As your uterus expands during your pregnancy, you may experience “growing pains” around the middle, or what your OB-GYN calls round ligament pain. Many women start feeling it around week 14 of pregnancy, but it can strike at any time from the second trimester on.
What does it feel like?
Round ligament pain is typically felt as achy, crampy or sharp sensations on one or both sides of the lower abdomen. You’ll probably notice occasional round ligament pain more when you change positions suddenly or get up from sitting or lying down, or when you cough, sneeze or laugh. It may be brief or last for several hours (yet another mystery of pregnancy).
What causes it?
Your uterus is supported by thick bands of ligaments that run from the groin up the side of the abdomen. As your uterus grows, the supporting ligaments stretch and thin out to accommodate the increasing weight – which pulls on the ligaments and causes sharp pains and/or dull aches in the lower abdomen. Other causes of a sore lower tummy include increased blood flow (you’ve pumped up the volume to nurture your baby) and the build up of your uterine lining.
When to see the doctor
If the pain is frequent and accompanied by other symptoms including fever, chills, bleeding, vaginal discharge or lightheadedness), or if you’re experiencing more than four contractions per hour (which could be a sign of labor), call your doctor right away.
What you can do
You can take a few steps to help reduce round ligament pain:
* Kick up your feet (you’ll probably want to do that anyway, especially if you’ve got swollen feet and ankles)
* Wear a belly band or belly belt below your bump to ease the pain
* Avoid sudden movements that cause the pains in the first place (in other words, get up from sitting or lying down slowly)
* Decrease the intensity of your workouts, if the pain really bothers you when you’re exercising
If resting in a comfortable position doesn’t bring relief to your abdominal aches, or if it becomes severe, contact your doctor and let him or her know what you’re feeling.