such as preterm labor, severe preeclampsia, placental abruption, or a medical problem unrelated to pregnancy, like appendicitis.

When should I call my healthcare provider about abdominal pain during pregnancy?

Don't hesitate to call your provider any time abdominal pain during pregnancy continues after a short rest or is accompanied by:

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How to get relief from round ligament pain

Your provider can give you tips to help reduce the discomfort of round ligament pain. You can also try any of these strategies:

  • Stop and rest. When round ligament pain strikes, sit down and try to relax. Resting comfortably will help ease your symptoms.
  • Go easy on your body. Pay attention to your posture: Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Avoid movements that make the ligament pain worse, such as reaching or stretching too far.
  • Change positions. Try flexing your knees toward your stomach, or lying on your side with one pillow under your belly for support and another pillow between your legs.
  • Slow down. If you notice round ligament pain when you're physically active, slow down a bit to see if that helps. When you feel better, gradually increase your activity until you find the right balance.
  • Try massaging the area. Gently massage the painful area with your fingertips.
  • Apply warmth. Use a warm (not hot) water bottle, or take a bath to relax your muscles.
  • Wear a maternity support garment. Many moms-to-be find that wearing a maternity belt or girdle relieves round ligament pain, low back pain, and pelvic pressure by providing gentle, firm support for your growing belly. (A maternity belt or girdle has a cutout section so it doesn't put pressure on your baby bump.)
  • Consider a mild pain reliever. If the pain is interfering with your everyday activities, ask your provider about taking acetaminophen.
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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Devarajan S and Chandraharan E. 2011. Abdominal pain in pregnancy: A rational approach to management. Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine 21(7):198-206. [Accessed October 2022]

Gray H. 2000. Anatomy of the Human Body. New York, NY: Bartleby.comOpens a new window a new window [Accessed October 2022]

UpToDate. 2016. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of early pregnancy. a new window [Accessed October 2022]

Darienne Hosley Stewart
Darienne Hosley Stewart is a content strategist, writer, and editor. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her spouse, two teenagers, a goofy dog, and even goofier chickens. She enjoys movies, gardening, reading, and quiet outdoor spaces.