Tips to Relieve Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a miraculous journey marked by numerous changes in a woman's body, but one common challenge that many expectant mothers face is pelvic girdle pain (PGP). Here, we'll go over everything you need to know about PGP, along with tips on managing pain during pregnancy.

What is Pelvic Girdle Pain?

Pelvic girdle pain refers to pain or discomfort that presents in the lower back, pelvis, hips, and groin region during pregnancy. It's also commonly known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). Pain can range from mild to severe and may require modification to your everyday activities. While it can be scary, it's important to understand that PGP is not harmful to your baby.

Who Gets Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy?

Pelvic girdle pain is quite common, with as many as 1 in 5 pregnant women experiencing it to some degree. While it can affect mobility and cause frustration, early diagnosis and care can help you minimize severe discomfort.

What Causes Pelvic Girdle Pain?

Causes of pelvic girdle pain can vary, but most of them are associated with your growing belly during pregnancy. The primary causes of PGP include:

  • The increasing weight of your baby and the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles
  • Change in center of gravity, which adds a higher load to your back
  • Hormonal changes that affect ligament laxity and your connective tissues that support joint movement
  • Decreased range of motion in pelvic joints
  • Stretching of the abdominal muscles throughout pregnancy can cause a weakened pelvic floor that contributes to increased pain or discomfort

    Symptoms of PGP

    While pelvic girdle pain affects each person differently, there are some telltale signs. Some of the symptoms of pelvic pain include the following:

  • Pain around the pelvis
  • Pain surrounding the pubic bone
  • Lower back pain
  • Inner thigh pain
  • Pain in the perineum area (between vagina and anus)
  • Clicking or grinding in the pelvic region

    The degree of pain can vary in women with PGP. Sometimes, women may feel more severe pain while they're:

  • Going up and down stairs
  • Getting out of bed
  • Turning over in bed
  • Walking
  • Performing daily activities
  • Standing on one leg (i.e., when changing or shifting weight)
  • Getting out of a car

    While later stages of pregnancy make it more difficult to get around naturally, you shouldn't be in extreme pain or discomfort. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. PGP during pregnancy will not harm your baby, but there are things you can do to help manage your pain and reduce discomfort in the pelvic area.

    Tips to Relieve Pelvic Girdle Pain During Pregnancy

    Managing your pelvic girdle pain may require some adjustments to your everyday life. However, in doing so, you may find that you move more easily and become more mobile. To help you get around with minimal discomfort, consider the following management tips.

    Try Physiotherapy

    One of the best ways to address pelvic girdle pain and pregnancy is to work with a professional physiotherapist. In doing so, you can work through some exercises that can help relieve pain in a safe and supported environment. During these sessions, you'll likely perform squats, bridges, pelvic tilts, and other exercises to strengthen your glutes and lower abdominals. Your physiotherapist will make sure you keep your knees in alignment to avoid the risk of injury.

    Do Some Strategic Exercises

    There are a few exercises to help pregnant women relieve the pain associated with PGP. When performing them, you should not feel any pain or discomfort. If you do, try doing the exercises more gently. If you're still experiencing pain, discontinue and talk to your physiotherapist for advice.

  • Cat/Cow Stretch — get on all fours and round your shoulders upward to stretch the middle of your back while taking a deep breath. During your exhalation, pull your shoulders up and your lower back down so that your gaze is facing the ceiling. Repeat with the rhythm of your breath four to five times.
  • Pelvic Tilting — this can help relieve back pain as it stretches the muscles and removes stiffness. Sit on a chair or birthing ball with a tall, upright posture and a curve in your lower back. Then, tilt your pelvis forward, hold it for 10 seconds, and return it to its original position. Repeat four to five times. This is similar to a seated cat/cow stretch.
  • Pelvic Circles — sit on a birthing ball and focus on moving your pelvis in a circular direction for about 10 seconds. Change direction and repeat.
  • Child's Pose — kneel on the floor and sit back on the bottom of your heels. Then, widen your knees to make room for your belly and try to stretch your hands out on the ground in front of you as far as you can comfortably go. Take a few breaths here. If you can't reach the floor, you can use an exercise ball or chair to assist.

Incorporate Pelvic Floor Exercises

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may also help you cope with pelvic pain caused by PGP. Try practicing Kegels a few times a day, in addition to some compound pelvic floor strengthening movements. The stronger these muscles become, the more they can support the weight of your growing belly.

Shorten Your Strides

Sometimes, taking long strides may worsen pain in the pelvic region. This is because longer strides are often associated with higher force on the pelvic ligaments and joints. When you're walking, smaller steps can help ease pain and allow you to get around comfortably.

Avoid Heavy Lifting

Whenever you need to pick something up, keep your back straight and bend with your knees. However, always avoid lifting anything heavy, including other children. Wait until your baby is born to be safe, as heavy lifting may also increase your risk of injury during pregnancy.

Try Not to Stand Too Long

While sitting down and getting back up can be difficult as your pregnancy progresses, it's important to sit down when possible. This is especially true when you're getting changed. Trying to stand on one leg and get into your pants will contribute to pain and discomfort, as it puts more strain on your pelvis. Instead, sit down to help take the weight off your joints. Additionally, if you're in a situation where you may be on your feet for long periods of time, try to find a way to sit down. In doing so, you'll likely find plenty of pain relief.

Focus on Posture

Maintaining a good posture can also help you manage pain associated with PGP. Try to distribute your weight equally on both feet when standing with your shoulders back and head tall. You should also pay attention to the way you sit, as many positions can strain your back, which worsens PGP. For example, don't sit on the floor with crossed legs and, instead, try to sit in a way that allows for pelvic support. To help, you can use a rolled-up towel placed within the small of your back for added lumbar support.

Sleep with a Pillow Between Your Legs

If you have difficulty sleeping due to PGP in pregnancy, try adding a pillow between your legs. This can help keep your spine straight, thus reducing the strain on your back and pelvis. Talk to your doctor if you feel like you're unable to get enough sleep.

Treatment to Help Pelvic Girdle Pain

Most treatment options are aimed at helping you find out how to cope with discomfort or decrease the activities causing the pain. However, if you feel like nothing is working, talk to your doctor about potential medications to help with pain management. It's important that you continue the techniques listed above, but things like acetaminophen can help with inflammation and discomfort. You should also focus on getting plenty of rest and taking it easy. Even if you feel like you have a lot to do, give yourself a break and allow yourself to rest when you need it.

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