Pregnancy comes with its fair share of aches and ouches, like pregnancy back pain, uncomfortable heartburn, and the hilariously named lightning crotch. Another common cause of pregnancy discomfort is something you may not have heard of: round ligament pain (RLP). In fact, a 2022 report found that only a little more than half of the expectant moms surveyed recognized that term. Could round ligament pain be behind the mysterious and uncomfortable sensation you've been feeling around your baby bump? Find out!

What is round ligament pain?

Round ligament pain (sometimes dubbed unexplained abdominal pain or simply growing pains) is an achy, crampy, or sharp pain felt on either side of your abdomen, hips, or groin when pregnant. Round ligament pain has also been described as having a pulling sensation. Up to 30% of pregnancies are impacted by round ligament pain, making it a fairly common cause of pregnancy discomfort. Round ligament mostly occurs during the end of the first trimester and in the second trimester, which is 14 weeks pregnant through 27 weeks.

What causes round ligament pain?

There are two long ligaments that stretch from the top and sides of your uterus all the way to your pelvic bones. These round ligaments are working overtime to support your growing uterus. So, as your uterus and baby grow, these ligaments grow, too, stretching and tightening along the way, which can cause pain and discomfort. Think about it like this: Over nine months, your uterus stretches from the size of a lemon to the size of a watermelon and can weigh about 2 pounds by the time your baby arrives. That’s a lot of stretching!

Round ligament pain may worsen with you engage in sudden movements, like:

  • Standing too quickly

  • Sitting too quickly

  • Rolling over in bed

  • Sneezing

  • Coughing

  • Laughing

  • Walking

Rarely, non-pregnant folks can experience round ligament pain, too, which may be a sign of kidney stones or endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus.

What does round ligament pain feel like?

Round ligament pain can vary, but most often, the pain is described as…

  • Achy

  • Radiating

  • Cramping feeling

  • Pulling sensation or spasms

  • Stabbing

  • Labor-like pains

These sensations can be felt on one side of your growing belly—or both. The pain is generally concentrated in the lower abdomen and groin. It often lasts just a few seconds, but sometimes round ligament pain can persist for hours.

How can you ease round ligament pain?

While round ligament pain is par for the course when you’re growing a baby, there are things you can do to help sidestep the pain—and treat it. Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts:

  • DO lean forward and place your hands under your bump if you’re going to laugh, sneeze, or cough.

  • DON’T lay flat on your back. Try a side position where your knees are bent, and pillows are placed between your legs and under your belly.

  • DO change position slowly.

  • DON’T lift heavy things.

  • DO look into wearing an elastic belly band to support your growing bump.

  • DON’T skip all activity. While rest is key, activities like swimming, water aerobics, and yoga can help take the weight off your uterus, back, and joints, allowing your round ligaments time to rest. At the same time activities that flex your hips can help ease pain. (Try getting on your hands and knees and lowering your head toward the floor, while keeping your rear in the air.)

  • DO consider using a heating pad on your belly. Keep it brief and at a low setting.

  • DON’T stand for long periods. Resting relieves the stress on your uterus and round ligaments.

  • DO talk to your doctor. They may advise different exercises, testing, and/or taking acetaminophen for pain.

Could round ligament pain be something else?

Yes. A 2019 report in the International Journal of Women’s Health speculated that round ligament pain might be overdiagnosed, which can lead to the delay—or failure—to pinpoint much more serious pregnancy conditions like uterine rupture, acute fatty liver of pregnancy, ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and more.

When should I call the doctor about round ligament pain?

It’s very important to reach out to your healthcare provider if your abdominal pain is severe, relenting, or unusual—and/or accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Bleeding

  • Chills

  • Contractions

  • Dizziness

  • Fever

  • Lower back pain or pressure

  • Nausea or vomiting (not related to morning sickness)

  • Vaginal discharge


More Pregnancy Info For You!




  • Unexplained abdominal pain in pregnancy and the use of the term ‘Round Ligament Pain’: a single centre New Zealand pilot cohort study, Research Square, July 2022
  • Management of acute abdomen in pregnancy: current perspectives, International Journal of Women's Health, February 2009>/small>
  • Kaiser Permanente: Round Ligament Pain: Care Instructions
  • Cleveland Clinic: Uterus
  • Cleveland Clinic: Round Ligament Pain
  • Kaiser Permanente: What you should know about round ligament pain
  • Tufts Medical Center: Round Ligament Pain in Pregnancy

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      Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.