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Making Way for Baby

Your Round Ligament Stretches to the Occasion

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If you have occasionally noticed a sharp pain in your groin when you exercise, you're not imagining things. Chances are you've encountered a fairly common problem for pregnant women: spasm of the round ligament.

The round ligament is the ligament that holds the uterus in place by attaching it to the hipbone. In the second and third trimesters, when your uterus has expanded, hormones cause the ligaments to stretch, grow, and thicken to support the weight of the baby. In fact, the ligaments can grow from 2 to 12 inches over 9 months, as the uterus grows from about 3.5 inches long and 2.25 inches wide to almost 14 by 9 inches.

These changes can be the underlying cause of twinges felt in the groin, usually occurring on one side. The pain runs along the underwear line from the hip to the groin, and can occur with quick movements, getting out of a bed or a chair, or when you cough or just roll over. The pain is typically sharp in nature and subsides with a short period of rest.

On the other hand, if the pain continues longer or is accompanied with other symptoms such as bleeding, cramping, fever, vomiting, or chills, call your health care provider. And if the pain occurs early in the first trimester, when uterus weight shouldn't be a factor, or continues even when you're at rest, be cautious-- call your doctor or midwife to rule out other factors.

Although round ligament pain won't harm you or your growing baby, it may slow you down. You can alleviate some symptoms by lying on the affected side, or by sitting down to rest for a short time. Pelvic tilts, done either standing or on all fours, can also help.

Exercise may help some mothers-to-be, but it can aggravate the pain for others, so don't try to "push through the pain". Instead, try getting immediate relief by lying down and doing some bridges:

Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet on floor. Press up through your feet and lift your hips off the ground to take the weight of your uterus off of the ligament in spasm. To avoid symptoms of supine hypotension (low blood pressure resulting from lying on your back), don't spend more than a minute or so in this position.

Most important of all, take a moment to relax and remember that though round ligament pain can be frustrating and aggravating-- just like swollen ankles and an aching back-- it will all be worth it in the end when your little one arrives!



Some women experience a rare but painful problem during pregnancy called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) (formerly known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or SPD). The most common symptoms are pain and instability in the pelvic region, especially during activity.
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About The Author

Sara Hambidge
Sara, a graduate of Saint Louis University's Physical Therapy Program, practices at a sports medicine clinic in Cincinnati. A certified prenatal and postpartum exercise instructor, Sara is also a proud mother of one.
Sara Hambidge

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