Pelvic pain in pregnancy was originally called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) but health professionals now call it Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) because it affects all the joints of the pelvis not just the one called the Symphysis Pubis.
Symptoms of PGP
- pain deep in the pubic area and groin (between the vagina and anus)
- the pain can be manageable or severe
- it can be brought on by some types of activity, such as walking, climbing stairs and turning over in bed
- you may also have pain across your lower back
- you might have a grinding or clicking sensation in your pubic area
- the pain can be made worse by parting your legs or by leaning on one leg.
Causes of PGP
For some women in pregnancy the pelvic joints become stiff or less stable. This can cause inflammation and pain, which varies in severity. The pain can range from a dull ache to severe pain. Most sufferers are in the mild to moderate category.
It is usually possible to successfully treat PGP, though the earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment is started, the better.
Certain types of movement, such as widening the legs or leaning on one leg, can make the pain worse.
For those with bad to severe pain, the condition can make it difficult to continue doing normal day to day activities. Pain can also affect your sleep, causing your emotional health to suffer too.
As PGP doesn’t affect the baby, sometimes women feel as if they should just put up with it and that it is not a priority. This is not the case and if you’re suffering from it, talk to your midwife or GP. They should be able to refer you to a physiotherapist who has experience of treating pelvic joint pain.
"I have had SPD since around 22 weeks pregnant. I thought it was sciatica at first and just struggled on but after a few days I found myself bed bound and went to the GP. She referred me to physio who gave me some exercises to do.” Mollie
Watch our Facebook live about pelvic pain in pregnancy
Physiotherapy treatment for pelvic pain might be different depending on your physiotherapist, but it is likely to include the following:
- hands-on therapy to restore normal movement of muscles and joints in the pelvis
- exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, stomach, back and hip muscles
- exercises in water
- advice around labour and birth
- they may give you a pelvic support belt or crutches if they think these may help you.
Many people worry about taking pain medication during pregnancy, but there are some safe options for you and your baby. Ask for advice from your GP, midwife or a pharmacist to find out what pain medicine you can take.
You can also try to manage pain with alternative therapies, which could include things like:
- a TENS machine
- meditation, for example mindfulness or yoga
- complementary therapies such as massage or reflexology.