Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman’s life. It can also be a really, really uncomfortable time. You’re basically growing a watermelon inside you, so it kind of comes with the territory. One of these discomforts you may or may not have heard of is pelvic girdle pain and here’s what you need to know.
What the heck is a pelvic girdle?
The pelvic girdle is a fancy medical name for the ring-like structure of bones that make up your pelvis. It includes your two hip bones, the sacrum and the coccyx, and all the muscles and ligaments that attach to these to keep everything stable. Pelvic girdle pain can be in any of the joints that make up the structure of the pelvic girdle.
Suffers of pelvic girdle pain usually describe a feeling of clicking or locking of the hip joints. Some even experience a grinding sensation. Pain can be at the front or back of the pelvis, and can also include your bottom, groin and thighs.
Why does this happen?
A growing baby places a lot of strain on all of your body, but your pelvis definitely bears the lion’s share of the load. Initially, the hormones of relaxin and progesterone will have a lot to answer for. They work together to relax your muscles and loosen your joints and ligaments. This is not only making room for your baby but also laying down the groundwork for labour and delivery.
As your baby gets bigger, you’ll also find that your posture starts to change. Your centre of gravity shifts as your belly grows, dragging forward on your spine and hips. The extra weight of your baby, plus your own normal weight gain over the course of your pregnancy also all contribute to a heap of increased pressure on your pelvis.
Does everyone experience pelvic girdle pain?
It’s fair to say that some degree of discomfort is probably inevitable but, like most things in life, everyone will experience it differently. Those who have a history of back pain, or any kind of injury to the back or pelvis will likely feel pelvic girdle pain more intensely than others.
Certain movements tend to aggravate the problem. Things like going up or downstairs, getting in and out of a car, or rolling out of bed are all strong culprits for a flare-up. If you have a job that is physically demanding, this can also prove problematic. Further along in pregnancy, even walking too far or too fast may cause discomfort.
Listen to your body and, if it hurts, stop and seek advice from your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist. Never try to push through the pain as this will likely make things far worse and potentially cause injury.
Subsequent pregnancies can also increase your chances of suffering from pelvic girdle pain, especially if you’ve suffered from it in the past.
What can I do to reduce the pain?
If you know you’re struggling with pelvic girdle pain, try to avoid activities that will exacerbate the problem.
- Reduce or break up your tougher tasks like vacuuming, or pushing heavy things like shopping trolleys, and don’t engage in any high impact exercise.
- Try to give yourself as much rest as possible and be conscious of how you move, particularly when moving up and down.
- Staying active is definitely still important, but you may just need to be a bit more selective about how you achieve this.
- Try to be mindful of your posture by supporting your back while sitting, and making sure you stand up as straight as you can.
- If the pain is particularly intense you can try using an ice pack.
- A physiotherapist may also be helpful, especially if they are trained in pre-and post-natal care. As well as being able to massage and release any tight muscles, they can also show you some strengthening exercises for your hips and pelvic floor.
- In severe cases, special compression clothing or a compression belt to support the area.
If your pelvic girdle pain is ongoing and severe, you may like to discuss particular birth positions or even a water birth with your health provider.
Will the pain go away after I deliver?
For the most part, yes. Once you remove the weight of your bub, and your hormones begin to return to normal, so too should your pelvis. Physiotherapy after birth is always a good idea, regardless of whether your delivery is vaginal or via a caesarian section. Most obstetricians and midwives will be able to give you the name of a local physiotherapist who can assess your pelvis after birth, giving you the best chance of a speedy recovery.
Try not to worry too much about it though, you’ll be up and running after your little one before you know it!
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