Just when you thought pregnancy couldn’t get any more glamorous, you find yourself struggling with pelvic pain. You start walking with a John Wayne waddle and even the simplest of tasks is accompanied by sharp stabs of pain in your pelvis. What is going on, and how can you solve it or at least soothe it?
WHY PELVIC PAIN HAPPENS
Your pregnancy causes an increase in various hormone levels in your body, and the hormone responsible in this case is Relaxin. Relaxin does exactly what the name suggests. It relaxes things like your blood vessels and your ligaments.
Relaxed blood vessels are great as because they relax they can hold more blood and send that blood to the baby to help him or her grow. Relaxed ligaments is also a good thing when you consider the process of labour. You have to get a baby out of an area not used to dealing with things that size! By relaxing the ligaments which hold and stabilise your pelvis, the exit area gets wider and giving birth gets easier.
Unfortunately, the downside of relaxed ligaments is the reduction of stability in your pelvis. If this happens very early in pregnancy, it can bring a lot of pain and discomfort. This pain might be around the edges of your pelvis or at the back near your coccyx. Pelvic pain commonly occurs at the front of your pelvis, where the two bones are joined by a pad of cartilage called the pubic symphysis. The only cure is the end of the pregnancy when the Relaxin hormone levels drop back to normal.
HOW TO MANAGE PELVIC PAIN
If giving birth is the only cure for pelvic pain, then the key is learning to manage it while it lasts. Here are some tips and tricks I know women have found helpful.
Have you ever noticed how the Queen sits so elegantly? She is a great example of good pelvic alignment. Since the focus of pelvic pain for many women is the pubic symphysis, keeping your hips aligned and stable is really key.
Try to keep your knees together and your hips at the same level. This is something most of us forget to do on a daily basis. We put one leg into the car, then sit then pull the other leg in, or get out of bed one leg first then the other. We sit on the sofa with our knees curled under us.
Instead, try to sit sideways on the car seat with both legs outside. Then once you are seated, swing your legs in together. When getting out of bed start by keeping your knees together and rolling onto your side. Drop both ankles over the side of the bed and push yourself up using your arms. Sit on the sofa with your feet both touching the floor or out on a footrest in front of you.
Speak to the Professionals
Physiotherapists are the experts in healthy movement and support of joints and ligaments. There are always local specialist physiotherapists who have a great deal of experience in treating and helping pregnant women. They have great advice for back and pelvic pain, separated abdominal muscles and pelvic floor exercises as well as so much more. Please speak to your Midwife or GP and get a referral to the physio service in your area. Even if the pain isn’t too bad at the moment, sometimes the referral can take a couple of weeks and things may be worse by then.
Heat can be very soothing for pelvic pain. Use it as an excuse for an extra long shower or an extra daily long bath. You can also use heat packs or hot water bottles. These are good for positioning directly over the painful points. However, please be careful not to burn yourself and give yourself short breaks without the heat packs so you don’t overheat the area.
There are lots of options for extra support to help reduce pelvic pain. These include tubigrips, support belts and taping. All of these offer different levels of support and none will cause any harm to the baby.
Tubigrips and support belts can be supplied by a physiotherapist or sourced online. Tape can also be bought online and applied by yourself or a partner.
Tubigrips can help you feel like your hips are being held in and comfortably surround your whole tummy and back.
Support belts can be found on Amazon in various styles. Some will sit just underneath your bump and give the feeling of lifting it up off the pelvic bone. Others are adjustable with straps across or over your bump. Which style is best for you is a matter of personal preference.
Taping is another option for providing abdominal support. This involves using kinesiology tape in various lines across or around your abdomen. Kinesiology tape is used by sports people and physiotherapists to help provide flexible temporary support to joints, ligaments and muscles. The Rock Tape brand has suggestions for tape positions in pregnancy on its Youtube channel here. Try searching on Pinterest for kinesiology taping in pregnancy as this will also provide lots of great positioning suggestions. Have a look at Amazon for a selection of tape options to buy.
Although taking painkillers regularly throughout pregnancy is not ideal, you may need to consider this if the pain is very bad. ALWAYS discuss this with a pregnancy professional such as an Obstetrician, Midwife or GP.
Worst Case Scenarios
It is very uncommon for pelvic pain to be completely overwhelming. Usually, measures such as those outlined above will help you manage until the baby arrives. Unfortunately for a very small minority of women, the pain is so bad that they need to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around. If this is you then please keep in touch with your pregnancy professional and make sure you are linked in with the local physiotherapy service. For a small number of women, the obstetrician may be willing to discuss starting labour off early to stop the pain. This is always only done after long discussions regarding the health and well-being of both mum and baby.
Why not have a look at the helpful physiotherapist videos at Best Beginnings or on your Baby Buddy app?
You can also find more sources of information on the useful links page, including the NHS website and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website which has guidance on many subjects.