Hip pain during pregnancy is extremely common. You may have already been diagnosed with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP). These are term maternity professionals use to describe general hip pain from your lower back to your thighs. We’ve written this guide to give you all the information you need to know about coping with hip pain in pregnancy. We want to help you gain some control back from the impact the pain is having on your daily life.
In this guide you’ll find:
- Common causes of hip pain in pregnancy
- How to relieve hip pain
- Tips to prevent pain
- Preparing for labour
First let’s start by looking at the symptoms of pelvic pain during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Pregnancy Hip Pain
Hip Pain can happen at any time during pregnancy. It is more common in the third trimester. Pain will be kept to a minimum if it is treated as early as possible. Symptoms will include:
- Pain in your pubic bone, lower back, hips, groin, thighs or knees
- Difficulty walking
- Clicking or grinding noises when you move
- Difficulty opening legs (forward or sideways)
- Pain when standing on one leg or uneven surface
- Pain during sex
If you suffer from these symptoms on a regular basis then tell your midwife or obstetrician. They will refer you to a physiotherapist who can diagnose and provide treatment for your pain.
Common Causes of Hip Pain during Pregnancy
During pregnancy your body releases a hormone called relaxin. This hormone helps to soften the ligament in your body in preparation for birth. When the ligaments are more flexible the nerves and muscles can sometimes struggle to adjust to the changes. This is often what leads to pain around various ligaments in the pelvis.
This is a type of nerve pain which crosses over the hips. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back to your feet. Swelling around these nerves from extra weight or fluid can cause them to become pinched. The pain is often described as shooting or burning sensation and often only occur on one side.
Pain the runs along your hip bones is often caused by the round ligaments. These ligaments are stretched upwards during pregnancy to support your growing uterus. The stretching of these ligaments can often cause a sharp shooting pain with movement. Usually these pains don’t start until the second trimester as your uterus grows above the pelvis.
The extra weight from your baby and amniotic fluid will put strain on your hips. If you have a small frame with a large bump it can put a lot of pressure onto the hip area which is holding it in place. Try to eat as healthy as possible during pregnancy to avoid excessive weight gain.
Pregnancy will change your body shape to cope with the extra load. Your spine will slightly curve to support your growing baby. These posture changes can put a lot of stain of your muscles and ligaments. Try to walk and sit as upright as possible. Slumping when seated can worsen your pelvic pain and cause back pain too.
If you’ve had a previous injury to your back or hips this worsen with pregnancy. Horse riding or car accidents are fairly common causes of this. If you start to feel painful niggles you should have a physio referral as soon as possible. You might even want to mention any previous injury or hip pain in a previous pregnancy at your booing appointment, so your midwife can organise a quick referral or open appointment.
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9 Ways to Relieve Hip Pain during Pregnancy
If your hip pain is making you miserable try these methods to ease the pain.
You’ll probably still be going about your daily life until you get into the last few weeks of pregnancy. Remember that pregnancy takes a lot out of your body. You need to rest more often than usual. Adding even a 15 minute nap to your day will make you feel so much better. If you’re feeling sore rest, stop what you are doing and rest.
2. Thermal Therapy
Using heat or cold can really help relieve pain. The rule of thumb is that sudden onset pain or inflammation should be treated with cold. If it’s an ongoing pain then heat can provide relief. Try sitting or lying with a hot water bottle or heat pack on the sore area.
3. Pain Killers
If nothing seems to be working then mild painkillers can be used to take the edge off the pain. Paracetamol is safe to use in pregnancy. Anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen shouldn’t be used as it can cause problems for your baby. If you need something stronger you would need to consult your doctor for a stronger prescriptions such as co-codamol or tramadol. DO note that regular use of strong pain killer sin pregnancy can cause baby symptoms of withdrawal after birth.
Regular stretches can help to strengthen muscles weakened by pregnancy. It can also help to improve posture and align the joints and ligaments. If possible consult with a physiotherapist for customised stretched for your sore areas. A yoga class for pregnancy is a great way to target these areas at a slower pace.
5. Water Exercises
Water is great for exercising without the weight bearing. Aquanatal classes and swimming are great for keeping active in pregnancy. Start early in pregnancy and build up your muscle strength. Try to swim by front crawl as it’s easiest on the legs. The leg movement of a breast stroke can lead to leg pain after your swim.
6. Maternity Support Belt
Using a support belt can help to redistribute the load from strained areas. These belts are placed over the hip area and provide support for your bump. Your physio may be able to provide you with a tubigrip support for free. If you want a belt which is easier to put on and adjustable. Check out the Neotech belt it’s the best rated pregnancy belt on Amazon.
A good massage is well known to make you feel rested and relaxed. The manipulation of the muscles can release tension and help aches and pains. Always contact a massage therapist who is trained for pregnancy. If you have severe hip pain a chiropractor or osteopath will target bones and joints too. Always ask your obstetrician if it’s safe for you to have massage particularly if you have a high risk pregnancy.
8. Pregnancy Pillow
Sleep can be greatly affected by hip pain and worsens as your bump grows. A pregnancy pillow can help to support your hips, back and legs as you sleep. Side sleeping is best with a pillow for support between your knees. Lying of the left side is best for baby as it helps them get more oxygen, however choose a position that is comfortable for you.
Studies have found acupuncture to be effective at helping hip pain in pregnancy. The RCOG even recommend it as a suggested treatment for pelvic pain. Your obstetrician may be able to refer you for treatment, however the availability varies from area to area.
Daily Life with Hip Pain
There are a few changes you can make to your daily life that will help prevent making your hip pain worse.
- Shoes – If you are on your feet a lot you need supportive shoes. High heels shoes be avoided as they cause your pelvis to tilt at an exaggerated angle. Support insoles can help improve the support from your footwear.
- Body balance – Try to keep the body aligned at all times. This means avoid twisting, bending, crossing your legs and getting out of bed or the car one leg at a time.
- Living aids – For severe hip pain a physio can loan you mobility aids. You may be offered crutches or a wheelchair if walking is too painful. Other aids include bath boards, bed levers, raised toilet supports and shower chairs.
- Mattress Check – A soft mattress can make your hip pain a lot worse. Uneven springs can also cause poor posture in bed. We highly recommend checking your mattress and consider buying a replacement.
- Accept Help – Don’t be afraid to ask people to help. This is important for task which require excessive mobility. For regular activates such as shopping, why not get it delivered to the house.
- Work – If you are struggling with your regular work duties you need to discuss this with your employer. As part of your risk assessment your employer should adapt your work duties to your abilities, adjust your working hours or offer more breaks.
Planning for Birth
Hip pain can leave you worrying about your labour. Let’s tackle some of the most common concerns.
Your doctor may offer to get your labour started early with medication if the pain in affecting your daily life. Remember that your pelvic pain may not go away straight after delivery. The risk of induction should be considered carefully. Induction often leads to increase need for epidural, reduced mobility and instrumental or caesarean delivery. All of which can prolong your recovery period.
A natural delivery is still possible when you have hip pain. Your midwife will offer you extra support during the labour to ease any pain. You might want to consider a water birth for ease of movement during the labour. Changing position regularly will prevent your hips causing extra pain during labour. Your midwife will also asses how far you can abduct your legs. This is so they can provide physical support during the second stage when you push baby out.
Hip pain is not an indication for having an elective caesarean section. Remember it is major surgery and can slow down your recovery after birth. However your situation should be discussed with your obstetrician based on your medical and pregnancy history.
If your hip pain is pregnancy related it will take around 6 week after birth to resolve. There are a few things you should keep in mind if your mobility is still restricted after delivery.
Prevent Blood Clots – If your movement is restricted you are at higher risk of getting a blood clot. The doctors may recommend you wear compression stocking and have blood thinning injections to prevent this. You should also keep well hydrated.
Facilities – Ask your midwife if it’s possible for you to have an en-suite toilet or to situated near the toilets. This will help you to keep mobile, without the pain caused by long walks to the bathroom.