Pregnancy can be a pretty painful and uncomfortable experience at times. Whether you've got puffed-up ankles like the Michelin man, backache, tender breasts and well, MORE backache from being hunched over the toilet with morning sickness, there are times when you just think, *PLEASE* give me a break?!
On top of all that, some women find that their pelvic region - anything from their groin to their hips and even their bum starts to hurt (oh, the joy).
Well, pelvic pain in pregnancy, otherwise known as pelvic girdle pain (PGP), is a real thing. If you're expecting and are finding that your general baby-making area is hurting, then we fill you in on everything you need to know about pelvic or groin pain during pregnancy and what you can do about it.
What is pelvic girdle pain?
PGP is an umbrella term, which refers to a collection of symptoms and pain in the groin or pelvis. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists explains: 'PGP is common, affecting 1 in 5 pregnant women, and it can affect your mobility and quality of life.'
The condition is caused by the joints moving unevenly, meaning the pelvic girdle (the ring of bones around your body at the base of your spine), can become less stable. As your baby grows week-by-week, the weight gain and the change in your posture will put more strain on your pelvis, making this pain more noticeable. You are also more likely to suffer from pelvic pain if you have previously suffered from back problems, have had a previous pelvic injury or you have hypermobility syndrome.
As well as this, during pregnancy, your body produces the hormone relaxin. Unsurprisingly, as the name suggests, relaxin relaxes ligaments, joints and muscles. This relaxation is critical - it gets your body ready for labour so your baby can pass easily through your pelvis. However, relaxin can mean pregnant woman have aches and pains, inflammation or even feel clumsier due to ‘looser’ ligaments. However, pelvic girdle pain is different to round ligament pain. Round ligament pain is typically a sharp, jabbing pain in your abdomen that occurs during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Is pelvic pain dangerous?
Pelvic pain is not harmful to your baby. However, it does, of course, cause you discomfort and can make it difficult for you to get around. If you are suffering from pelvic pain, visit your GP and they will likely refer you to a specialist. A physiotherapist can test your mobility, pain and joint stability to see if you have PGP.
What are the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain?
Obviously, if you have PGP, you're going to be suffering from some sort of pelvic pain or ache. However, it is not always restricted to this area. According to the NHS, 'women with this condition may feel pain:
- over the pubic bone at the front in the centre, roughly level with your hips
- across one or both sides of your lower back
- in the area between your vagina and anus (perineum)
- spreading to your thighs'
- groin pain
The pain is often made worse by walking, going up stairs, standing on one leg (when dressing), turning over in bed - specifically when moving your legs apart. If you do find that you are suffering from pain during daily tasks like getting dressed or getting in and out of the car, then you should consult your doctor or midwife as it may well be PGP. As well as discomfort, look out for feeling or hearing a clicking or grinding in the pelvic area.
13 ways to relieve and treat pelvic pain in pregnancy:
Pulling your jeans up, if you can bare to wear jeans when pregnant, while standing on one leg is an easy way to make your pelvic pain worse. Sit down on the end of the bed to make it easier for you!
1) Sit down to get dressed
Comfortable shoes are a pretty good idea during pregnancy anyway. Sadly, it makes sense to ditch the heels if you're suffering from pelvic pain, any other pregnancy joint-related symptoms or swelling.
2) Comfortable shoes
Many pregnant women find that moving their knees/legs apart, when getting out of the car can make their pain worse. Keep those knees together and swivel out instead.
3) Knees together
Rest is vital when you are an expecting mum-to-be. It cures everything! If your pelvic pain is flaring up, sit back, relax and pop your feet up - as long as that doesn't make your pain worse!
4) Rest when you can
Sleeping with a pregnancy pillow or putting an ordinary pillow between your legs can help to ease pelvic pain.
5) Pregnancy pillow
If you want to have sex while pregnant, different positions, like being on all fours should help relieve pelvic discomfort.
7) Sex position
Although certain exercise or activity during pregnancy could make your pelvic pain worse, staying active is important. A gentle walk is always a good idea to make you feel good and stretch those muscles and joints.
8) Stay active
You can also do some pelvic floor exercises which will strengthen your pelvic area as well as your stomach, back and hips.
If your pelvic pain is going to make it hard for you to get around and complete household chores, ask for help! Get your partner, family or kids to give you a hand around the house.
9) Get help
Going up stairs can always cause your pelvic pain to flare up. If you normally bouce up the stairs with long strides, take it easy and take one step at a time!
10) One step at a time
Sometimes exercise in water is recommended by your GP to help with pelvic pain. They can improve stability and are low impact on those precious joints.
11) Exercise in water
If your PGP is particularly bad, you may be given crutches to help you get around and to support the weight more easily.
Pelvic pain during labour/birth:
More often than not, pelvic pain does not prevent mothers from having a vaginal birth and does not necessarily mean they will have to have a caesarean. If you have been diagnosed with PGP, note it down in your birth plan, so that your midwives and those supporting you through your labour are aware of the condition and can treat you accordingly.
There are certain positions which may be helpful during birth such as being on all fours or standing with support to prevent pelvic strain. A water birth may also be beneficial for PGP sufferers. The birthing pool may help to ease the pain and support the weight of your body. Discuss this with your midwife as it is important you can get in and out of the pool easily.
Find your 'pain-free range of movement':
If you do have pain when you move your knees and legs then it is important you find out your 'pain-free range of movement'.
The NHS explains how to do this:
- 'Lie on your back or sit on the edge of a chair and open your legs as far as you can without pain.
- Your partner or midwife can measure the distance between your knees with a tape measure. This is your pain-free range.
- To protect your joints, try not to open your legs wider than this during labour and birth.'
Finding this range is important for labour and birth. If you have an epidural as pain relief you will no longer feel pain so you need to make sure you are not separating your legs too far. Lying on your side may limit the separation of your legs and it is perfectly safe to give birth in this position if it is comfortable for you. If you do go beyond your pain-free range, you will need to be assessed after your birth.
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