As soon as the third trimester approaches, many pregnant women — up to 80% of them, to be exact — experience some level of pelvic pain. At that time, the pelvic region is extremely sensitive, and the pressure it’s under is quite intense due to impending labor. In fact, once the baby drops down (this is called lightening) about 2–4 weeks pre-labor, the stress may intensify further.
Still, some women might not feel this sort of pain until the labor starts, while others may feel it even earlier. The pain is usually either mild, with slight aching and twinges, or downright crippling, with pain that goes all the way through your back, around it, and encompasses the belly too.
Overall, the pelvic region will be under a lot of stress and feel a bit heavy. That’s why it might be a bit tricky to tell exactly where it hurts — or if it’s pain at all.
Causes of Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
While you’re pregnant, the baby usually presses against your diaphragm and lungs, so breathing is a bit difficult. Luckily, the problem resolves itself once the baby drops down in preparation for labor.
However, when the baby drops, another issue comes up — its head is now putting pressure on other parts of your body. Given that the baby will gain a bit of weight in the last month of pregnancy, the heaviness will do its thing.
Gravity will pull the baby down, and its head will press against your pelvis, hips, and bladder, which will put extra pressure on your aching bones. Moreover, your joints, as well as your pelvic and back muscles, will be under plenty of stress too.
Pelvic Pain vs. SPD vs. Sciatica
Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is different from general pelvic pain as the latter is not usually caused by loose ligaments. Furthermore, the pain itself is generalized, unlike with SPD, where it is a bit more specific.
Similarly, if the pressure is on the sciatic nerve, you should feel pain shooting down your legs. With regular pelvic pain, the sensation is more localized than that — you feel most of it in the pelvic region.
How to Differentiate Pelvic Pain from Pelvic Pressure
Sometimes, the pain might feel more like cramps. In that case, it’s not pelvic pain at all but an early indication of labor.
Pelvic pressure is a sign that the woman has started to dilate and that the cervix has “ripened” enough for the baby to be born. It resembles menstrual cramps, but it occurs in the rectum and pelvic area. Sometimes, there’s groin pain too, as well as some backache.
Still, if it’s your first pregnancy, you might not feel such pressure. Stay on the lookout for pelvic pain then. It will feel as if your pelvic region is separating, leaving you in agony. Additionally, you may not be able to walk as much as you want to.
Managing Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
Though pelvic pain may seem unbearable at times, remember that it will all be over soon. In the meantime, you can try a variety of relaxing techniques, including:
- Warm baths (the gravity won’t be able to pull the baby down while you’re in the tub)
- Prenatal massages (only go for licensed therapists who may treat pregnant women, and always check their references)
- Acupuncture (this Chinese medical practice is becoming ever so popular for treating all sorts of pregnancy symptoms)
- Pelvic exercises (pelvic tilts, or just raising your hips and keeping them elevated, could help you alleviate some of the pain)
Reducing the effect of gravity on your belly is possible with belly slings too. Their main job is to support your belly, or rather, carry its weight instead of you. That’s why they’re often crisscrossed in the back and made of elastic fabric that won’t put pressure on the belly but will take it off the pelvic region.
If all else fails, you can also ask your doctor to prescribe a muscle relaxant or analgesic that won’t harm your baby. However, only go for this option if the pain becomes unbearable, and you have no other ideas left.