For some pregnant women, pelvic girdle pain (PGP) starts as early as the first trimester. Others might only experience it as late as the final few days before labour.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to ease the discomfort and even avoid PGP all together.
What causes Pelvic Girdle Pain?
During pregnancy, women produce 'relaxin' - one of the essential pregnancy hormones. Relaxin allows the ligaments in the pelvic region to relax and become super stretchy; it also softens up and widens the cervix.
Too much relaxin causes the pelvic bones and ligaments to relax too much. This can cause sacroiliac joint dysfunction, instability of the joints and increases the likelihood of pain in the pelvic area.
It can make simple everyday tasks such as sitting down, getting up from sitting down and even walking, a little tricky.
Pelvic pain might be a common pregnancy ache, but not to worry, you just need to know how to care for it.
How do I know if I have PGP?
It is estimated that 1 in 5 pregnant women experience pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy. Even though it is completely harmless to you and your baby, it can still cause serious discomfort around the pelvic region.
So what does it feel like? Pelvic girdle pain symptoms range from moderate to severe and typically include:
- Pain felt directly at the front and centre of the pubic bone
- Pain that radiates across one/both sides of the lower back region
- Pain that is felt in the perineum (area between the vagina and anus)
Helping Pelvic Girdle Pain through exercise
One of the best ways to overcome PGP is to stay active and to do light exercises that specifically target your pelvic region. Certain pelvic girdle pain exercises are great for stabilising the joints around the pelvic region while also promoting relaxation, these include:
- Pelvic tilts
- Cat stretches
- Hip bridges
Mild stretching can also help the muscles around your quads, back and buttocks to relax. Gentle movements are the way to go and you should never aim for a range of motion that’s too full. In any case, don’t open your legs too wide.
Specific yoga exercises to target pelvic girdle pain can help relieve pain and discomfort in the sacroiliac joints, hips and lower back. The exercises below are highly effective at improving not only the functionality of your pelvic floor, but also strengthening it and making it healthier, both during and after pregnancy:
- Simple seated forward fold
- Cat/cow pose
- Downward-facing dog
- Plank on knees
- Chaturanga on knees
A birthing ball will also help with pelvic girdle pain and the soft yet sturdy material provides extra comfort. Just sit on the ball and use your buttocks to move around in gentle circular motions to engage the pelvic joints.
A pelvic support belt can also provide great relief!
Exercises to avoid with Pelvic Girdle Pain
Although there are many exercises that are able to help pelvic girdle pain, there are some you should avoid in your pursuit of an active lifestyle, these include:
- Any kind of squatting exercises including lunges
- Breast stroke-style swimming
- Walking briskly or taking long strides
- Lifting heavy weights or doing exercises which place heavy loads on your hips (again, think lunges, squats, deadlifts, good mornings, etc.)
Other ways to help
In addition to exercises targeting pelvic pain in pregnancy, alternative treatments exist that can help you to maintain an active lifestyle and offer tremendous relief. These include:
- A prenatal massage
Research has found a PGP support belt to be extremely helpful and one of the most effective ways of minimising pelvic girdle pain. These specialist belt's give gentle and steady compression during everyday activities, helping to support your growing belly and cut down discomfort that’s typically felt as you go about your daily activities.
Pregnancy support belts can also provide certain cues to your body so that it automatically reminds itself to observe proper posture. By supporting the torso and lower back, a maternity support belt prevents over extension of the lower back, while encouraging correct posture.
- Pain at the front and centre of the pubic bone, lower back region and in the perineum
- PGP & SPD exercises
- Birthing Ball
- Prenatal massage
- Pregnancy Support Belt
Although pelvic girdle pain is common during pregnancy, it doesn't take away how painful it can be. Try little changes to your lifestyle to make a big impact!