During my first trimester, around 10 weeks of pregnancy, I started getting localized right sided hip pain. I went to a chiropractor to see if he could help with the pain. He told me that pregnant women often have joint issues, especially in the hips, because of a combination of pregnancy hormones and a growing uterus. By the time I got to my second trimester (around 25 weeks), I was experiencing shooting pain in the front center of my pelvic area. I went back to the chiropractor who told me I had something called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. Symphysis Pubis dysfunction (SPD), also known as pelvic girdle pain or pubic symphysis dysfunction, refers to a group of symptoms that cause pelvic discomfort. It usually occurs during pregnancy, when your joints become unstable. It can occur in the back or front of your pelvis and can cause severe pain. I must be honest and say that the only thing that cured the discomfort was giving birth. But, with the help of my midwife and doula, I came up with a plan that helped me manage the pain and discomfort throughout the rest of my pregnancy. Today, I’m sharing all my tips on how to relieve pelvic pain during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms?
It’s a good idea to first talk about the symptoms in order to discuss how to manage them. While symptoms vary in severity and location for most people, the most common complaints include: sharp pain in the front center of your pubic bone, lower back pain on one or both sides, and pain in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus). SPD pain is typically experienced during movement (e.g. walking, going upstairs, turning over in bed) and moments when you have to widen your legs. The symptoms typically improve when movement stops, and legs are together.
Round ligament pain is also common in pregnancy and is characterized as an intense pain or jabbing feeling in the lower belly or groin on one or both sides. It is most commonly felt during the second trimester as the ligaments are stretched by the growing uterus. Some women report that their round ligament pain might be sharp or dull, sometimes feeling similar to menstrual cramps. A lot of the recommendations I make for SPD are also helpful in relieving round ligament pain.
A massage performed by a trained prenatal therapist can be beneficial in several ways. The growing uterus puts pressure on major blood vessels. Massages help move fluid from the joints into soft tissues where it's reabsorbed by the lymphatic system. The growing uterus often puts pressure on nerves in the pelvic floor which then causes hip and leg pain. Massages help to release tension in your muscles which reduces inflammation in your nerves, thereby lowering pain from pelvic pressure. Therapeutic massages were crucial throughout my pregnancy. I had monthly massages throughout my second and third trimesters. They helped to reduce pain in my hips, lower back and legs with a bonus of overall tension/stress relief. I recommend making sure that you find a therapist who is trained in doing prenatal massages because not every massage therapist can treat pregnant women. Also, there is conflicting evidence, but some massage companies will not provide massages in early pregnancy.
I know that chiropractors are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, based on my research, there are no known contraindications to chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. Chiropractors that have been trained to work with pregnant women typically use tables that adjust for a pregnant woman’s body and have practices that cater to pregnant women’s needs. Chiropractors are experts at adjusting misaligned joints of the body. During my third trimester, I got weekly adjustments which helped to drastically decrease my pelvic and round ligament pain. Typically, my doctor would do adjustments to my hips, back and neck. He also gave me recommendations to maintain hip alignment which included stretching exercises, self massage and preventative changes to my daily routines (will discuss this later in the article). I always found immediate relief after my adjustments!
Pelvic support belt
Pelvic support belts are said to be helpful in relieving pelvic pain in two ways: they may help to lift the belly and stabilize the joints in the pelvic region. Lifting the belly takes the pressure of the growing baby off of the sensitive pubic symphysis. This can provide immediate relief for those women who suffer from pain specifically in that area. Most belts also have been proving to provide support for the pelvic joints. During the later weeks of pregnancy, the effects of the hormone relaxin get even more uncomfortable. Relaxin is a hormone released by the ovaries that increases mobility in joints in order to assist the movement of the baby through the birth canal. There are many brands of maternity belts that claim to be effective! I used a Belly Bandit 2- in- 1 during my pregnancy. In my opinion, it did a great job in stabilizing my joints but it didn’t do much in the belly lifting department. I always found myself lifting my own belly with my hands whenever I was feeling particularly uncomfortable. It’s possible that I will experience PSD again during my subsequent pregnancies so I’ve had my eye on a few products. My number one prospect is the Neotech pregnancy support maternity belt. It is well-reviewed and it seems to provide a better lifting affect than the belt I used in my last pregnancy.
Changes to daily activities
Just like most things in pregnancy, managing pelvic pain involves changes to your routine. The number one thing that my chiropractor and midwife recommended was incorporating light stretching and movement (e.g. prenatal yoga) into my weekly routine. This helped to relieve tension and stiffness while also maintaining full body functional mobility. There were some yoga poses (such as downward facing dog and extended puppy pose) that were especially helpful in taking pressure off the pubic bone. Another recommendation was to try to maintain hip alignment whenever possible. This included walking with legs slightly closer together and trying to prevent leg widening whenever possible. For me, this meant transferring in and out of my bed, car and shower differently than I did before. For example, whenever getting in and out of my car, I would swing both legs at the same time instead of putting pressure on one leg at a time. In bed, I would transfer from one side to the other with both legs straddling the pregnancy pillow in order to maintain hip alignment. I would always try to step forward out of the shower (with squared hips) as opposed to side stepping (widening legs) out. In the last weeks of pregnancy, these modifications were a game changer for me!
The biggest recommendation that I can give is to take it easy whenever you need to. PSD is often worsened by movement. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is to kick your feet up and relax. It took me a while to find a comfortable position. But, laying down on my side with the pregnancy pillow between my legs was helpful in relieving the pressure. If you live with your partner or another adult, allow them to take on more of the daily chores so that you can prioritize rest. Maybe they could run you a nice warm bath which I found helpful in reducing your pain (have you ever heard of water birth ?!) This is especially important in the final weeks of pregnancy. You will need your rest to prepare for birth and life with a newborn!
As always, I hope that this was helpful! Leave a comment below and be sure to subscribe to get notified when I post!