Pelvic pain during pregnancy is extremely common and oftentimes harmless, but it’s important to understand the various symptoms and causes of pelvic pain during pregnancy so you can know when you should consult your doctor.
Pelvic Pain or Pressure?
It is important to know the difference between pelvic pain and pelvic pressure. Pelvic pressure often feels like cramps that are similar to menstrual cramps and can be present in the rectum area and in the lower back. This could be the beginning signs of cervical effacement or dilation—the beginning stages of labor! This pressure is most likely to occur in the second and third trimesters. Pelvic pain is different. Pelvic pain is often a more wrenching pain that can make it difficult to walk.
What Causes it?
There are numerous different factors that can cause pelvic pressure during pregnancy. Anything from stretching ligaments to the weight of the baby can cause pain in that region of the body.
In the first trimester some women feel light cramping in the pelvic area that is caused by their uterus expanding. This is less likely to be felt in second or third pregnancies.
Women who have a history of ovarian cysts, or think they have developed them during pregnancy should inform their ob-gyn. These cysts can sometimes grow larger during pregnancy. The pressure from your expanding uterus can cause persistent pain. There can be some complications with this kind of cyst pain, so be sure to inform your doctor if you are experiencing any sharp constant pain that may include nausea, vomiting or sweating.
Round ligament pain is one of the most common causes of pelvic pain during pregnancy. The ligament that runs from the top to the bottom of your uterus experiences a lot of strain as the baby grows significantly larger in the second trimester. This ligament stretching can be pretty uncomfortable!
Another cause of pelvic pain is the relaxing or separating of your pelvic joints toward the end of pregnancy. A hormone called relaxin is released to relax a woman’s joints and prepare her for labor and birth. This separation of joints can cause pain in the pubic bone area.
While most causes of pelvic pain are normal and all part of the process, sometimes pain can be a signal that something serious is going on. Pelvic pain can be a symptom of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, uterine rupture, preeclamspia or other illnesses unrelated to pregnancy such as appendicitis or kidney stones.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- pelvic pain you can’t walk or talk through
- any bleeding
- sudden swelling of hands, face or feet
- watery, bloody or greenish discharge
- Insistent vomiting
It is always better to annoy your doctor with a problem that isn’t serious than to ignore a serious problem in order to avoid bothering your doctor.
What you can do
There are many ways to relieve some of the everyday pelvic pains that result from growing a baby. You can:
- Take a warm bath. You can get a break from the weight of the baby pressing down on your pelvic area and the heat will help to relax your muscles and ligaments
- Do some pelvic tilts
- Relax with your hips elevated
- Buy a belly sling that will help to relieve some pressure and weight off your pelvis
- Get a prenatal massage by a certified masseuse. This will help assuage all kinds of pregnancy related discomfort!
- Exercise as a preventative measure to pelvic pain
Pregnancy is a miraculous and wonderful season of life for many women—but it is almost never a pain-free season! Growing a human is not an easy job, and it does take a toll on your body. Taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising and listening to your body is especially important when another little human is depending on you for all of their resources. Pelvic pain during pregnancy isn’t fun, but it’s part of the territory. You can do a lot to relieve and minimize it, but not many women can avoid it. But cheer up—holding your sweet little baby in your arms will help you forget those long, long months of swollen ankles and cramping!
Featured photo credit: M Sunderstrom via flickr.com