Pain during pregnancy can cause worry, especially for first-time mothers. Not only does it create discomfort, but it also causes concerns for the well-being of your baby.
Some pain and discomfort during pregnancy is normal, as your body adjusts to accommodate your developing baby, so it’s important to know what is normal versus what requires a visit to a medical professional.
JAG PT developed the Women’s Health Physical Therapy Program to help women with health issues, including pregnancy-related aches and pains. Our trained professionals are here to lend support and assistance so you can have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
Note: If you’re experiencing pain or pressure, it’s important to first confirm with your medical doctor that your pregnancy is normal and healthy. Once you confirm this with your doctor, our trained staff are happy to help you relieve these pains for a more comfortable pregnancy.
What causes pelvic pain during pregnancy?
Vaginal and pelvic pressure are common complaints of expectant mothers. Most pain during the first trimester is from cramping as your uterus starts to expand.
As your baby grows and your blood volume increases, you may begin to feel like something is pushing down. This is especially common during the second and third trimesters. Since your pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, rectum, small intestine, and uterus, everything can feel compressed as the baby’s head pushes downward in preparation for the birthing process.
Another culprit for pelvic pain is relaxin, the hormone responsible for loosening your ligaments to make childbirth easier. As relaxin levels increase, you can experience pain near the pubic bone and your legs may feel shaky.
Should I worry about pelvic pain in pregnancy?
That depends on the kind of pain you are having and whether there are other symptoms. During first-trimester cramping, if you also start spotting or bleeding, you should call your doctor. Other warnings that it’s time to call your doctor about pelvic pain include:
- Bloody bowel movements
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
- Reduced movement from the baby
- Repeated diarrhea
- Severe pain
Some of these symptoms, when accompanied by pelvic pain, can signal dangerous conditions like preeclampsia or placental abruption and require immediate medical attention.
When should I see a medical professional for pregnancy pains?
When you’re pregnant, it can be difficult to determine which pains are related to the normal pregnancy process and which are not. There also is a difference between pressure and pain.
Pelvic pressure during pregnancy can feel like menstrual cramps. Many women also experience low back pressure.
On the other hand, symptoms of pelvic pain can make it feel like your pelvis is coming apart. You also might have difficulty walking. Lying down or sitting in certain positions can sometimes exacerbate the pain.
Pain and pressure are most likely to happen during the second and third trimesters when the baby is growing, and the relaxin hormone ramps up production in preparation for birth. When lightening – the dropping of the baby into the birth canal – occurs, pelvic and rectal pain can become more frequent.
Sciatica during pregnancy — If you feel shooting pains down the back of your leg, that is likely sciatica and probably means the baby is pushing against your sciatic nerve. Some pregnant women can experience sciatica later in pregnancy, and although this can be very uncomfortable, it is not harmful to the baby. Stretches, gentle massage, and physical therapy can help with this pain.
If you’re unsure whether the pain is normal or cause for concern, it’s best to be evaluated by your medical provider. If you’re experiencing pelvic pain or pressure, it’s important to be aware of the following:
- Ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, can be life-threatening to both mother and child. Symptoms can include anything from mild pressure to severe pain, dizziness, or vaginal bleeding. If you’re experiencing pain frequently, it’s important to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. This can be done most accurately with a transvaginal ultrasound after 5-6 weeks of pregnancy.
- A Urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause localized pain and pressure in the lower abdomen and can be common in pregnant women. Usually, a UTI during pregnancy is fine, but you should still call your doctor, because it sometimes leads to complications, like preterm labor or low birth weight.
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting is somewhat common, especially during the first trimester. However, if it occurs, it’s still important to call your doctor and have an ultrasound to confirm you have a normal pregnancy. In some cases, spotting or bleeding can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage — so it should always be addressed immediately.
What kind of treatments work best for pelvic pain relief during pregnancy?
Even when your pelvic pain and pressure are normal, you do not need to suffer through it. There are treatments that can help.
Physiotherapy and physical therapy are effective and safe treatments for relieving normal pelvic pain and pressure during pregnancy. The caring and experienced staff at JAG PT take a personalized approach to understand your unique situation and needs.
Our Women’s Health Physical Therapy Program was created to specifically address the unique physical therapy needs of women. Our therapists use targeted exercises, stretches, and other techniques to help ease the pain. They can address pain triggers like flexibility, nerves, and posture.
Some of the therapies that work best for expectant mothers include the following:
- Exercises that support the back, hips, pelvic floor, and stomach help ease low back and pelvic discomfort. Strengthen these areas before, during, and after pregnancy. Our physical therapists work with each expectant mother to devise an exercise plan that targets their specific pain points.
- Water-based exercises like swimming and stretching relieve pain while providing support to expanding bellies.
- Heating pads work well for soothing aching muscles, especially in the lower back. Never use a heating pad for more than 20 minutes and only on the lowest setting. Warm baths or showers also can help soothe aching lower back muscles.
- Light stretching techniques can help pregnant women’s bodies adjust to the many physical changes that can lead to low back and pelvic pressure and pain.
- Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a regular chair can help reduce spinal compression, which can trigger low back pain.
Postpartum care and recovery
Pelvic pain can also occur after giving birth. Musculoskeletal changes during pregnancy and birth can leave new mothers with ongoing discomfort in the back, hips, pelvis, and tailbone. Postpartum physical therapy can help. Treating any lingering issues promptly improves your chances of lasting relief. Our therapists can conduct a postpartum physical therapy checkup to assess the following:
- Abdominal muscle strength and abdominal separation
- Mobility, pelvic alignment, and posture
- Pelvic floor muscle tone, pain, prolapse, and weakness
Using a detailed medical history, our therapists will then recommend treatment options that include physical therapy in our office or at home. If necessary, they may refer new mothers to specialists for additional treatment of conditions not suited to physical therapy care.
Treat pregnancy pain & discomfort with JAG Physical Therapy
Expectant mothers do not have to suffer from pelvic pain during their pregnancies. Starting your treatment plan with JAG PT as soon as possible produces the best results. You can get the care you need so you can go back to enjoying your pregnancy pain-free.
To get started with your pelvic pain during pregnancy treatment today, contact us or make an appointment with our friendly, experienced team. JAG PT offers expert physical therapy at over 100 locations throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
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