Pelvic pain during pregnancy (AKA pelvic girdle pain) can make life pretty uncomfortable.
We explore treatment options and tips for easing the ache.
When you have pelvic pain during pregnancy, getting on with your usual daily activities is often a real challenge.
And it can have a big impact on your emotional well-being.
The good news is that there are effective ways to treat and manage the condition.
So if you’re experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy, let your healthcare provider know ASAP.
You don’t have to just suffer through this.
Here, we’re exploring everything you need to know about pelvic girdle pain.
In this article: 📝
- What is pelvic girdle pain?
- What causes pain in the pelvic area during pregnancy?
- What are the symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy?
- What’s the treatment for pelvic girdle pain?
- Pelvic pain during pregnancy: FAQs
What is pelvic girdle pain?
First, a quick anatomy lesson.
Your pelvic girdle (or, simply, “pelvis”) is the ring of bones that connects your torso to your legs. It has three joints: the two sacroiliac joints at the back (near the base of the spine) and the symphysis pubis joint at the front (right behind where your pubic hair is).
So pelvic girdle pain is the medical term for when you experience pain or discomfort in these joints.
You may also feel it in your lower back, hips, and legs.
You might also hear pelvic girdle pain called “symphysis pubis dysfunction,” or SPD.
The symphysis pubis is the joint in the front between your left and right pelvic bones.
However many health professionals use the term “pelvic girdle pain” because pelvic pain during pregnancy affects all the joints in the pelvis, not just the symphysis pubis joint.
Plus, you’re not dysfunctioning at all.
You’re just in pain.
What causes pain in the pelvic area during pregnancy?
Pelvic pain during pregnancy can happen when your pelvic joints become less stable than usual.
The hormones released in your body during pregnancy have a big part to play here, especially a hormone called relaxin.
This hormone loosens the ligaments that connect the bones in your pelvis, providing more room for your baby to exit your body during labor.
All well and good. But if your pelvic ligaments get too loose and relaxed, you might experience pain when they stretch too much or let your bones move out of alignment too easily.
Plus, as your baby grows, the extra weight can put pressure on your pelvis and cause more pain.
What are the symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy?
Pelvic girdle pain can range from a mild ache to a severe pain that really impacts your day-to-day life.
You might feel the pain:
- Near the front and center of your pelvis, around where your pubic hair is
- In your lower back, across one or both sides
- In the area between your vagina and your anus (AKA your perineum)
- Radiating out to your hips and thighs
It’s common for the pain to get worse when doing certain things, such as:
- Going up or down stairs
- Walking, particularly on rough ground or for a long time
- Moving your legs apart (e.g., to get out of a car)
- Leaning or standing on one leg (e.g., when dressing or getting out of the tub)
- Rolling over in bed
- Having sex
You might also hear a clicking or grinding sound coming from your pelvic area.
If any of that sounds familiar, the best thing to do is to check in with your healthcare provider.
Is it normal for your pelvis to hurt during pregnancy?
Yes, pelvic girdle pain may affect as many as a quarter of pregnant people, so you’re definitely not alone.
You’re more likely to experience pelvic pain during pregnancy if:
- You’ve injured your pelvis or had problems with your back in the past
- You have joint hypermobility syndrome, where your joints stretch more than usual
- Your job involves a lot of strenuous activity
- You’ve had pelvic pain during a previous pregnancy
- You’re expecting multiples
But just because pelvic pain during pregnancy is common, that doesn’t mean you simply have to put up with it.
Once you’ve had your pelvic girdle pain diagnosed, there’s a lot you can do to get those symptoms under control and start feeling better.
How is pelvic girdle pain diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and test your movement to help them work out where the pain is coming from.
You might also be referred for an ultrasound or MRI scan so that they can get some images of your soft tissue and bones.
What’s the treatment for pelvic girdle pain?
The treatment for pelvic pain during pregnancy will depend on your particular symptoms and how severe the pain is, but here’s what your healthcare provider might recommend:
A physical therapist who specializes in pregnancy can give you hands-on therapy to help with the movement of the muscles and joints in your pelvis.
They can also teach you stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles in your pelvic area and give your pelvis more stability.
You can also opt for manual therapy from a prenatal chiropractor.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy can help with pain relief while addressing the main cause rather than just the symptoms.
Some types of pain relief are considered safe for pregnancy.
Ask your healthcare provider which would be right for you.
Wearing a pregnancy girdle, belt, or band
These devices apply gentle pressure to your pelvis, giving you more stability in your joints and easing pain.
You could also try an alternative therapy to help you manage the pain—ideally with a therapist or instructor who has experience with pelvic girdle pain. That could be:
An alternative therapy might have the added benefit of boosting your emotional wellbeing, too.
Living with pain every day can take its toll on your mental health, so it’s really important to find support.
How to relieve pelvic pain during pregnancy: everyday tips
Here are some simple things you can do to relieve pelvic girdle pain day-to-day:
- Avoid any activities that make your pain worse (e.g., if parting your legs to climb the stairs hurts, take the elevator instead.)
- Find your balance between activity and ease. Stay as active as you can, within your pain limits, but take plenty of rest too.
- Focus on your posture, with your head up straight and shoulders back.
- Get help with your daily chores and childminding (if you have kids at home already)—full permission to reach out to your support network right now.
- Avoid carrying any heavy weights, such as shopping bags.
- Dress while sitting down.
- If you feel like having sex, experiment with different positions where you don’t have to spread your legs too wide.
Pelvic pain and exercise
First rule is to check with your healthcare provider.
But it’s most likely safe for you to keep doing some gentle to moderate exercise if you’re experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy.
You could try walking, swimming (which can be good for supporting your pelvis), or prenatal yoga.
The key thing is: if an exercise starts to cause you pain, stop doing it right away.
This will help protect your joints and prevent your pelvic girdle pain from getting worse.
How to sleep with pelvic pain during pregnancy
Pelvic pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
To get comfy, try using extra pillows (or a pregnancy pillow) to support your body—especially under your bump and between your legs.
Also, try sleeping on the side of your body that feels less sore. And if you need to roll over, try keeping your knees together as you turn.
Pelvic pain during pregnancy: FAQs
Does pelvic girdle pain affect labor?
The good news is that pelvic girdle pain shouldn’t stop you from having a vaginal birth if that’s what you were planning.
Just tell the medical team looking after you during labor that you have pelvic girdle pain.
They can then help you to find safe positions for giving birth that won’t stretch your pelvic joints too far.
You could also consider having a water birth, as the water helps support your joints so you can change position more easily.
Does pelvic girdle pain go away after birth?
Yes! In most cases, your symptoms should clear up within a couple of months after giving birth.
Let your healthcare provider know if you’re still struggling after six weeks, as they might refer you for further physical therapy or other alternative care.
And remember that the Peanut community is here for you if you need a listening ear.