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Inside: Does it sometimes feel like your belly is being ripped apart as your little one keeps growing? Well don’t panic just yet! That sharp, stabbing feeling that can stop you in your tracks is probably just your round ligaments stretching to hold up your expanding uterus. But let’s be honest, the pain can be a real drag! That’s why today I’m going to share the best stretches and exercises for round ligament pain.
Being a baby making machine is no easy feat, right?!
This oh-so-magical time (input slight sarcasm) comes with all sorts of unfamiliar changes and pains you probably didn’t even know were possible.
One of the most shocking pains I felt during my first pregnancy was something called “round ligament pain”…
That sharp, intense pain that shoots across your lower belly like someone is stabbing you with a fork every time you move too quickly.
I’m not kidding you, I panicked!
It really worried me until my doctor told me what it was and that it is a completely normal and harmless pregnancy condition.
I just wish I had a little forewarning that my insides were going to feel like I was being ripped in half.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned in all five of my pregnancies, it’s that our bodies are miraculous in their ability to adapt and stretch to provide our babies with what they need to grow.
So, let’s discuss what causes round ligament pain and how you can find relief!
Disclosure: Although I am a certified prenatal/postnatal exercise specialist and personal trainer, I am not YOUR trainer. The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute of the information and advice you receive from a healthcare professional. This website does not replace the medical advice you receive from your provider.
What’s the Deal with Round Ligament Pain, Anyways?
The uterus is supported by two cord-like structures called the round ligaments.
They attach to each side of the uterus and connect it to the pelvis.
The combination of an increase in ligament-softening hormone levels and your growing baby cause these round ligaments to stretch and pull, often leading to sharp pain across the lower abdomen.
This is especially common when you move suddenly or change positions quickly like rolling over in bed, sneezing or in my case, trying to catch a toddler from killing themselves.
I personally felt this pain in the beginning of the second trimester once I really noticed my baby starting to pick up the pace in growth.
Although the pain can be alarming and uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that this a normal condition and it serves as a reminder that your body is adapting to support the growth of your baby.
Pretty amazing right?!
Symptoms of Round Ligament Pain
One thing I know for sure is that everyone experiences pain differently during pregnancy and the symptoms of round ligament pain will vary depending on factors such as number of pregnancies, age and how many babies you are carrying.
Most often, it is described as a dull ache, pulling sensation in the groin area or a sharp stabbing pain in the lower abdomen.
The pain usually begins around the second trimester of pregnancy and may get worse as the pregnancy progresses and your baby continues to grow.
It also tends to be more severe when you move suddenly or change positions, such as getting out of bed or turning over in bed.
The good news is that it usually goes away by the third trimester and it is jut one of those pains of pregnancy that will pass with time.
What Can You Do For It?
First and foremost, try to avoid sudden movements or quick changes in positions, as these can make the pain worse.
Use these gentle exercises and stretches to help improve posture and strengthen your core to better support the growth of your baby bump.
The best way to alleviate pesky pain during pregnancy is to strengthen your body!
Here are my favorite stretches and exercises for round ligament pain during pregnancy.
They can be found more in depth in my PregnaFit prenatal workout program.
I like to take it up a notch and rock my hips side to side or in a circular motion in both poses.
- Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hip bones.
- Take a deep inhale and slowly allow your belly to drop down toward the floor as your gazes moves up toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears and all your back to arch. This is Cat pose and it helps gently stretch the core, hips and back.
- Slowly exhale while you draw your belly button in towards your spine while rounding your back toward the ceiling and tucking your chin to your chest.
- Imagine pressing your hands through the floor to get a nice stretch in the upper back.
- Continue moving back and forth while following your breath.
Stability Ball Pelvic Tilts
This exercise helps to strengthen and engage the lower abdominal muscles which will help provide better support to your growing baby.
- Begin by sitting tall on a yoga ball with your feet hip width apart and your thighs parallel to the ground. Your hands can be placed on your thighs for support.
- Inhale to relax your core and allow the ball to roll slightly back.
- Now exhale and engage your core muscles by slightly drawing your belly button in and up to tilt your pelvis up toward your ribcage. This is not a sucking-in motion.
- Hold for a few seconds then slowly inhale as you allow your body to return to the starting position.
- Continue moving back and forth with your breath.
I love the kneeling squat during pregnancy because it can really teach you how to engage your core correctly in a hinge movement.
- Begin by sitting on your shins.
- From this seated position, inhale to relax your core and pelvic floor muscles.
- Then exhale and engage you core by imagining your are bringing your belly button in and slightly up.
- Now imagine you are using your core to lift your hips up off your shins.
- Once you reach the top, hold for a count of 3 then slowly lower to the starting position.
Low lunge to Half Split
The low lunge is a great stretch to loosen tight hip flexors which can contribute to round ligament pain.
Moving from the low lunge to half split helps to increase both flexibility and mobility.
- Begin in a lunge position with your left shin on the floor and a neutral pelvis.
- Now step your left leg back a few inches to get a nice stretch in your hip area. You may need to engage your core and squeeze your glutes to prevent arching in your low back. You can reach your arms up for an even deeper stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 3-5 seconds then move your hips back while straightening your front leg and flexing your foot.
- Hinge forward over your leg to feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Hold for 3-5 seconds then move back to the low lunge stretch. Continue moving back and forth then switch legs.
Stretching the inner thighs can help with both round ligament pain as well as pelvic pain.
- Start in a table top position.
- Extend your right leg out to your side with your leg straight and foot inline with your opposite knee.
- Keeping your back flat and core engaged to maintain a neutral pelvis, push your hips back toward the ground behind you until you feel a stretch in your groin area.
- Return to the starting position then continue rocking back and forth for a few rounds then switch sides.
Kneeling Side Body Stretch
- Being in a table top position and extend your right leg out to the side of your body.
- Now lift your body so that you are sitting tall and your glutes are engage to prevent arching your back.
- Exhale and engage your core as you lift your left arm up straight.
- Bend your body to the right while keeping your left arm above your head. You can place your right hand on the extended leg for support.
- You should feel a nice stretch in your obliques and side body.
- Hold for a few breaths then switch sides.
Strengthening the glute muscles will help you maintain better posture which can help reduce round ligament pain.
- Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder width apart and flat on the floor. Your shins should be perpendicular to the floor.
- On an exhale, engage your core to perform a pelvic tilt then squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up off the ground.
- Only lift as high as you can without losing core engagement or experiencing lower back pain.
- Hold at the top for 5-10 seconds, then slowly lower your hips to the ground.
Example Round Ligament Pain Workout
|Cat/Cow||Hold each pose 3 seconds. Keep alternating between poses for 30-45 seconds|
|Kneeling Squats||30-45 seconds|
|Low Lunge to Half Split||30-45 seconds|
|Adductor Rocks||30 seconds each leg|
|Kneeling Side Body Stretch||30 seconds each side|
6 Ways To Relieve Round Ligament Pain Naturally
To get the most relief from round ligament pain, use the following tips in conjunction with the exercises and stretches listed above.
Maternity Belt or Kinesiology Tape
These two things can help support your belly and give it a little lift which will minimize some of the stretching pain.
A warm bath (not extreme heat), can help minimize round ligament pain and relax your muscles.
You can even add a little epsom salt for a little extra muscle relaxation.
If you aren’t sure if taking a bath is safe for your pregnancy, make sure to run it by your healthcare provider.
Avoid Sudden or Sharp Movements
Be mindful of how you move your body throughout the day and avoid over stretching or moving too quickly which will stress the round ligaments even more.
Practice Good Posture
Posture is so important during pregnancy and can help relieve so many aches and pains including pubic pain, hip pain and round ligament pain.
Avoid slouching by keeping your back straight, shoulders relaxed and chest slightly up.
Muscle weakness leads to imbalances and poor posture which can really exacerbate all the pregnancy aches and pains.
Per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, prenatal exercise is not only safe but recommended in normal, uncomplicated pregnancy.
Related: How To Stay Fit During Pregnancy-Must Know Tips For Every Trimester
See a Pregnancy Chiropractor or Physical Therapist
If nothing seems to be working, a chiropractor or physical therapist can help identify areas of weakness in your body and create an individualized plan to manage your round ligament pain.
If the pain becomes unmanageable, speak to your healthcare provider about options for over the counter pain medication.
Each pregnancy is different so when it doubt, always run it by them first.
When to Talk To Your Doctor
While round ligament pain is a normal part of pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to keep your doctor informed of any unfamiliar pains.
Sever pain could also be a sign of a serious problem such as placental abruption or even miscarriage.
Your doctor will likely want to rule out other conditions such as kidney stones, appendicitis, a urinary tract infection of preterm labor.
When in doubt, always keep your doctor informed.
Wrapping it Up
We’ve covered a lot of ground today on how to relieve round ligament pain.
By incorporating the right exercises and simple stretches into your daily routine, you can relieve pain to help better enjoy your pregnancy.
As always, it is a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before starting or continuing an exercise routine during pregnancy.
Remember to listen to your body, relax when needed and most of all, have fun!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.