If you’re expecting, you know by now that pregnancy can be both exciting and exhausting. While you’re dreaming of the moment you’ll finally hold your little one in your arms, you’re also probably looking forward to relief from the common side effects of pregnancy. Of the many ailments expectant mothers experience, pelvic pain during pregnancy is one of the most common complaints.
In fact, approximately 72% of pregnant women experience pelvic pain at some point. It’s commonly characterized by pain across the front of your pubic bone, level with your hips or across one or both sides of your lower back. While pelvic pain isn’t harmful to your baby, it can make your pregnancy uncomfortable. This post will cover why pelvic pain tends to occur at each stage of pregnancy, how to ease the discomfort you feel, and symptoms that could be an indication of something more serious.
Why does pelvic pain during early pregnancy occur?
Most women are surprised by the occurrence of pelvic pain in early pregnancy, but hormones are typically responsible for this sudden change. When you become pregnant, your body immediately starts to produce a hormone called relaxin. This hormone allows tendons and ligaments to stretch to allow the pelvis to open for birth.
While relaxin itself is not the cause of pelvic pain, the relaxed ligaments and tendons may lead your weight distribution to change, especially towards the end of your first trimester. This can cause both hip pain and pelvic pain during early pregnancy.
Unfortunately, this hormone will continue to release throughout your pregnancy. This means your pelvic pain may worsen as the months go on.
How can I relieve pelvic pain during early pregnancy naturally?
While treatment options are often limited during pregnancy in order to protect your growing baby, there are some ways to relieve pelvic pain naturally.
However, always discuss your pain level and symptoms with your doctor before trying anything new. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling and how much pain you can tolerate.
Getting a specialized prenatal massage can help to reduce stress hormones, relax your muscles, and increase blood flow. The boost in circulation after a massage will not only ease your discomfort, but may also help you sleep better (a welcome benefit for women suffering from aches and pains associated with pregnancy).
While any masseuse can perform a prenatal massage, it is best to go to someone who specializes in maternal care and has extensive experience working on pregnant women. They will know what positions to avoid and what level of pressure is acceptable. This will guarantee the safety of you and your baby.
Chiropractic care is generally considered safe during pregnancy. In fact, all chiropractors go through training designed specifically for the care of pregnant patients.
Through spinal manipulation and adjustments, a visit to the chiropractor may help relieve some of your pelvic pain. Achieving proper alignment for both standing and sitting can help you maintain a posture that won’t put added pressure on your body. This is crucial as your weight distribution will continue to shift as your baby grows.
As always, check with your doctor for a referral before seeking chiropractic care during pregnancy.
Exercise and stretching
If your doctor has cleared you for exercise, staying active within your pain limits is one of the best ways to prevent and ease pelvic pain during pregnancy. Your doctor may even recommend at-home exercises and stretches for your pelvic floor, stomach, back, and hip muscles. Pelvic tilt exercises in particular can help strengthen your muscles and improve your posture to provide relief from pelvic pain.
If you’re considering workout classes, prenatal yoga, water aerobics, and swimming are all great options for low-impact exercise. Gyms and fitness studios across the country offer classes that are specifically created for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor about any local ones they recommend.
Maintaining an exercise routine can help alleviate pain by keeping you limber, but most women enjoy many other additional benefits. Exercising will help you sleep better and can even improve the overall ease of your labor and delivery. Staying active during pregnancy may also make it easier to get back in shape after your baby is born.
Pregnancy pillows (also known as body pillows) have become popular for pregnant women, and for good reason. Sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and pregnancy, but it can become increasingly difficult as you continue to grow and gain weight.
There are a variety of shapes and sizes when it comes to pregnancy pillows, but one that is specifically designed to be placed between your knees is best for relieving pelvic pain. This position will ensure that your hips are aligned, stable, and at the correct height at night to minimize pressure in the pelvic and hip region.
Another type of pregnancy pillow is in the shape of a wedge. It simply lifts your growing belly off the mattress to relieve the pressure and weight you’re feeling in that region, especially while lying down.
Pregnancy support garments
Belly bands and compression pantyhose are a great option for everyday wear as you continue to grow throughout your pregnancy.
Belly bands or maternity belts are designed to lift your belly, giving your back and pelvic area extra support and relief from the weight of your growing baby. Many of them can be heated in the microwave to provide soothing heat therapy for tight and sore muscles.
Compression pantyhose offer the benefit of lifting your belly and giving it support while also adding compression around your legs. This can be helpful if you’re suffering from excessive swelling in the legs and feet.
What causes pelvic pain during pregnancy in later trimesters?
Pelvic pain during the second and third trimesters can still be attributed in part to relaxin. This hormone will continue to surge through your body, especially in the final weeks before you give birth. It will continue to loosen your ligaments and open your pelvis for labor.
In addition to the relaxin hormone loosening and stretching your tendons and ligaments, your growing belly also creates a shift in the way your weight is distributed. This can affect everything from your stance to the way you walk. This is why it can often be painful no matter what position you’re in. For this reason, it’s best not to stay standing or sitting for too long.
It’s important to note that pelvic pain can also get much worse about two to four weeks before delivery once lightening occurs. Lightening is when your baby drops into the pelvic area in preparation for labor. Once this happens, your baby’s head puts stress on the bones, joints, and muscles in your pelvis and back. The good news? This is another indication that labor is near and the end is in sight!
How can I relieve pelvic pain during pregnancy in the second and third trimester?
The previously mentioned treatment options for relieving pelvic pain during early pregnancy are still great options in your second and third trimesters, but with a few modifications.
Your doctor will advise you to sleep on your side after your first trimester. This is because your growing uterus can put pressure on blood vessels, restricting the blood flow to both your heart and your baby’s heart. This same rule applies during exercise or any other activity that requires you to lie down, such as a prenatal massage. It’s always best to seek out instructors and practitioners who are specifically trained to work with pregnant women so that they’re aware of these guidelines.
Basic lifestyle changes should also be made during your second and third trimesters. Wear comfortable shoes with little to no heel and plenty of support, especially if you plan to be walking or exercising. You may also want to consider adding a warm bath to your nightly routine, as this can often help relieve pain and relax your muscles before bedtime.
When should I see my doctor for pelvic pain during pregnancy?
As always, it’s important to contact your doctor if you feel like something isn’t right. While it’s normal to feel aches and pains as your pregnancy progresses, there are times when pain can be a sign of a more serious problem.
Be open and honest about the level of pain you’re experiencing during appointments. Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Pain that you can’t walk or talk through
- Severe headache
- Sudden swelling of the hands, feet, or face
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
In rare, but serious cases, pelvic pain can be a sign of complications or miscarriage, especially if it is paired with other symptoms. These are some of the serious causes of pelvic pain that you should be aware of.
While it is considered rare, one in 50 pregnancies are classified as an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This is when the egg implants outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. Symptoms include intense pain and bleeding. This happens most commonly between the sixth and tenth week of pregnancy.
Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies can’t continue and must be treated immediately. If you have taken a positive at-home pregnancy test and are experiencing these types of symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately. A medical team will use an ultrasound to confirm whether the egg has implanted in the uterus.
If you have persistent back and pelvic pain that comes and goes (with no relief after resting and lying down), you could be experiencing preterm labor.
Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you think you could be feeling contractions, rather than basic pelvic pressure and pain.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation of America, 5-8% of all pregnant women experience preeclampsia. The condition, characterized by high blood pressure and protein in your urine, can develop at any time after 20 weeks.
This condition is dangerous because blood pressure can constrict the blood vessels in your uterus that supply oxygen and nutrients to your baby. In severe cases, symptoms of preeclampsia can include abdominal pain.
Your placenta typically implants high on the uterine wall and doesn’t detach until after your baby is born.
In rare cases, though, the placenta can separate from the uterine wall, causing constant and worsening pain in the lower abdominal region. Depending on the case, you may go into labor naturally. If not, your doctor will opt to either induce labor or perform an emergency cesarean section.
Most common during childbearing years, noncancerous growths on the uterus are known as fibroids.
Pregnancy will often cause them to get larger and increasingly painful. Most doctors will simply keep an eye on them during your pregnancy. Only in rare cases is it necessary to remove them in order for the pregnancy to progress.
Get help with your pelvic pain during pregnancy
This is a special time in any woman’s life. Don’t let pelvic pain during pregnancy overshadow the anticipation and joy of welcoming a baby to your family. Talk to your doctor about what treatment options are right for you.
If you live in Arizona, get in touch with our pain specialists at Arizona Pain today. We have skilled physicians with extensive experience in pain management. We will tailor your treatment plan to ensure safe and successful pain relief during your pregnancy, coordinating with your other care providers.