What is the cause of lower pelvic pain in pregnancy, and what can you do about it?

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Answered by: MAGDALENA , An Expert in the Pregnancy: Complications Category
Pain that radiates through the front lower pelvis of a pregnant woman can be attributed to Pubic Symphysis Disfunction. PSP (Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction) is a pain that starts in your pubis symphysis (the ligament in your pelvis next to the bone that you can feel behind the mons pubis) as a result of shifting and expanding of the pelvis. It generally is a complaint in the later months of pregnancy.

Pubic Symphysis Pain is real. Some healthcare providers see it as a phantom pain, made up by "fussy" pregnant women… but it really does exist. Unfortunately there is no cure — besides getting the baby out! However, there are ways that you can alleviate the intensity of the pain. PSP is rarely a serious medical issue; generally this lower pelvic pain is just a nuisance that WILL go away after delivery!

How do I know if I have Pubic Symphysis Pain?

You may feel a sharp or radiating pain — often felt with movement — which can shoot into the back, hips, thighs, and pelvic area. Some people feel a grinding, or snapping feeling in their lower pelvic area (the pubis).

Certain things will make the PSP more noticeable, including laying on one side, walking, bending over, lifting legs while getting dressed, getting out of bed… it really all depends. As your pregnancy gets later, and your birth day nears, the baby will be moving down and shifting around into position for delivery, which can make things better or worse.

A hormone called “Relaxin” is responsible for relaxing joints and ligaments, to create the pathway for your baby to be born (widening the pelvis and causing the “pregnancy waddle”). Unfortunately, sometimes the hormone goes a little overboard, too soon. This does not mean that your joints and ligaments are going to turn into string cheese, but it does make things a little loose, a little soon. It does not cause permanent damage, but the instability can feel strange and sometimes painful.

Some things you can do to help minimize your PSP pain and the feeling of being "off-kilter" from your changing pelvis:

• Pelvic Tilts and Kegals…Are your friends! They help with support and strength of those pelvic muscles to alleviate that lower pelvic pain.

• A Pelvic Support Belt…like a corset for your…pelvis. It can help. If you’re not impressed with the fashionable pelvic belts available at most online stores, you can also try making your own makeshift belt out of a rebozo, or other long shawl/scarf/blanket. Its not too difficult, just loop the shawl around your stomach and back, and experiment with what feels good. Some women simply tie a blanket very tightly around their hips and it works for them.

• Check your posture, and ergonomics! Avoid lifting heavy things, as that can make the pain worse.

• Change up your mattress- try a water bed, body pillows, experiment to try and find something that works. Try to avoid sudden movements when getting up out of bed

• Swimming- Water helps take the stress off your body while you are moving, gaining muscle and core strength without the stress on your joints and ligaments. Win-win.

• Ice Ice Baby- An ice pack can reduce pain and decrease any potential swelling that might be causing additional pain in the pelvic area. You can alternate with heat, for pain relief.

• A physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, or cranialsacral therapist with experience with pregnant women could all be potential team players to help you reduce the discomfort of PSP.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your PSP so they know what's going on and can give you additional tips and information. Before trying any of the relief techniques above, check with your primary healthcare provider to make sure that these tips are safe for you and your pregnancy.

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