Ahhh pregnancy! What a joyous time of bliss and pure delight…right? Or so all the ads and blogs would have you imagine. All the shiny pictures of women glowing with their baby bellies in the middle of a clover field, clearly having the time of their lives.
And here you are groaning like an 80 year old every time you roll over in bed despite just having hit the second trimester, wondering how you’re doing it wrong.
The fact is there are tons of different ways pregnant women can experience discomfort, from back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel to swollen hands and feet. There’s something special though about that lower abdomen pain. That dull ache that’s with you whenever you’re standing. That sharp stab that gets you every time you roll over or try to get up from your couch.
This super common discomfort in pregnancy is known as round ligament pain. The round ligament is part of a series of ligaments that attaches the uterus to the pelvis. Often, most commonly during the second trimester, as the pregnant belly starts to grow, these ligaments begin to change and stretch. These changes can sometimes causes pain, whether from the ligaments themselves or from muscle spasms attempting to hold everything in place.
That description is how most in the medical profession such as an OB will describe the cause of round ligament pain, and the typical recommendation to decrease the pain is to stay off your feet, wear a belly band, move slowly, and possible take Tylenol.
As a chiropractor, I like to assess the situation a little bit further for my pregnant mamas. What we’re most frequently looking at is not only a change in the ligaments, but also a change in the balance of the pelvis. As the pelvic and uterine ligaments relax/stretch to accommodate baby, they can also in turn allow the pelvis to become unbalanced. In addition, things we do during the day like sleeping in a strange position, sitting long periods or repetitive activities can also throw our pelvis out of alignment.
Luckily there are several things that we can do to help balance the pelvis and muscles which then in turn generally eases the strain on those pesky painful round ligaments so mamas can look forward to enjoying pregnancy again.
The first thing is to have your pelvis assessed by a prenatal specific chiropractor if you’re experiencing round ligament pain. The pregnancy chiropractic technique called Webster is designed specifically to help gently re-balance a pregnant pelvis. It has been shown to give relief to things like round ligament pain, lower back pain, sciatica, and even assists with allowing baby to be in the correct position for birth.
The second thing is to pay attention to ways that you might be allowing you pelvis so become imbalanced. I find that sleeping position is a huge culprit in pregnant mamas due to the change in belly. We all have our coveted sleeping positions, but that often gets thrown out the window as our growing bellies start getting in the way and making things uncomfortable. The problem happens when frequently women adopted a sort of twisted side sleeping posture, which puts their lower back and pelvis in a funky alignment all night long. It also causes the ligaments to get used to that torqued position, then when we try and get up in the morning all hell breaks loose.
The third thing to do is to get moving. Constant sitting allows the muscles, especially of the pelvic floor to become overly relaxed and lazy. If we keep up some motion throughout the day, we can expect these muscles to stay in better shape and do their job in supporting a growing belly. Walking up 30-60 minutes per day is a great way to get started. I also usually recommend a few easy exercises maneuvers for my patients to help keep their bellies and pelvic floor toned yet relaxed.
A note on belly bands. Some women, typically those whose bellies are expanding at a really rapid weight, may do well for a period of time with a supportive belly band, and there are times that I recommend them for round ligament pain. However, other women may already be dealing with an abdomen that’s too tight, possibly from stress or a highly active exerciser. In these cases, round ligament pain might be more related to ligament strain or pelvic imbalance, and a belly band could work against them when it comes time for baby to start dropping. This is why I always recommend being evaluated first before making these choices so you’ll know what’s right for you.
The great news is, round ligament pain is typically super easy to get rid of! My best recommendation is to not wait, and to go see a good prenatal chiropractor in your area? Don’t know where to find one? You can always log on to the ICPA website and search the directory for a doctor certified in Webster Technique as an easy route. Most of our patients come from referral, so asking a friend who’s had a baby, your midwife or doula might also give you a great recommendation.
Dr. Katie O'Connor is a Webster Certified prenatal chiropractor. In practice for over 10 years, she is passionate about all things pregnancy and helping women have the best experience possible while becoming a mother.
16335 S. Harlem Ave
Tinley Park IL 60477