Carrying a child can come with a whole onslaught of new pains and discomforts. Hormonal changes can cause muscle pain and body aches, your growing uterus will cause round ligaments to stretch and pull, and the added weight of the baby all concentrated in one place can lead to lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain. Adding chronic pelvic pain to an already uncomfortable pregnancy can make routine daily activities feel daunting or even impossible to complete. While pelvic pain during pregnancy is uncomfortable or inconvenient for most, it can cause severe pain in the worst cases.
This pain can make it difficult to care for yourself, take care of other children in the home, or work. There are many steps you can take at home to alleviate the symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy, but sometimes medical intervention is required. Continue reading to explore solutions that might help alleviate your pelvic pain, or come see one of our obstetricians today.
While any new pain might feel worrisome, pelvic pain is very common – even expected – in pregnancy. In most cases, it is not a cause for concern. The most common factors contributing to new pelvic pain in pregnancy are growth spurts, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), pressure from the weight of the baby, and the hormone relaxin softening your ligaments to prepare your body for delivery.
When the baby goes through periods of rapid growth, so does your uterus. When this growth is rapid during a growth spurt instead of slow and gradual, the round ligaments supporting your uterus are stretched. This can cause dull aches and sudden, sharp pains.
SPD, pelvic girdle pain, or pubic symphysis and is common in pregnant women. SPD is the result of a myriad of body changes in preparation for pregnancy and delivery which ultimately lead to pelvic pain and instability. SPD can make it challenging to scale stairs, roll over in bed, get in or out of the car, or even walk.
As the baby grows, the uterus puts increasing pressure on the lower body and pelvic floor. This can cause pain and pressure in the vagina, pelvis, or hips.
Your sacroiliac joint – between your spine and your pelvis – is supported by a network of ligaments that pull the joint together and stabilize it. In order to make room for your growing baby and uterus and ease childbirth, a hormone called relaxin is released during pregnancy, causing those pelvic ligaments to relax. While this is conducive to successful childbirth, it can lead to hypermobility in pelvic joints and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
PGP or pelvic girdle pain prevalence is high: it affects about 20% of all pregnant women. Having PGP in a previous pregnancy, a history of low back pain, previous pelvic injury, obesity, a job that’s physically demanding, and pregnancy with multiples are all risk factors for developing PGP.
You might be dealing with pelvic girdle pain if:
Some women also notice audible popping in their pelvis when trying to do one or more of the activities above.
The good news is that pelvic girdle pain does not change pregnancy outcomes. Although the pain might limit what you can do in a day, most women with PGP or even chronic pelvic pain are able to deliver vaginally without complications. However, during delivery, it is also important to notify the delivery team that you have PGP. Once you receive an epidural, you will no longer feel pain if you spread your legs too far.
However, pelvic pain can be a cause for concern when it isn’t PGP. It’s important to see your obstetrician right away if you have pelvic pain along with any of the following symptoms.
Vaginal spotting or bleeding along with pelvic pain during pregnancy requires prompt medical attention.
If your pain is severe, it can be an indication that something more sinister is going on. Health professionals are trained to investigate and intervene if necessary in cases like these.
Fever or chills can be a sign of infection somewhere in your body; see your women’s health provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Whether you have pain in your pelvic area or not, if you were feeling baby move and now you’re not, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.
Lightheadedness might be a sign of an underlying problem; visit your OBGYN. Fainting requires immediate evaluation in urgent care, an emergency room, or an obstetric clinic.
If you notice blood in your stool (which can be dark in color and look like coffee grounds), visit your healthcare provider for evaluation. Blood in your stool should not wait until your next appointment.
While morning sickness is common, nausea and vomiting accompanied by pelvic pain during pregnancy should be checked out.
If you are having pelvic or abdominal pain and notice fluid coming from your vagina, check with your OBGYN.
Interventions for pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy range from rest and home exercise to physiotherapy. Common treatments include:
There are several things you can do at home to help alleviate pelvic girdle pain and improve your quality of life:
Your OBGYN or physiotherapist can prescribe a pelvic support belt to help stabilize the pelvis and sacroiliac joint and prevent hypermobility. In most cases, insurance will cover the cost of the belt. Pelvic support belts are easy to use and many patients say that they feel almost immediate relief when they put it on.
If your OBGYN’s recommendations and a pelvic support belt are not helping, he or she might refer you to a physiotherapist. Often called pelvic, obstetric, and gynecological physiotherapy (POGP), a physiotherapist will develop a customized exercise program, administer manual therapy, and offer advice on daily activities and posture.
For most women, pelvic pain is worst in the third trimester and resolves by about three months postpartum. However, some women experience chronic pelvic pain that can last for long periods of time – even before and after pregnancy. This goes above and beyond pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain and requires evaluation and treatment. Common causes of chronic pelvic pain include:
Your provider can order diagnostic tests to determine whether your issues are related to weakened pelvic floor muscles from pregnancy or an underlying condition, and then recommend the most appropriate treatment. In any case, chronic pelvic pain requires evaluation to rule out more serious underlying conditions.
If you are experiencing chronic pelvic pain, the team at Tidewater Physicians for Women can help. Whether your pelvic pain is pregnancy-related or a symptom of a larger problem, we have the diagnostic tools to get to the bottom of it and the expertise to treat it. We understand how hard it can be to get away with a new baby at home, but you’re best able to care for your little one when you’re healthy and pain-free. One quick appointment is the first step!
Do not live with pelvic pain when there are treatments available; call 757-461-3890 today to schedule an appointment.