Round ligament pain

Stretching of the round ligament can cause pain in the abdomen, pelvis or groin during the second and third trimesters. One of several ligaments that hold your uterus in place within your abdomen, the round ligament is a cord-like structure that's less than a quarter of an inch thick before pregnancy. At that time, your uterus is about the size of a pear.

As the uterus grows in size and weight, the ligaments supporting it become longer, thicker and more taut, stretching and tensing like rubber bands. If you move or reach suddenly, the round ligament can stretch, causing a pulling or stabbing pang in your lower pelvic area or groin or a sharp cramp down your side. Round ligament pain can be severe, but the discomfort usually goes away after several minutes. You may wake up at night with this type of pain after rolling over in your sleep. The pain can also be triggered by exercise. Round ligament pain may ease as your pregnancy progresses. It should go away after you have your baby.

■ Prevention and self-care for round ligament pain

Although round ligament pain is uncomfortable, it's one of the normal changes of pregnancy. The following suggestions may provide relief:

• Change the way you move. Sit down and get up more slowly, and avoid sudden movements.

• Sit or lie down when abdominal pain becomes bothersome.

• Apply heat by soaking in a warm bath or using a heating pad.

■ When to seek medical help for round ligament pain

If round ligament pain is severe, call your health care provider. He or she may suggest that you take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) for pain relief.

Sometimes, abdominal pain is caused by a more serious condition, such as an ectopic pregnancy, ruptured ovarian cyst or appendicitis. Contact your health care provider right away or go to a hospital emergency department if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:

• Loss of appetite

• Pain when urinating

• Vaginal bleeding

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