A common complaint and source of confusion with our clients is a mysterious, often sharp pain that is located low down near the pelvic bone. It often runs diagonally out and up, and often hurts sharply when getting out of bed or out of a car. It’s usually only on one side of the body, and can be so painful that it can take your breath away.
The good news is this is normal! The round ligament attaches the uterus to the pelvic bone, and as the uterus grows this ligament stretches. During pregnancy it stretches from 2 inches all the way to 12 inches—that’s a whole lot!
In terms of why it can hurt, a helpful visualization is to picture a hot air balloon tied to the ground. As the hot air balloon fills with air and grows in size, the ropes tying it to the ground get tighter. The round ligament is like the rope and the uterus is like the hot air balloon. As the baby grows in the uterus and makes it bigger and bigger, the round ligament stretches and gets pulled tighter.
And, just as when a hot air balloon moves side to side in the wind, the rope on the opposite side gets tighter and tighter, when you twist side to side, the round ligament on the opposite side tightens. This is why getting out of bed or a car can fire up that super stretched ligament. Other activities that can really trigger that tight ligament are walking the dog (picture when the dog pulls on a leash, making the dog walker pull and twist against the leash) and even vacuuming.
So, now that you understand that weird sharp pain, what can you do about it? There are two exercise tips that can help if you are experiencing a lot of round ligament pain:
1- Exercise in the water. The water can help stabilize the uterus, and just as your body feels lighter when in the water–the water will also help with the tension as your uterus pulls on the round ligament. Floating in the pool, or performing easy, light water jogging are both great exercises.
2- Engage your abs. By tightening your core as you go about your day you are protecting both your lower back and that stretched out ligament. To engage your abs, imagine pulling your baby up and in. This will engage your transverse abdominals, and keep the uterus closer to your body to take some of the pressure off the round ligament.