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Pelvic pain in pregnancy

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Pelvic girdle pain refers to pain or discomfort in your lower back, pelvis, hips, or thighs during pregnancy.
  • This pain can be mild or severe, and you may find you have difficulty sitting, standing and walking.
  • Pelvic pain is common in pregnancy, but you are more likely to have it if you had back or pelvic pain before you were pregnant, had an injury to the area, your work is physically demanding, you are overweight or you smoke.
  • Your GP, obstetrician and physiotherapist can help you to manage your pelvic pain in pregnancy.
  • Depending on your circumstances, your health team may recommend that you modify your daily activities, wear a pelvic support garment, or they may refer you to physiotherapy and exercise programs.

What is pelvic girdle pain?

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) refers to pain or discomfort in the lower back or pelvis during pregnancy. The pain may also extend to your upper thighs and perineum. During pregnancy your pelvic ligaments relax, and other joints become more mobile. This can result in pain in the pelvic area. Pelvic girdle pain usually goes away without treatment after birth, though symptoms may return in future pregnancies.

What are the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy?

If you have PGP, you may only have mild discomfort in your pelvis or back. Alternatively, you may have severe pain making it difficult for you to sit, stand, walk and move around. Each person has a different levels of pain or discomfort.

Who gets pelvic pain in pregnancy?

Some people are more likely to have PGP than others. If you had back or pelvic pain before your pregnancy or had PGP in a previous pregnancy, you are more likely to have PGP in your current pregnancy. If you have had a back or pelvic injury, you are also more likely to develop PGP. Other risk factors for PGP include the number of times you’ve been pregnant, physically demanding work, being overweight, emotional distress, or smoking.

Who can help with pelvic pain?

If you are experiencing back, pelvic, or hip pain during pregnancy, you should see your doctor. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and do a physical examination. It is important to see a doctor so you can be sure that your pain is because of PGP.

Your doctor may suggest that you see a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can teach you exercises to help you to manage your pain.

If your pain is severe and you are not improving with standard care, you may be referred to a specialist pain service.

How is pelvic girdle pain treated?

There are several strategies that you can use to help you manage and control pelvic girdle pain. First, you can try and identify what daily activities cause you pain and try to adjust or avoid those activities. For example, you can avoid wearing high heeled shoes and standing on one leg. You can also reduce weight-bearing activities like climbing stairs or walking and standing for long periods of time. You can also try to avoid activities that involve straining your hip, like getting in and out of a car or bath, or squatting.

Wearing a pelvic support garment can also help to reduce pain. Pelvic support garments can help to stabilise your pelvic girdle and improve symptoms if the garment is fitted correctly and used for short periods of time. Ask your physiotherapist for more information about pelvic support garments.

You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist about medicines that can help you to manage your pain so you can continue with your daily activities. This may include taking medicines like paracetamol.

Physiotherapy and exercise programs can help to reduce pain too. They may also help to correct the problem causing the pain.

How can I relieve pelvic girdle pain at home?

Many of these pain-relieving techniques can be done at home. Ask your physiotherapist to suggest a home exercise program to help you when you first start to feel a pelvic-pain episode. If your pain stops you from doing essential daily activities, you can take a pain-relief medicine like paracetamol. Taking pain relief may mean that you’re better able to do the exercises that your physiotherapist has recommended. If you have a pelvic support garment, you can put that on.

Applying heat to painful areas and sitting or lying down may help you control your pain. Extended bedrest without the guidance of a doctor is not recommended, so speak to your doctor if you feel you need to lie down for extended periods of time while you’re pregnant.

Will pelvic girdle pain affect labour and birth?

In most cases, people with PGP can have a normal vaginal labour and birth. Your doctor may recommend that during labour you position yourself in a way that puts less stress and strain on your pelvis and hips. For example, you might find it less painful to go through labour on your side or in the 'all fours' position. Usually inducing labour early or having a caesarean section are not recommended. These options may occasionally be suggested in severe cases.

Will I have pelvic girdle pain in future pregnancies?

Not every person with PGP during pregnancy will have pelvic pain again in future pregnancies. However, recurrence is very common. Nearly 7 out of 10 people with PGP during pregnancy have it again in future pregnancies. Unfortunately, your pain may also be worse during future pregnancies.

If you’ve had PGP in a previous pregnancy, speak with your health team to develop a strategy to manage your pelvic pain early. Managing your pelvic girdle pain early can help to avoid pain from worsening as your pregnancy progresses.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

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