Ouch! It’s only the second trimester and yet your hips and pelvis have started to ache… what’s going on? Is it pelvic girdle pain?
You probably thought that you’d have quite a bit more time before you started to feel the aches and pains of pregnancy. Unfortunately, your pelvis has other ideas.
There’s this little condition known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) or pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PRPGP) [can these acronyms be anymore of a mouthful] which causes your pelvis to destabilize during pregnancy. It’s commonly thought to occur because of hormones, not because of weight and it can happen at any time including very early in your pregnancy.
What does this mean for you? If you’re feeling the effects of SPD you know that it makes everyday activities difficult and can make pregnancy a real trial.
I experienced SPD/PRPGP during pregnancy with my little one. When I was about 14 weeks pregnant I ran to catch a bus, thinking I was fine (fit as a fiddle!) and I came down a bit heavy on one step. My hip was a bit sore after that, but I didn’t think anything of it.
The next day when I sat on the bus on a sideways seat, anytime the bus came to a stop and my weight shifted from one hip to the other I was in extreme pain across my pubic bone, inner thighs and hips.
It all went downhill from there.
As my pregnancy progressed, my pain went from one hip to the other. Visited my pubic bone and in underneath and down my inner thighs. Sometimes my tailbone would hurt, other times it would just all be very painful. I felt like my whole pelvis was falling apart. My pubic bone ground together when I moved and it was excruciating.
There are things that helped:
- physiotherapy – gentle exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor and stretch and relax muscles that have tightened and overcompensated.
- pelvic support band – holds everything in and was a lifesaver!
- pregnancy pillow – the only thing that let me sleep.
As you might also be doing, when I was pregnant and suffering from SPD I went looking for anything that could help. I collected quite a list. Here it is!
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1. See your doctor
Your first stop should be to see your doctor and ask for a referral to a physiotherapist. Doctors will sometimes discount your pain because you’re pregnant and ‘didn’t you expect that it was going to be a little bit painful or uncomfortable?’ Grrr. Don’t take this answer, ask them for a referral to a physio who can give you exercises that help so you can continue to do your daily activities as long as possible.
2. Always keep your legs together
Always always always keep your legs together. Do not ever stand on one foot for any reason whatsoever.
This means you need to sit down on your bed to put your pants on.
This mean sitting on the edge of the bathtub and moving your legs together to get in.
This means never doing lunges or squats because they put a heck of a lot of pressure through the inner thighs and pelvic floor region.
Finally, when rolling over in bed or getting out of bed you must must must keep your knees together.
Even if it feels silly. Even if you’re having a good day and you feel strong.
Don’t ever separate your legs. It’s not worth it.
3. Keep your pelvis squared
Sleeping is a real trial when you’ve got pelvic pain. You have to keep your pelvis squared at all times.
If you’re like me this is not your natural sleeping position. It’s hard enough having to sleep exclusively on your left side because of the pregnancy rules let alone having to keep your pelvis precisely squared. What this means is you need a pregnancy pillow… or more than one.
You need a pillow between your knees to keep the distance between your knees approximately hip width. To counterbalance this you also need your ankles to have a pillow between them so that the weight of your leg top leg isn’t dragging down your top hip. Ouch. Alternatively you can get one crazy big pregnancy pillow that wraps around you like a cocoon. I like this one… It’s quite cozy!
You’ll also probably find that the bottom hip gets sore (mine did). So you’ll need to change positions frequently.
If you find yourself needing even more support, here are some of the best ones you can get on Amazon (and they’re Prime so you can get them quick):
4. Change positions frequently
Lying down hurts.
What’s a pregnant mama to do?
The only thing you can do is to change positions frequently. If you’re working at a desk job, make sure you’re getting up at least once or twice an hour and going on a short walk. If you have to stand for your job, make sure you’ve got extremely comfortable and supportive shoes like these ones and, if possible, a place to sit down for short breaks.
5. Wear satin pyjamas to bed
When you add pelvic girdle pain into the mix the whole thing can be excruciating. One pregnant SPD mama found that satin pyjamas make it easier to get out of bed – the satin makes you slide better.
Now, it’s hard to find maternity pj’s in satin. Not to say it can’t be done, but if you’re struggling, give these ones from Amazon a go – just get a size or two up (or more). They’re relatively inexpensive… I would’ve paid any price to get a little relief.
6. Put a plastic bag down on your car seat
Driving puts a lot of unequal pressure through your hips. So, it’s tough enough.
Getting in and out of the car can also be quite difficult without splitting your stance. If you put a plastic bag down on the driver’s seat you can keep your knees together and slide on the plastic bag and get your legs out of the car without separating your knees.
7. Get a pregnancy support belt
One thing that really helped me was getting a tubigrip. It’s a bandage in a closed loop. It’s quite heavily elasticated and goes around your waist from to upper thigh. It helps to stabilize your pelvic area and can provide amazing relief.
Whenever I needed to go out (grocery shopping or for fun), I made sure I had my tubigrip. Without it my hips and pelvis became incredibly sore.
Other pregnancy support belts, like this one, provide even more support. The best thing about getting a support belt is you can keep using them after your baby is born.
8. Gentle exercise in water
Can I just say here that SPD doesn’t have anything to do with weight.
Skinny people get it just as much as those who are overweight. But if you’re overweight, your doctor may tell you that’s the reason why you’re feeling pain.
You probably heard the advice that you should go for walks and keep fit during your pregnancy for an easier labour and recovery. This might seem impossible with pelvic girdle pain. It hurts to walk, let alone do any of those other exercises.
What can you do is try walking in water.
The water provides some stabilizing pressure surrounding your hips so it can really help, plus it’s nice to have that relief from pressure of gravity.
One SPD mama recommended walking in warm salty water. So if you have a sea bath or if you’re conveniently located at the beach, try walking in the salt water.
9. Be careful using a glider
I loved my glider. I spent so many hours rocking my little one back to sleep in there.
But, I think it may have contributed to the long and slow recovery that I had because pushing off with your feet on the glider puts a lot of pressure through your pelvis and pubic bone.
Take that with a grain of salt if you will, but just be mindful 🙂
10. Positions during labour
When you have pelvic pain you have to be careful what positions you use during labour and delivery to avoid causing more strain to your pelvis
Do not allow yourself to be put in a position where you’re pushing against a person with your legs.
You won’t be able to push with equal pressure through both legs. That force will transfer through your pelvis unevenly and hurt afterwards. You’re already going to be recovering from birth so you don’t want to anymore difficulty.
The position I used, which worked well, was on all fours on the bed with the bed head raised a little.
11. Accept your limitations
There’s definitely a recovery period post-birth for your SPD. Accept your limitations.
I was obsessed with baby carriers, I wanted to carry my baby. I wanted to wear my baby constantly and I had several carriers.
But, I couldn’t even walk 20 metres in the first few weeks after my baby was born. It was hard to get out of my chair while holding my baby. It took a long time for my fitness and strength to return.
12. Always wear supportive shoes
You’ve probably stopped wearing heels, but if you’ve got pelvic pain it’s critically important that you not only wear flat shoes but comfortable and supportive shoes that will help your pelvis stay in the correct position.
In the end…
… the pain will be worth it, your baby will be here, and it will be water under the bridge. You will recover and it will fade to a distant memory.
Have you ever experienced SPD or PRPGP in pregnancy before? Let us know if you’ve got any tips!