Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) refers to pain felt at the back of the pelvis, on either side of the pelvis and/or over the joint at the front of the pelvis which is called the pubic symphysis. PGP is common during pregnancy and studies report more than half of all pregnant women experience some PGP. Fortunately, almost all of these women (90%) recover before their baby has turned one. It is important to know that pelvic girdle pain cannot harm your baby, but by reducing the symptoms you are more likely to remain active and comfortable during your pregnancy.
The cause of pelvic girdle pain is normally a combination of changes happening in your body as your baby grows. Your growing baby stretches your abdominal muscles and the position of the baby changes your centre of gravity. This can affect your balance and the way you stand and walk. The pelvis is actually made up of three bones; a left and right pelvic bone and the sacrum, which is the triangular shaped bone at the base of the spine. These three bones are held together like a jigsaw and the joints do not normally move. When you are pregnant your body produces a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin loosens your ligaments so that the pelvis can widen to hold the growing baby and helps prepare your body for the birth. When the ligaments in the pelvis are looser, the muscles around the pelvis have to work extra hard in order to maintain good support for the pelvic joints.
The symptoms of PGP range from pain in the pelvis as mentioned above, but can also refer into the lower back, hips, groin, thighs and even sometimes knees. Often the pain is made worse by movement such as walking long distances, getting in and out of the car, climbing the stairs, rolling over in bed or during sexual intercourse. PGP can be mild or severe and can occur at any stage of the pregnancy, but it is more common in the second and third trimesters.
PGP can be treated at any stage of the pregnancy and the quicker you get help from your health professional, the more comfortable you will be. Your physiotherapist can help treat both the symptoms and the cause. Using ice to settle inflammation and resting the joints for a couple of days is a good place to start. Some ways you can help reduce PGP are standing with correct posture, sitting to get dressed, keeping your legs together when getting in and out of the car and lying with a pillow between your legs to sleep.
If your muscles are overworking, they probably need loosening and they will certainly need strengthening. Your physio can show you safe exercises to strengthen your core muscles including your pelvic floor, back and deep abdominals as well as your glute muscles. In some cases, if your muscles require extra support, then your physiotherapist can fit you with tubigrip (a bandage to give your tummy support), or a pelvic belt that provides firmer support to the pelvis. Very occasionally, if your symptoms are more severe and persistent, then your physio may recommend using crutches
Remember, PGP is not something you just have to ‘put up with’ until your baby is born. Early diagnosis and treatment relieves symptoms and our experienced Physiotherapists can help you continue with your normal everyday activities and be well for this exciting time in your life.
Please speak with us if you have any enquiries and remember our new Pelvic Smart Pre- Natal Pilates classes begin in April on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings (9486 1918).
Rosie has particular interest in sports and women’s health having recently completed the APA Level One Continence and Pelvic Floor course’. Rosie also has extensive pilates experience and has continued her education with courses in APPI Pilates, pre and post-natal Pilates, the DMA method and high-level suspension training.