Doctor's Notes on Pregnancy, Round Ligament Pain
Abdominal pain as a result of stretching of the round ligaments during pregnancy is common. Round ligament pain refers to a type of cramping caused by stretching of the round ligaments that proceed from the front of the uterus and is usually due to normal physiologic changes that take place as pregnancy progresses. Although round ligament pain causes discomfort, it is also common and generally benign. See your doctor if you experience any concerning abdominal pain during pregnancy to rule out other causes.
Pain from stretching uterine ligaments can be severe and can be confused with other causes that are not associated with pregnancy. Acute abdominal pain may also be caused by the following conditions: appendicitis, ovarian torsion (twisting) or ovarian cysts, abnormal growths in the abdominal area twisting of a benign fibroid tumor, and abdominal cramps due to constipation because of slow digestion caused by pregnancy.
What is the Treatment for Round Ligament Pain?
Round ligament pain can be treated and avoided with some basic interventions such as:
- Rest and avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous bending
- Change positions slowly to allow the ligaments to stretch more gradually, which can help alleviate any pain
- Bend and flex your hips if you are going to cough or sneeze to reduce the pull on the ligaments
- Daily stretching exercises
- Pre-natal yoga
- Heating pads (use only on your back on low temperature, for less than 20 minutes at a time)
- The over-the-counter pain medication acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe for use during pregnancy
If you experience any of the following symptoms, or do not get relief of round ligament pain with the above conservative treatments, see your doctor as soon as possible:
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.