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What is pelvic pain during pregnancy?

A woman’s body undergoes several changes during pregnancy, and pelvic pain is not uncommon. The discomfort and pain occur because the body is making space as the baby grows. However, it can sometimes be a sign that something is wrong. It is important to understand the body and the signs it is giving out, and know when to look for medical attention.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

There can be several reasons for experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy. The pregnant woman may feel the pain, particularly when climbing stairs, walking long distances, turning onto one side in sleep or when bending. Some characteristic signs of pelvic pain during pregnancy are:

  • Pain in the lower back – on one side or both
  • Perineal pain – pain in the area between the anus and vagina
  • Pain in the lower abdomen just above the pubic area

What are the main causes?

Reasons for pelvic pain during pregnancy can be varied. The most common reason is that the body is making space as the baby grows, and the pain is caused by the adjustment of all the other organs in the process. Here are some other causes of pelvic discomfort and pain during pregnancy:

  • Cysts in the ovaries can be particularly painful, especially if they grow larger or rupture. If you have a history of ovarian cysts, you should be particularly careful at this stage.
  • Pain in the uterine ligaments can also occur as the baby grows, and the change in the angle of the uterus starts to make the ligaments around stretch.
  • Sometimes the pain can simply be the result of the growing size of the baby putting pressure on the lower abdomen.
  • Pre-term contractions, fake contractions or Braxton Hicks contractions, as they are known, are normal and common, and can also cause pain or a feeling of discomfort in the pelvic region.
  • Problems like urinary tract infections and constipation are common during pregnancy and can give rise to pain, which can sometimes be very severe.
  • Other serious problems include ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, pre-term labour, fibroids in the uterus, kidney stones, appendicitis or placental abruption (condition where the placenta separates from the uterus).

How is it diagnosed and treated?

It is important to get an early diagnosis when you feel any discomfort that is unusual. It is possible that the pain will not go away entirely until the baby is born, but some relief can be provided. Doctors usually conduct a physical examination and may also request an ultrasound in order to detect the exact cause of the pain.

When suffering from pelvic pain during pregnancy, doctors may provide a belt or crutches in order to support the abdomen during advanced pregnancy. They may suggest therapy to strengthen pelvic muscles and muscles in the area around it, or some simple exercises to smoothen movement in the hip and joints. Other simple methods to work around pelvic pain include finding the right sleeping position, wearing comfortable footwear, ensuring adequate rest, allowing for sufficient exercise and activity, avoiding bending, accommodating safer positions during sex, caution while taking the stairs and using an ice pack to help with the pain and swelling in the abdomen.

  1. Medicines for Pelvic pain during pregnancy

References

  1. Healthdirect Australia. Pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy. Australian government: Department of Health
  2. Kanakaris NK, Roberts CS, Giannoudis PV. Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain: an update. BMC Med. 2011 Feb 15;9:15. PMID: 21324134
  3. Verstraete EH, Vanderstraeten G, Parewijck W. Pelvic Girdle Pain during or after Pregnancy: a review of recent evidence and a clinical care path proposal. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2013;5(1):33-43. PMID: 24753927
  4. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Pelvic pain in pregnancy.
  5. Department of Health[internet]. Government of Australia; Pelvic girdle pain.

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