The joy of expecting a baby can be somewhat disrupted by standard pregnancy discomforts. And, since every woman – and pregnancy – is different, you just never know which, if any, will affect you.
Each trimester comes with its own potential set of less-than-desirable side effects. While the first trimester is most commonly impacted by morning sickness (or anytime-pregnancy sickness), the second and third trimesters can activate “round ligament pain.”
There are two sets of round ligaments in the body. One provides support for the liver; the other supports the uterus. The round ligaments supporting the uterus area are cord-like “ropes” of connective tissues. Unlike most ligaments, which connect bones together – the round ligaments in the uterus provide a layer of support – one on each side.
Most of the time, the round ligaments remain feeling-silent, and you’re never aware of their presence. However, when the uterus expands, and your baby increasingly gains weight during the second and third trimesters, these ligaments stretch and pull in ways that can cause uncomfortable or downright painful sensations.
These ligaments have a bit of stretch, aided by extra elasticity caused by pregnancy hormones. Even so, the lengthening and widening of the round ligaments around the uterus can still cause pain or discomfort when they’re pulled or extra-stretched as you move in specific ways.
While round ligament pain is usually experienced during pregnancy, women with endometriosis may also experience round ligament pain due to endometrial growth on those ligaments or related pelvic inflammation.
While there is one ligament on each side of the uterus, round ligament pain is often worse on the right side. For some, it is a dull ache or creates a cramping sensation. Others describe a short, sharp and “stabbing” pain caused by a reach, stretch, or sudden movement.
Usually, the discomfort is triggered by:
- Standing up.
- Sitting down.
- Changing positions while you sleep.
- During exercise or more vigorous activity
- Spending extra time walking around or on your feet.
Most of the time, the pain and discomfort are fleeting and only last a few seconds or minutes. However, if the ligament is stretched abruptly, discomfort may last up to a few hours. As you can imagine, this can be cause for concern – especially if it’s your first pregnancy or you’ve never experienced round ligament painin previous pregnancies.
It’s also possible that your discomfort isn’t round ligament pain at all. The digestive system is dramatically compressed throughout the pregnancy, which causes all kinds of digestive upsets. This can include more-than-typical heartburn, stomach pains, or gas pains due to food not being able to be digested as quickly or efficiently as usual.
We always recommend contacting your OB and discussing any new or concerning pregnancy-related discomforts so we can put your mind at ease about what’s normal and what’s not.
Round ligament pain is nothing to worry about and rarely indicates any issues. Some women can worry they’re in early labor due to the cramping sensations.
In most cases, this pain or discomfort is fleeting, and there’s nothing required. You let it pass and then move on with your day or evening. However, women with recurring or extended round ligament pain can find relief by:
- Using an elastic belly band to support your bump. This is especially helpful for women who have twins or who spend lots of time on their feet.
- Finding more opportunities to rest. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get extra rest when you’re pregnant, especially if things like round ligament pain, swollen feet/ankles, etc plague you. Even if you can’t take a nap, see if you can get creative and find more opportunities to put your feet up and take some deep breaths from time to time.
- Take a warm bath or use a heating pad on low. You don’t want to heat your core, and we don’t advocate hot baths. But, relaxing in a warm bath or resting with a warm water bottle or heating pad on low can help your muscles and ligaments relax while enjoying a warm, soothing treatment.
- Take acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is perfectly fine to take during pregnancy with permission from your physician. This may not be an effective treatment if you experience round ligament pain in short bursts. If yours lasts 30 minutes or more, standard doses of acetaminophen can ease or erase the pain.
Always check in with your OB if abdominal pain is accompanied by fever, pain, chills, difficulty urinating or difficulty walking. Sometimes, sharp abdominal pain is a sign of a urinary tract infection, which isn’t uncommon during pregnancy.
Whether it’s round ligament pain or any other pregnancy-related discomforts, we always welcome your calls and questions. We’re here to put your mind at ease. Contact the Women’s Health Associates office online or give us a call at (913) 677-3113 so we can put your mind at ease and make you as comfortable as we can.