There are so many symptoms in pregnancy that can come out of the blue and completely derail your day. Pelvic pain is definitely one of them. If you’re experiencing a lot of pain in the groin area and finding it harder to walk, it could be caused by pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain.
Here’s what you need to know about pelvic girdle pain and how to treat it…
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What is pelvic girdle pain (PGP) in pregnancy?
Pelvic pain in pregnancy is sometimes called pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). It is a common condition that affects many pregnant women, typically starting in the second trimester and continuing until childbirth.
What causes PGP during pregnancy?
During pregnancy the body produces a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is responsible for softening and loosening the ligaments and cartilage in the pelvic area. Relaxin helps the pelvis to expand and accommodate the growing baby. However, relaxin can also cause instability in the pubic symphysis joint, leading to pain and discomfort.
In addition to relaxin, there is also increased weight and pressure on the pelvic area as the baby grows. This extra pressure can make the pain feel even worse.
What are the symptoms of PGP?
The main symptom of PGP is pain in the pelvic region. The pain can range from mild to severe. The pain is often felt around the pubic bone, but it can also radiate to the lower back, hips, groin, and thighs. Unhelpfully, daily activities can make the pain worse too, such as:
- Climbing stairs.
- Turning in bed.
- Moving legs apart (such as getting out of the car).
- Standing for long periods of time.
- Standing on one leg (such as getting dressed or putting shoes on).
It is also common for pregnant women to feel or hear a clicking or grinding sensation in the pubic area.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment for pelvic girdle pain focuses on relieving pain and improving function. This may include:
- Applying heat or cold: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. A warm bath or heating pad can be especially helpful.
- Using a support belt: A pelvic support belt can help distribute the weight of the baby more evenly across the pelvis, reducing pressure on the pelvis joint.
- Practicing good posture: Standing up straight and avoiding positions that put extra strain on the pelvis, such as crossing your legs, can help alleviate PGP.
- Using a pregnancy pillow: A pregnancy pillow can help support your pelvis and reduce pressure on the pelvic joint while you sleep.
- Gentle movement: Practicing gentle movement like circling the hips, pelvic tilts or cat-cow stretches can help ease discomfort. These can be done standing, sitting or on an exercise ball.
- Doing pelvic floor exercises: Strengthening and stretching the muscles that support the pelvis can help reduce PGP. Check out this video for some helpful exercises.
- Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain: This may include heavy lifting, standing or walking for long periods of time, or activities that require sudden movements or twisting of the pelvis.
Who is likely to get PGP?
It is estimated that PGP affects about 20% of pregnant women. While it can occur at any stage of pregnancy, it typically starts in the second trimester and may persist until after birth.
Anyone can experience PGP, however there are certain factors that may increase your risk. These include:
- Previous pelvic trauma or injury: Women who have had a previous injury to the pelvic area, such as a fall or accident, may be at a higher risk of developing PGP.
- Previous pregnancy with pelvic pain: Women who experienced pelvic pain in a previous pregnancy are more likely to develop PGP in subsequent pregnancies.
- Hypermobility or instability of joints: Some individuals naturally have more mobile or flexible joints, which can increase the risk of PGP.
- Increased body weight or BMI: Higher body weight or body mass index (BMI) can put additional strain on the pelvis and increase the likelihood of experiencing pelvic pain.
- Multiple pregnancies: Women who have had multiple pregnancies may be more susceptible to PGP, as the repeated stress on the pelvic area can lead to increased joint laxity.
How long does PGP usually last?
PGP can start at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common in the second and third trimesters. This is when the baby is growing rapidly and the weight and pressure on the pelvic area are at their highest.
The duration of PGP during pregnancy can vary from woman to woman and depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the condition, the stage of pregnancy, and the treatment received. The good news though is that PGP is usually a temporary condition that resolves on its own after giving birth.
Does PGP go away after giving birth?
In most cases, PGP will go away on its own after giving birth. This is because the hormones that cause the pelvic ligaments to loosen and stretch during pregnancy return to their pre-pregnancy levels after delivery, allowing the pelvic joints to stabilise.
However, the recovery process can vary and some women may experience lingering pelvic pain after giving birth. This is more likely to occur in cases where the pubic symphysis joint was significantly strained during pregnancy.
What can I do to ease PGP pain after birth?
To help speed up the recovery process, try to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for several weeks after giving birth. Physical therapy or pelvic floor exercises may also be recommended to help strengthen the pelvic muscles and improve joint stability. Sex might also be painful so always remember to go at your own pace and not push yourself before you are ready.
It is important to talk to your GP or midwife if you are experiencing PGP during pregnancy or after giving birth, as they can provide personalised recommendations and treatment options. With proper treatment and self-care measures, most women can manage their PGP and have a healthy pregnancy, delivery and recovery.
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.