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Pelvic pain during pregnancy: causes and what to do about it

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Octavia Hamilton

Many women develop pelvic pain during pregnancy, which is sometimes referred to as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). You might feel pain across one or both sides or at the back of your pelvis, around your vulva or over your pubic bone, and even spreading to your thighs.

The pelvis is a complex ring of bones that is held together with very strong ligaments. Generally speaking, the role of your pelvis is to transmit force from your legs to your trunk. But during pregnancy, the pelvis has to start worrying about housing and birthing a baby too, which it makes possible through changes in hormones, posture, and in turn muscle strength and length. The downside of this is that these changes can cause irritation - and therefore pain - through the joints of the pelvis.

As with all pain, the earlier you intervene and do something about it, the better. This is mainly because when we’re in pain we tend to change the way we move to compensate, which can actually reinforce pains or introduce new ones.

Pelvic girdle pain can come on gradually or suddenly after a fall or slip. If you’ve had PGP before, or you have an old pelvic injury, or a history of lower back pain or hyper-mobility, you are more likely to suffer from PGP.

Generally, after you've given birth, your pelvic pain will start to go because the load is gone and your hormones and posture will begin to normalise. But for some people it can continue. Pregnancy hormones can linger well beyond the fourth trimester and until a few months after you stop breastfeeding.⁠

Every individual person is different and so it’s always best to be assessed by a physiotherapist as soon as you have any sign of pain. You can ask your GP to refer you to a physiotherapist, ideally one who is experienced in obstetric pelvic joint problems. They’ll be able to recommend what’s best in your specific case, but you could be looking at some changes to your routine to minimise load and stress on the area, manual therapy with a physiotherapist, plus a series of exercises to strengthen the area.