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Uterus stretching pain - even the name sounds like something best avoided! But if you’re one of the many women who experience uterus stretching cramps or discomfort, you won’t not need any convincing that it can be very uncomfortable.
Even from early pregnancy, you may feel twinges, stretching pain or cramping in your uterus. You may also feel a sense of heaviness in your pelvic area, vagina and bowel. As long as there are no other symptoms and it goes away quickly, uterus stretching cramps and pain is generally nothing to worry about.
This can be described as a mild ache, twinges or just a vague discomfort in the lower abdomen. Some women feel a cramping type of pain as if they’re going to get their period. Just as we all have our own individual tolerance for pain and discomfort, some women are more sensitive than others to the sensation of their uterus stretching.
If you’ve had a baby before you may be more familiar with the sensation. For first time mothers the experience of uterine stretching can be very concerning.
Round ligament pain usually starts in the second trimester, when the uterus is bigger and the weight of the baby places pressure on the supporting network of pelvic ligaments and muscles. Round ligament pain feels like a spasm or sharp pain on the right side of the abdomen or right hip, although some women say they feel it on both sides. When moving suddenly, round ligament pain is more likely to occur.
As the uterus grows during pregnancy, it can cause pain in the pelvic area. Sometimes this pain radiates to the back and down the legs, though uterus stretching pain is mostly felt in the lower half and front of the body. From around 12 weeks gestation, the uterus is stretching to accommodate the growing baby. This means the muscular fibres, which are designed to stretch, get longer. The ligaments which support the uterus and pelvic organs also stretch to make room for the baby.
The general advice from maternity care experts is not to worry unless there are other symptoms as well. Vaginal bleeding, continuous, strong or unrelenting pain can all mean the pain is not due to uterine stretching cramps and instead, could be due to an ectopic pregnancy. Shoulder tip pain is a classic marker for ectopic pregnancy – if you feel this it’s important to be checked immediately by a doctor.
Sometimes a urinary tract infection (UTI) is the reason for pelvic pain. It’s also important to rule this out as a possibility by seeing your doctor and having a urine (wee) test.
Some women find it helpful to:
Speak with your maternity care provider if you’re experiencing uterine stretching pain. See a doctor immediately if you have any bleeding, shoulder tip pain or other concerning symptoms.
Written for Huggies by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, August 2021.