Pregnancy: Pain while exercising

I have been walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes, three to five times a week. After walking for about 15 minutes, I experience an ache on my right side only. What could be causing this, and what can I do to stop it? I want to continue to exercise throughout my pregnancy.


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

Whenever a pregnant woman experiences any localized pain, it is important to rule out a few things. The logical place to start is the organs most likely to be in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen.

Of course the appendix comes to mind first. It is unlikely that the pain from appendicitis would only occur during exercise, but it is possible that it is an early inflammation. A midwife or doctor should be able to palpate the region and come up with a probable diagnosis and some lab work may help to reassure you.

The ascending colon and cecum, parts of the intestine, are also in this area and could "spasm" due to the slowed digestion characteristic of pregnancy.

The ovary is in that quadrant and can become twisted or there may be a cyst which has ruptured, usually nothing to worry about, but it can irritate the lining of the abdominal wall.

The most common reason for this is ligament pain, usually the round ligaments which support the growing uterus. The ligaments become stretched and this may generate significant discomfort especially with exercise. Usually this gets better as the pregnancy advances but can be an annoyance all the way through.

Once you've had reassurance that this is not some pathology in the right lower quadrant, I would consider this to be ligament pain. Sometimes a bath before exercise is comforting; or when it begins, bend forward a bit or gently push down on the uterus until it goes away. Some women work through it despite the pain once they know its normal.

If you have not yet seen the book, "Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Year" by Elizabeth Noble, I would try to find the book. She is a physical therapist who specializes in pregnancy and she discusses ligament pain and has some exercises for this discomfort.

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