Pelvic and back pain are common complaints during pregnancy. There are different conditions that can occur during pregnancy which may lead you to experience pain in your back or pelvis, or for some lucky expectant mums, both. However, you shouldn’t just learn to deal with it. There are some things you can do to reduce your pelvic pain and joint pain during pregnancy, and there are treatment options available to help.

What causes pelvic and back pain in pregnancy?

Some back and pelvic pain during pregnancy can be due to the extra weight a pregnant woman is carrying in the front of her body. You may experience back strain as a result of your growing belly. However, one common condition behind pelvic and back pain in pregnancy is pelvic girdle pain.

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP), otherwise called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), is the term given in pregnancy to a collection of uncomfortable symptoms, resulting from misaligned or stiff pelvic joints. The misalignment of the joints at either the front or back of your pelvis can cause severe pain in the pelvic area. The good news is that PGP is not harmful to your baby – but it can make pregnancy very uncomfortable for some women. 

Symptoms of pelvic girdle pain

The symptoms of PGP can differ between women, but in general it presents itself in some or all of the following ways:

  • Pain across the pubic bone
  • Lower back pain, across one or both sides
  • Pain in the perineum (area between the vagina and anus)
  • Pain radiating in the lower belly, groin, hips, thighs, knees and legs
  • The sensation of clicking or grinding in the pelvic area

Who is most prone to PGP

Some women are more likely to suffer from pelvic girdle pain physio perth. Factors that may increase your chance of developing pelvic girdle pain include:

  • A previous history of lower back or pelvic pain
  • Previous injury to the pelvis
  • Having suffered from PGP in a past pregnancy
  • Being over a healthy weight
  • A physically demanding job or lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Smoking

There are certain movements that may be triggering for PGP, which can make the pain more noticeable. These movements can include:

  • Getting in or out of the car
  • Walking
  • Going up stairs
  • Standing on one leg (for example, getting dressed)
  • Turning over in bed, or getting out of bed
  • Sex

How to ease the pain

To some degree, you may find relief by avoiding the movements that you find triggering. For example, sit on the edge of the bed to get dressed to avoid standing on one leg. Make sure you keep your knees together when getting out of the car or out of bed.

Here are some other tips that may offer some relief from the pain:

  • Rest when possible
  • Be as active as you can without causing yourself pain
  • Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs
  • Get help with household chores and avoid physically strenuous activities such as vacuuming
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects
  • Use an ice pack over the pelvic joints to reduce inflammation

Treatments and getting help

If you find the avoidance of triggering movements and the home remedies suggested above don’t offer relief from your pelvic and lower back pain, there are other forms of treatment available to you. As well as relieving pain, treatment of PGP aims to improve your pelvic joint positioning and stability.

  • A pregnancy physiotherapist can help you to make sure the joints of your pelvis, hips and spine move as they should. They will also be able to offer exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and other related muscles
  • Pain relief, such as the use of a TENS machine
  • Acupuncture
  • The use of pelvic support belts or crutches if deemed necessary by a physio or doctor

Birthing with pelvic girdle pain

Many women that suffer from pelvic girdle pain are able to have a normal vaginal birth if they choose. However, those suffering from severe PGP may be more likely to choose, or be encouraged, to have a caesarean section. If you plan on having a vaginal birth, getting on top of managing your PGP will give you the best chance to have the birth you want.

Make sure you note in your birth plan that you have PGP so that your midwives or care providers are aware and can help you find positions comfortable for you. Physio during pregnancy is a great way of managing your pelvic girdle pain to minimise the impact it will have on your birth.

Often PGP goes away after birth, but some women will suffer from pelvic girdle pain in the postpartum period. It’s equally as important after birth to seek help and treatment if you’re suffering from pelvic pain, as it can sometimes be exacerbated by labour and birth. Seeing a physio postpartum will give you the best chance of overcoming your pelvic pain, and strengthening your body for future pregnancies if you wish.

Follow the tips listed for minimising pelvic girdle pain at home, and find a qualified physio in Perth to help you with your pelvic and back pain during pregnancy and postpartum.