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Round ligament pain

7-minute read

Contact your doctor or midwife if you notice bleeding from your vagina at any time during your pregnancy. If you have heavy vaginal bleeding, strong pain or feel very unwell, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • You have 2 round ligaments, 1 on each side of your uterus; these help hold your uterus in place.
  • As your uterus gets bigger during pregnancy, your round ligaments grow and can spasm, causing pain in your lower abdomen or groin — this is called round ligament pain.
  • Symptoms of round ligament pain last for a few minutes or a few hours, and can include sudden sharp pains, cramping or a pulling sensation.
  • Round ligament pain is not dangerous for you or for your baby.
  • If you have abdominal pain along with other symptoms, such as bleeding, vaginal discharge, fever, contractions, feel lightheaded or have difficulty standing up, seek medical care immediately.

What is the round ligament?

Ligaments are cord-like pieces of connective tissue. You have 2 round ligaments that are 10 to 12 centimetres long each. Each round ligament is attached to either side of your uterus, and help to hold your uterus in place. They also connect the front part of your uterus to your groin.

What happens to the round ligament during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, hormones make your round ligaments looser and more elastic. They become longer and thicker. Your round ligaments help to support your changing body and stretching uterus as your baby grows.

Illustration showing the round ligament.
Illustration showing the round ligament

What are symptoms of round ligament pain?

Round ligament pain may trigger the following symptoms in your lower abdomen near your hips and groin:

  • cramping
  • sharp, stabbing or aching pain — this may feel worse if you suddenly move, stand, sit, sneeze, cough or laugh
  • pulling sensations

While you are more likely to feel these symptoms on your right side, you may also feel round ligament pain on your left side or on both sides. Your pain can last for a few minutes or for a few hours.

Round ligament pain is most often felt during the second trimester. Some people have round ligament pain from earlier on in pregnancy.

Round ligament pain is common and normal to experience during pregnancy.

What causes round ligament pain?

As your baby grows, your round ligaments stretch and get longer to support your growing uterus. This sometimes makes them spasm (twitch), triggering round ligament pain.

Some things trigger round ligament pain, including:

  • sudden movements such as suddenly standing up from sitting or lying down
  • sudden increases in abdominal pressure caused by sneezing, coughing or laughing
  • standing for long periods of time

Round ligament pain is different to pelvic girdle pain (also known as symphysis pubis dysfunction). Both types of pain happen because of changes to your body during pregnancy. Round ligament pain develops when your round ligaments spasm from being stretched and growing. Pelvic girdle pain happens when your pelvic ligament has relaxed making your pelvis joint move more.

While you feel round ligament pain in your lower abdomen near your hips and groin, pelvic girdle pain causes discomfort and pain in your pelvis and lower back area. You might also feel pelvic girdle pain into your upper thighs and perineum.

How is round ligament pain treated?

You can treat round ligament pain during pregnancy by:

  • placing a warm compress over your lower abdominal area or having a warm bath
  • taking pain medicines — most people can safely take paracetamol during pregnancy, but check with your doctor before taking any medicines
  • resting — you can try lying on your side with a pillow between your knees
  • wearing an elastic belly band to support your growing baby
  • daily gentle stretches such as bending and flexing your hip joint — ask your doctor or midwife if you’re not sure how to do this

How is round ligament pain prevented?

Here are some tips to prevent round ligament pain:

  • Avoid abrupt movements such as suddenly standing up, sitting down or rolling over. Take your time to change positions.
  • Avoid standing for long time periods of time.
  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  • If you feel you are about to laugh, sneeze or cough, lean forward and place your hands under your belly and support it.
  • Daily stretches and exercise can help — try bending and flexing your hip joint often throughout the day. Speak with your doctor or physiotherapist about what is safe for you.
  • Identify any triggers for round ligament pain and avoid them if possible.

When should I see my doctor?

If your round ligament pain continues, see your doctor to rule out any other possible causes of pain.

Seek immediate medical care if you have abdominal pain together with any of these symptoms:

If you have vaginal bleeding, strong pain or feel very unwell, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Physiotherapy and exercise during pregnancy

Your doctor may also refer you for physiotherapy. A physiotherapist will assess you and create a plan that is safe and appropriate for your needs. They can guide you through which stretches and exercises can be helpful for you. This can improve your mobility and your wellbeing during your pregnancy.

Will having round ligament pain cause my baby any harm?

Round ligament pain is not dangerous for you or your baby. Round ligament pain is a common symptom of pregnancy.

Will I still have round ligament pain after having my baby?

After you give birth, your round ligament pain usually goes away. Your uterus and round ligaments shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size.

Round ligament pain when you are not pregnant is rare. It could be a sign of endometriosis. If you are experiencing these symptoms and you are not pregnant, seek medical advice.

Resources and support

Learn more about changes that happen to your body during pregnancy.

Visit The Royal Women’s Hospital website to learn about being physically active in a safe way during your pregnancy.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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Need more information?

Pelvic pain in pregnancy

Some women develop pelvic pain in pregnancy. This is sometimes called pelvic girdle pain (PGP) in pregnancy or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).

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Anatomy of pregnancy and birth - pelvis

Your pelvis helps to carry your growing baby and is tailored for vaginal births. Learn more about the structure and function of the female pelvis.

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What does a physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapists are trained health professionals who can help with common pregnancy discomforts and recovery after having a baby.

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Yoga and Pilates during pregnancy

Yoga and Pilates during pregnancy can be beneficial, but you should be careful to avoid some positions. Find out how yoga and Pilates can help you here.

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Common concerns in pregnancy

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