Pregnancy comes with literal growing pains. While it is true that some women experience truly blissful moments during pregnancy, there is also the reality that our bodies will let us know that accommodating another human being can simply hurt from time to time.
It is important for expectant mothers to have a realistic idea of how they may experience pain during pregnancy, as well as what can be done to mitigate it.
One type of pain you may encounter is a pelvic girdle pain pregnancy. Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PrPGP) is used to describe a group of symptoms some women experience when pelvic joints become stiff or move unevenly during pregnancy.
This form of pelvic pain can affect 20% of expectant mothers.
We will take a look at how and why this happens below, and explore ways to find pain relief from this condition.
Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PrPGP): How and Why it Happens
When we think of the pelvic floor muscles, we are considering a group of muscles with an important support job: they support both the abdominal viscera (intestines, uterus, and bladder) and they also control continence.
The job of the pelvic floor muscles becomes even harder once a pregnancy occurs, and the growing uterus puts additional pressure on the pelvis as well as the spine. For some women, this pressure manifests in low back pain, and for some, it could result in PrPGP. Some women may even experience both.
This pain can range from what would be described as moderate discomfort all the way to pain that is completely debilitating. Some of the ways women experience PrPGP include:
- Pain while walking, especially when walking for long periods of time
- Pain while sleeping
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain when standing on one leg (for example, while getting dressed)
- Pain while standing for long periods of time
- Pain while sitting for long periods of time
Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain often takes on one of two forms. There is sacro-iliac joint pain, which is a sharp pain that comes when you bear weight, or symphysis pubis dysfunction, which is sharp pain located at the front of the pelvis.
As you can interpret from the list above, PrPGP can have a serious impact on quality of life during pregnancy, with this pain limiting an expectant mother’s ability to participate in daily activities from work to socializing to exercising and more. If the expectant mother already has children, it can make it difficult for her to be fully engaged in their activities.
Am I at Risk for PrPGP?
We do know that some women run a greater risk of developing PrPGP during pregnancy, due to a few common factors.
A previous history of injury or trauma to the pelvic area could lead to PrPGP. This often occurs in women who have competed in high-impact sports such as gymnastics, where there has been pressure on the pelvic bone region in the past.
Women with a high body mass index (BMI) may also have a greater chance of developing PrPGP. It is always a good idea to discuss your BMI with your medical team to ensure you are preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy.
If you have had problems with low back pain prior to pregnancy (whether from sitting at desks for hours at a time with poor posture or pain that is related to stress), you may also have an increased risk for developing PrPGP.
Will My PrPGP Ever Go Away?
Physical pain and discomfort during pregnancy can take a toll on a woman’s mental health, and PrPGP can find expectant mothers feeling extremely discouraged and disheartened. However, it should be noted that there are ways to alleviate pain in the short term and prevent it from continuing in the long term.
Physiotherapy treatments and exercise plans can go a long way toward managing PrPGP symptoms. Additionally, practicing healthy habits throughout your pregnancy (such as getting adequate rest and following a nutritious diet) can also have a huge impact on your pain management.
Relief for Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain
There are a number of ways to manage and mitigate pelvic girdle pain (as well as hip pain and other forms of discomfort) during pregnancy. The most important thing to bear in mind is the need for an open line of communication between you and your medical team, especially if your pain is severe.
If your medical team confirms you are experiencing normal pelvic girdle pain, they can help you with a number of efforts to alleviate that pain. These may include:
- An exercise program tailored for a pregnant woman
- Pregnancy massage for pelvic pain (designed to be safe and effective for expectant mothers)
- Pelvic support belts
A physiotherapist can work with you to improve your pelvic joint position, which can be achieved through both manual therapy and pelvic floor muscle exercises. In some cases, they may recommend you perform exercises in water, which is a low-impact and beneficial way to exercise while pregnant.
A physiotherapist can also help you with some strategies for coping with the pain throughout your pregnancy, and this can include everything from crutches to positions to use during intercourse.
Massage therapy can also be extremely beneficial. It’s important to look for a licensed massage therapist, who has the technique needed to work with a pregnant client.
A massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage therapy and pregnancy massage is best. They can safely use a massage technique that will help to release muscle tension and muscle aches related to PrPGP.
Pregnancy massages are amazing for any expectant mother, even those without pelvic pain. Consider making regular massage a part of your pregnancy health plan. Maternity massage has proven to be beneficial for any expecting mother, encouraging relaxation while easing discomfort throughout the pregnancy.
Another pain management technique recommended by physiotherapists is TENS Unit Therapy. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a method for delivering electrical impulses through the skin, and it has been growing in popularity as a method to manage pain without narcotics.
A pelvic belt (also known as a sacroiliac belt) can be worn around the hips and pelvis to decrease stress on the pelvic joint and to effectively help you retrain and re-establish the correct natural movement of the joint to decrease pelvic joint pain.
Whatever methods you utilize to manage PrPGP, be sure to discuss them with medical providers who can ensure you are doing so safely and effectively.
Looking for Support?
By incorporating and treating pelvic, physical, and mental health, our Bump Birth & Beyond program at Sydney Pelvic Clinic is designed to address all of your needs during pregnancy. Our experienced team can work with you to address PrPGP as well as any other concerns you may have, helping you enjoy a healthy pregnancy and a positive birthing experience.