Pelvic Pain is often experienced during pregnancy. For many mothers it can cause them to worry and wonder whether the pain that is in the location of their growing fetus is a common symptom, or something more serious. Not to worry, despite what your search on Web MD might be alluding to, pelvic pain is often a normal, safe symptom of pregnancy. Because the uterus, surrounding ligaments and musculature are undergoing an incredible amount of change, symptoms of pelvic pain are expected, we can think of them as “growing pains.” However, it is important to be aware of what is actually a growing pain and what is a more serious warning sign that you should consult your ob-gyn about.
A few things to consider when trying to distinguish the culprit of your pelvic pain is the location of pain and duration of pregnancy. For example during the first few weeks of pregnancy (weeks 8-12) many women experience a cramp-like sensation in their pelvic area that may feel very similar to monthly period cramps. This is often referred to as “accommodation pain” as your uterus is beginning to expand in order to accommodate the tiny fetus, which at that point is around the size of a lime. Around week 20, women may feel sporadic cramps again, these are often referred to as “braxton hicks” contractions, and are different than real contractions as they are usually not painful. Dehydration is the primary cause of Braxton Hicks contractions later in pregnancy.
In the second trimester you may begin to feel “round ligament” sensitivity. The amazing round ligament is the connection from your uterus to your pelvis, these ligaments are located one on each side of your uterus, and not only do they have structural properties of a ligament but also muscle fibers that extend into the groin. For this reason, round ligament pain may be felt most when rising from a seated to standing position as the ligament acclimates to the changing position while holding your uterus in place.
The term ovarian cyst may seem threatening, however, they are actually quite common and can occur monthly due to the way your ovaries create eggs. We refer to these as functional, ovarian cysts which during pregnancy can become agitated. Due to the immense hormone release they can grow and growing under an enlarged uterus can increase the pressure between the two structures which can lead to discomfort. If the pain intensifies or if you have a history of ovarian cysts it is recommended to have the cyst looked at through ultrasound to ensure it is not growing too large.
At the end of pregnancy, a large surplus of the hormone relaxin is released, this is done by the body in order to allow for some joint laxity when delivering the baby. However, because the joints are so lax women may feel some instability and pain, mostly felt around the pubic area which is where the right and left sides of the pelvis connect. Although unpleasant, relaxin is a powerful tool for enabling the option of natural, functional birth.
Now, how can we combat the structural causes of pelvic pain during pregnancy? Taking a warm, calming bath will allow for spastic muscles and ligaments to relax. Meditating in the tub can also be powerful, as breath is a facilitator of muscle relaxation. Keeping your core strong and engaged during pregnancy can alleviate lots of pain as well, a balanced core will diminish stress on the lumbar spine and other structures that may be compensating. If pain remains, a prenatal adjustment may be your best bet. An adjustment is a more focused approach to aiding in structural relaxation. However, not all adjustments are the same, utilizing a perinatal chiropractic specialist will ensure precise alignment of the entire spine, predominantly focusing on the low back and pelvis.