One thing we love about working at Baby2Body is hearing from women (like you!) in this community. We love to know how the app is making a difference in your lives and learn how we can better support you at this time. Recently, we’ve received a lot of questions on pelvic pain in pregnancy: why it happens, should you be worried about it, how to relieve it, how it might impact your movements, and what exercises are best avoided. If you’ve thought about any of these things yourself, you’re not alone. Up to 1 in 5 women during pregnancy and at least 1 in 10 women postpartum experience some form of pelvic pain.
Why does pelvic pain happen?
As you progress through your pregnancy your body undergoes significant changes in order to create a safe home for baby and prepare you for labor, and one of the common side effects is uncomfortable pain localized in your low back, hips, and pubic area. This pelvic pain is often referred to as pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or as a more serious condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). These conditions can be caused by a variety of things, which generally aren’t harmful to you or your baby.
As your baby grows, they’ll place increasing pressure on your uterus, bladder, hips, and pelvic area, so discomfort down there is expected. According to the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a growing uterus shifts your center of gravity by the second and third trimesters, weakening and stretching the abdominal muscles that typically help support the pelvis. This reduced support to your hips places added pressure on them, often resulting in pain.
There’s something else at play, too. Relaxin, which we discuss a lot in the app, is a critical pregnancy hormone that gives baby room to grow and helps prepare you for labor by increasing the flexibility of muscle tissue and ligaments. This loosening of those supportive connective tissues also leaves your hips less supported and more susceptible to pain.
Pelvic pain can linger after pregnancy, but the majority of women find relief within the first 6 months after birth. Pain could be a result of your labor and delivery process, so it’s best to consult with your doctor on what normal pains should feel like and when to be concerned.
Pelvic pain vs. pelvic pressure
Pain during pregnancy always raises some flags for concern but, rest assured, many times it’s considered a normal part of your body adjusting to pregnancy. Pelvic pain can be quite startling at first and doctors can have difficulty pinpointing the exact cause, which we know can feel frustrating when all you want is some relief. It’s important to note the difference between pelvic pain and pelvic pressure as they can feel similar but indicate different things going on.
Pelvic pain often feels like a sharp pull on your pelvic muscles that is irritated by certain movements such as coughing, bending over, or even certain sex positions. You can feel this pain in your pubic bone, lower back, thighs, and round ligament (a ligament that goes from the uterus to the groin and stretches as pregnancy progresses). We recommend this resource to help you better understand round ligament pain and how to manage it.
Pelvic pressure often feels more like a menstrual cramp and is generally localized in the groin, sometimes with pain radiating around to the back. Similar to pelvic pain, this could be a normal reaction to your ligaments relaxing, added pressure on your joints, or Braxton Hicks contractions. Later in pregnancy, it could be a sign of labor, so it’s something you want to be mindful of.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to pelvic pain is that you should be able to walk through the pain. If the pain is so bad that you have difficulty walking, you’ll want to contact your doctor right away so they can support you with the best route of treatment or determine what else could be going on. Pregnancy is hard and painful at times, but you shouldn’t have to suffer — remember that!
What can help ease pelvic pain or prevent it?
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain you should discuss it with your medical professional as the causes can vary from person to person. Depending on your situation, your doctor might recommend certain pain relievers, but heating pads and warm baths can also help when it comes to at-home remedies.
It may be surprising to hear but exercise can also be a benefit to you! Routines that strengthen your pelvic floor and supporting core muscles are often recommended to help treat pelvic pain in a safe and natural way. This includes exercises for the pelvic floor, abdomen, back, and hip muscles, or others as directed by your doctor or physiotherapist. It might sound odd if you’ve found that movement and exercise exacerbate your pain, but this isn’t about pushing through the pain. If certain motions make pelvic pain worse, do your best to avoid them. We want to help you find ways to strengthen key muscles around your pelvic region to reduce pain overall. Remember: exercise should be an enjoyable experience and if you’re in too much pain that it isn’t, then stop immediately and consult your doctor.
Our top exercises to reduce or prevent pelvic pain
We’ve designed your Baby2Body app experience to address the things we know expecting mamas deal with most often, and that includes managing pelvic pain. We’ve pulled out some of the moves recommended most by our prenatal fitness experts for managing pelvic pain. All of these exercises are featured on the Baby2Body app, so we recommend downloading and getting started today if you haven’t already!
1. Daily Pelvic Floor Exercises. We include guided pelvic floor exercises in your Daily Bites because you really should be doing them every day (if not 2 or 3 times a day!). Your pelvic floor is the basket of muscles that supports your bladder, your uterus, and all of those lower abdominal organs. It forms the foundation of your core and is critical in helping reduce low back pain, hip pain, and even incontinence during and after pregnancy. Challenge yourself and see if you can do 5 minutes of pelvic floor exercises every day for a week — and if that seems too easy, make it 2 weeks!
2. The Bird Dog. This is one of our favorite moves because it’s safe for all stages of pregnancy and it targets so many supporting core muscles at the same time. You’ll gently work your abdominals, as well as stabilizing muscles in your back, hips, and glutes with this full-body low-impact move. Working to build muscle tone in these areas prior to pregnancy, and then maintaining that muscle tone during pregnancy, will help take pressure off of your pelvis.
3. Pelvic Tilts. These are great if you feel like tight back muscles could be contributing to your pain. Pelvic tilts help loosen up low back muscles and hips through an easy, gentle stretch. During pregnancy your pelvis tilts forward the more baby grows, so helping counteract that with gentle tilts can provide relief. You can do pelvic tilts kneeling on all fours or standing with your back against a wall.
Warning signs to look out for
As we’ve said, pelvic pain is quite common during pregnancy but that doesn’t mean it can’t be more serious and it’s always important to listen to your body when something doesn’t feel right. You should consult your doctor immediately about any significant pain you experience during or after pregnancy. Here are some red flags of pelvic pain to watch out for that could point to a more serious condition:
- Consistent pain that interferes with daily activities and doesn’t go away with sleep
- Severe pain or burning when peeing
- Vaginal bleeding
- Purulent (pus-like) vaginal discharge
- Fever or chills
- Pain not responding to over-the-counter pain medications
Want to know more? Check out this post on 9 tips from a Pregnancy and Postpartum Physiotherapist on managing pelvic pain or leave your questions in the comments below.