A pregnant woman lies in bed and holds her belly.
Round ligament pain during pregnancy can be eased through gentle means, such as a heat application or a warm bath. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Women sometimes experience a distinct pain in their side or lower abdomen during pregnancy, particularly during the second trimester.

It’s common to feel this pulling sensation, and even more normal to wonder what it is.

“As the uterus enlarges, the round ligaments attached to the uterus can cause discomfort,” said Tami Michele, DO, medical director at Spectrum Health Gerber OB office.

“Located low on each side in the pelvis, these ligaments can get spasms as they stretch, causing sharp pain on one side or both,” she added. “Sometimes it can feel like a dull aching pain. This is most common during the second trimester and is considered a normal part of pregnancy.”

Though round ligament pain can be most commonly felt in the second trimester, I’ve talked with mamas in our pregnancy classes who have felt it a bit earlier, and other women who’ve had it continue into the third trimester.

Some describe it as an achy feeling, ranging to a sharp stabbing pain. I remember it being a pulling sensation in my lower side. It typically goes away in a few minutes.

Before baby was growing in the womb, the ligaments lightly pulled, but baby is stretching out in the uterus and now you may feel those ligaments stretch. The round ligament is on the front side of the womb and goes to the groin area on each side of the body.

There are certain times you may notice this round ligament pain more:

  • Quick movement changes
  • Rolling
  • Laughing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Getting out of the bathtub

What can you do to ease this discomfort?

  • I used to move my baby with a gentle nudge. My husband thought this would hurt the baby, but it won’t—the baby is surrounded in the amniotic sac of fluid. A gentle move doesn’t hurt.
  • Change positions. One position mentioned: lying on your side and pulling your knees up toward your chest. Another mom suggests flexing the hips by bending the knees before coughing.
  • Use heat on the area.
  • You can take Tylenol—it’s safe.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • One mother told me that sitting on the birth ball helped lessen her discomfort.
  • A warm bath can work wonders.

If you experience any of the following discomforts, you should talk to your provider:

  • Severe pain that doesn’t go away
  • Fever or chills
  • Pain when using the bathroom
  • Any bleeding or spotting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Low back pain, whether it’s new or it’s increasing in intensity if you had it previously
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you’ve experienced round ligament pain, what helped you? Let us know in the comments below.