Pain during pregnancy : how do you distinguish between a contraction and ligament pain?

Contractions… This is perhaps the "bête noire" of pregnancy. However, all the tightening in the lower abdomen is far from worrying ... It may not even be contractions! Welcome to ligament pain.


It is certain that your abdomen holds all your attention during your pregnancy. How could it be otherwise? The rounder it gets, the more your baby is growing. By putting your hands on it, you can even feel your future child moving. However, this beautiful transformation also involves different manifestations. And when it tightens, the first reflex is to ask if it is a contraction, one that would eventually mean that your child has decided to show up earlier than expected.

Rest assured, you may feel contractions throughout your pregnancy. Specifically, you may feel small contractions called “Braxton-Hicks contractions“ – named after the person who identified them. You could even have up to ten a day. Entirely physical, they actually prepare the uterus for childbirth. And aside from the unpleasantness they can create, they are normal and are not intense or risky for your pregnancy.

This is not the only reaction your uterus may provoke during the nine months. Because it too is growing! Now it’s time to talk about a sensation that is as strange as it is new: Ligament pain.


To understand ligament pain, you need a little lesson in anatomy: the uterus is held in the pelvic bones by ligaments. When the uterus enlarges to make the necessary room for your infant, it does not spare anyone and especially not those ligaments that have to bear its increasing weight. Solicited and stretched with more or less intensity, they make themselves felt. And they are not alone. The small ligaments around the pelvis also become more sensitive under the effect of hormones. A whole programme!

Should you be concerned, you will get to know them towards the end of the first trimester. And you will have understood by the name given to these stretches, even if it is not automatic, they can be painful.

What are the symptoms of ligament pain? It feels like a jabbing pain, located in the lower abdomen, the pubis, on both sides of the groin, the perineum and thighs and even down into the buttocks, then akin to sciatica. Depending on the degree of pain, which may be a diffuse perception, small sharp jabs, tingling or, if it is significant, the impression of electric shocks or stabbing. More surprisingly, it can give you the impression that your baby is very low down and even falling out. So there are many reasons to be alert, especially if it is your first pregnancy. However, do not worry – whatever these strange sensations may be, whether you are just bothered by them or genuinely disabled, there is absolutely no risk to you or your baby.

But you still remain on the alert, not being sure how to distinguish them from real contractions?
Here are a few tips for distinguishing the difference between a contraction and natural pains associated with pregnancy:
-A contraction is a tension in your uterus. If you put your hand on your stomach and you feel it hardened, that's it!
- A contraction usually lasts a few seconds and is accompanied by a small series while a ligament jab is uninterrupted and more stabbing.
- A contraction can occur at any time while ligament pain is triggered usually in the morning on awaking, when the muscles are still cold, at the end of the day, especially if you remained standing for a long time, or when you change position.

Still have doubts? Do not hesitate to consult your doctor. He or she will make a diagnosis and, in particular, help you to distinguish between them. Being well-informed during pregnancy goes hand in hand with being reassured!


Contraction or ligament pain - Mustela
Good news: the first way to reduce pain is... rest! Do not hesitate to take naps. They will be beneficial throughout your pregnancy for many other reasons.

During the day, remember to drink lots of water. If you have to stand for any length of time, give yourself a break if possible. You can also adopt a pregnancy support belt which could relieve your back and ligaments. In addition, if you have to walk for a while, try to avoid heels over 3cm and pamper yourself with flexible shoes.

Sitting, it is best to keep your back straight and your feet firmly on the ground..
Finally, lying down, prefer lying on your side, in a foetal position, putting a pillow between your legs.

If you are genuinely unwell, your doctor may recommend dietary supplements, a magnesium treatment or even a painkiller adapted to your pregnancy.


You have not felt anything so far and now, in the last weeks of your pregnancy, it pulls a lot... You wonder why so late? Maybe you are simply prone to pelvic girdle pain.

It actually involves a hormone, relaxin, which is diffused in your pelvis. It is there to promote the relaxation of tissues, ligaments and tendons... It also allows the diaphragm to expand. More active in the third trimester, it thus helps your body to prepare for childbirth!

The jabbing in the lower abdomen is similar to ligament pain. Just like the latter, the pain is in the pelvis, is constant and not in a series of several seconds. This is also a good way to distinguish it from a genuine contraction!


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