Pelvic pain in pregnancy: Symptoms and causes

Pelvic pain in pregnancy is quite common. Does it mean early labour or there are other causes of pelvic pain in pregnancy.

Pelvic pain is the dull ache or sharp jab that you may feel in the lower part of your tummy. It can happen due to various reasons and different stages in your life, but if you feel it during pregnancy, you will be concerned. When you are pregnant, your body will go through various changes. As part of your pregnancy journey, you may feel pain in different parts of the body. So, pelvic pain in pregnancy is usually common. The pain can be felt in the early or later stage of pregnancy when your baby grows. Let us find out the causes of pelvic pain in pregnancy.

Is it normal to have pelvic pain during pregnancy?

Yes, experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy is quite common and considered normal in many cases, says obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Nirmala M. It is not harmful to your baby, but it can be painful for the mother and make it difficult to move around, according to the UK’s National Health Service.

A woman having pelvic pain during pregnancy
When the baby grows, you may feel pelvic pain. Image courtesy: Freepik

As the body changes to accommodate the baby, it is natural to experience discomfort in the pelvic area. While it can occur at any point during the pregnancy, most women experience it in the later stages of pregnancy, during the second and third trimesters. This is because as the baby grows, there is more pressure on the pelvic area, and the body undergoes significant changes to prepare for childbirth, explains the expert.

What are the symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy?

While the symptoms can vary from person to person, some common signs and symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy are –

  • Pressure in your pelvic area
  • Pain in the pubic area including the pubic bone and groin
  • Pain across the lower back
  • Cramping pain almost like period cramps
  • Pain going down your thighs

What are the causes of pelvic pain during pregnancy?

Here are some reasons why you may experience pelvic pain:

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1. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)

SPD occurs when the ligaments that otherwise keep the pelvic bones aligned become too relaxed and stretchy. This happens during pregnancy and leads to pain in the pubic area.

2. Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)

PGP is a broader term that includes various types of pelvic pain during pregnancy, including SPD. It involves pain and discomfort in the pelvic area, lower back, hips, and thighs, says the expert.

3. Increased pressure on nerves

As the baby grows and the uterus expands, there is increased pressure on the nerves in the pelvis, which can lead to pain, tingling, or numbness. This pressure can be due to the baby’s position, the position of the placenta, or changes in the surrounding tissues.

4. Braxton Hicks contractions

Also known as false labour pains, they are irregular contractions in the uterus that can occur during pregnancy. They are the body’s way of preparing for the actual labour. They may cause pelvic discomfort or pressure in the pelvis.

5. Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is common during pregnancy and can cause pelvic pain, says the expert. The pain may be accompanied by other symptoms like frequent urination, burning sensation during urination, and bloody urine.

6. Diastasis recti

This is a common condition during and after pregnancy in which large abdominal muscles separate. It can sometimes feel like pelvic pain caused by SPD, says Dr Nirmala.

A pregnant woman sleeping
Find best sleeping position to alleviate pelvic pain during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to sleep with pelvic pain during pregnancy?

Relieving pelvic pain while sleeping can be difficult, but you can use these methods to alleviate the pain:

  • Use pillows to support your body and alleviate pressure on your pelvis. Use a pregnancy pillow that can provide support to your stomach, back, and hips while sleeping.
  • Try different sleeping positions like sleeping on the side with your knees bent, and see what feels the most comfortable to you.

What are the treatment options?

While treatment options for pelvic pain during pregnancy are different, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the pain, here are some common methods:

  • Physical therapy involves stretching exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Wearing a pelvic support belt or maternity support garment can help relieve pelvic pain, as it provides additional support to the abdomen and pelvis, reducing strain on ligaments and muscles.
  • In some cases, doctors may prescribe pain relief medicines that are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • It is essential to take frequent breaks, and avoid prolonged standing or sitting while prioritising relaxation that can help reduce pain in the pelvic area.

Some degree of pain and discomfort is common. But if the pain is persistent, too much to handle, or accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, fever, chills, or contractions, you should consult your doctor. These may be signs of more serious conditions like an ovarian cyst, infection, or even early labour.