When I first heard about pelvic girdle pain, all that popped into my head was the phrase ‘gird your loins’. Nothing at all to do with pregnancy, the phrase originates with the tying up of tunics ahead of work or battle. Nowadays it’s used as a humorous warning to prepare yourself for a difficult task. Perhaps there is a link to pregnancy after all!
So what actually is pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP), previously referred to as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)? The umbrella term covers any pain from your lower back to your thigh, either at the front or back. Though highly uncomfortable, it is manageable. So here are some insights about the symptoms and tips for coping with it.
firstly, are pgp and spd the same?
The difference between pelvic girdle pain and symphysis pubis dysfunction comes down to a bit of anatomy. While PGP covers a wide area of the body, SPD refers to more localised pain. That’s because its namesake, the symphysis pubis, is the joint where the two main pubic bones meet at the front of your pelvis. As such, SPD is often used where discomfort centres on that point, while PGP is the overarching term for all pelvic pain in pregnancy.
what causes pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy
There are many factors in the development of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy and the hormone relaxin is a potential cause. It does exactly what it says on the tin, softening the muscles and ligaments around your pelvis. While you’ll be glad for the increased range of movement during labour, it can cause discomfort or pain if your joints become unbalanced.
Previous strain or damage to your pelvis and the surrounding area can also be a cause of pelvic girdle pain. Perhaps you’ve already felt the effects of PGP in a previous pregnancy or your work is physically demanding. And those who have a history of lower back pain or have taken a fall could be more likely to develop the condition too.
Also in the mix are arthritis or osteoarthritis and a predisposition to pelvic joints moving unevenly. As you might expect, the weight and position of your precious (and wiggling) babe can have an effect too. While it’s important to be aware of these factors, I don’t want you to worry unduly. Just because you tripped over your own two feet (speaking from personal experience) and landed on your hip doesn’t mean you’ll develop pelvic girdle pain.
symptoms of pregnancy pelvic girdle pain
Sit down for a cuppa with four other mums-to-be and chances are that one of you will be affected by PGP. Symptoms can occur at any time during your pregnancy or labour, and some women may experience pelvic girdle pain post pregnancy too. Symptoms can also be felt differently from mum to mum, just to keep you on your toes!
Before I delve any further, rest assured that pelvic girdle pain is not harmful to your little bundle. What’s more, you can still expect to welcome them into the world with a normal vaginal birth. Without further ado then, here’s some of the common signs and symptoms of PGP to look out for:
• Pain in the pubic and groin area • Lower back or hip pain, spreading to thigh pain • Difficulty walking or pain on weight-bearing leg • Trouble getting comfortable on your side • Clicking or grinding in the pelvic area • Pain or difficulty with movement during sex
Aside from the physical indicators, you may feel emotional symptoms too if you find it hard to cope. Feelings of sadness, frustration or anger can have as much of an effect on your daily life as PGP. Please know that you’re not alone in trying to keep sane during the hormone rollercoaster and the pain is usually very treatable.
how to ease pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy
When the pain kicks in, rest assured there are ways to relieve pelvic pain in pregnancy. First and foremost, speak up. Just because there’s no risk to your baby doesn’t mean you should deal with it alone. And while it’s not uncommon in pregnancy, it’s not normal either. Seeking advice from your midwife, GP or obstetrician helps get an early diagnosis.
If you know you’re suffering from pelvic girdle pain, there’s plenty you can do to help minimise the symptoms. An important first step is seeing a physiotherapist who will gently manipulate your joints to help improve their movement. They’re also likely to give you a range of PGP exercises to perform at home between visits. And when not with the physiotherapist, there are small changes you can make to help lessen your pain and discomfort.
Sleeping with pelvic girdle pain is made easier by putting a pillow between your knees as you lay on your side. And if it’s time to get dressed, doing so sitting down avoids putting all your weight on one leg, as does taking steps one at a time. Speaking of steps, move everything you need downstairs in the morning so you can relax with things close at hand. And relax you must! While staying active within the limits of your pain, it’s important to put your feet up too.
a little goes a long way
While I could be referring to imagination or cayenne pepper, I’m actually talking about help. Being a mum is hard enough work as it is! So whether you wear a maternity support belt, lean on crutches or on your family, make sure you don’t cope alone. If you need assistance with the kids, shopping or just getting comfy on the sofa, look to those around you. Hopefully, they can lend you a hand, or at the very least a cushion!