FFHQ Pregnancy Expert and Midwife Avril Flynn talks about what to do if you have pelvic pain during pregnancy and where you can go for help.
Although pregnancy is a normal, generally healthy life event and is not an illness, some of the changes that occur can be very challenging.
Approximately 1 in 5 or 20% of people who are pregnant will suffer from pelvic pain. The medical terms that can be used are Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP), or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
Pregnancy hormones, like Relaxin, affect the ligaments throughout the body, particularly around the pelvis. These hormones, combined with the weight of the growing baby and the physical effects of how the pregnant body distributes weight, can lead to huge discomfort for mothers to be.
For some mothers, pelvic pain happens toward the end of the pregnancy and is tolerable but for others, it can happen much earlier on and can be so severe that walking, sitting or standing are all extremely challenging and sometimes impossible.
If it happens with a first pregnancy it is more likely to happen with subsequent pregnancies and affect the mother earlier on.
Symptoms might include discomfort or pain on walking, difficulty going up or downstairs, pain in the central pubic region extending to one or other side of the pelvis, lower back pain, pain in the perineal area (between the vagina and anus), pain while in bed or difficulty turning from one side to the other, discomfort getting out of the car or moving from a chair to a standing position.
The message is if you have any of these symptoms then let your midwife or doctor or GP know straight away. The sooner you get diagnosed the sooner you can get some help, treatment and advice. While during pregnancy it may be impossible to totally alleviate the discomfort and pain you can do several things to ease the symptoms and make the pregnancy more tolerable.
Once you let your care provider know then they can refer you to a women’s health and pregnancy physiotherapist. These highly qualified medical professionals are experts in helping women during pregnancy and have vast experience in how to treat and alleviate pelvic pain. The earlier you are seen, the better. The physio will assess you and diagnose the exact source of your discomfort or pain correctly.
They can use a variety of different aids and treatments which might help. These can include manual therapy and exercises to strengthen your joints or your pelvic floor, exercises to do in water or at home, advice on how to get in and out of bed, chairs or your car correctly.
They can also provide you with equipment like sticks, crutches, support bands or special pillows to use to help you. If you are working, the physio can also advise you on what work might be suitable or unsuitable and liaise with occupational health team in work or elsewhere to ensure your workplace is not going to make things worse for you – your employers are legally obliged to help you.
It can be very challenging to cope with any level of discomfort at any time, but especially during pregnancy. For most women, they can still give birth vaginally with PGP but if you are unsure then always get advice from your physio, midwife or Consultant.
Know you are not alone and for most women, the problem goes away totally at about 6 weeks after delivery and although hard to handle, it has no effect on your baby or their development.