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What is Pelvic Girdle Pain?

Your Top 10 Questions Answered: Pregnancy Related Pelvic Girdle Pain

Around 20% of women suffer with pelvic girdle pain (PGP) during pregnancy. Without appropriate treatment, PGP can be a painful condition which can really affect your ability to do your day to day tasks. Aoibhin McGreal, our chartered physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health, has answered some of your most common questions about PGP:

1. How do I know if it's PGP or low back pain?

PGP is pain that is felt at the back of the pelvis (around the sacro-iliac joints and buttocks) or at the front of the pelvis (sometimes called SPD or symphysis pubis dysfunction). It may also radiate to the groin or thighs. A chartered physiotherapist would do a full assessment of your low back (lumbar spine) and pelvis to figure out where the pain is originating from.

2. Why does PGP happen?

It is thought that hormonal changes (a hormone called relaxin) that soften your ligaments, postural changes due to pregnancy and the increased pressure on your pelvis due to the weight of your baby all contribute to pelvic girdle pain.

3. I’m 12 weeks pregnant, is that not too early for PGP?

PGP can start at any stage of your pregnancy but usually peaks at 24-36 weeks. Don’t worry though, if you have it early in your pregnancy, it does not mean that you will have it for your entire pregnancy. The sooner you have it treated, the better the outcome.

4. I had PGP during my first pregnancy, am I likely to get it again during my second pregnancy?

Unfortunately, it is common for women who have PGP during pregnancy to experience it during subsequent pregnancies but it can be effectively managed regardless of how many times you have had it.

5. What treatment should I look for?

Ideally you should attend a chartered physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health and pregnancy related conditions. Treatment will normally include a combination of manual therapy, massage and exercises to restore strength and flexibility to the muscles around the pelvis. Some physiotherapists might also assess your pelvic floor muscles. Acupuncture, TENS, taping and belts may also be used depending on the individual symptoms.

6. Should I use a pelvic belt?

Pelvic belts may give relief to some women with PGP but in some cases they can make the pain worse. It is advisable to have a full physiotherapy assessment to ensure that treatment is individualised to suit your needs.

7. Will the pain go away after my baby arrives?

For most women, the pain has completely resolved by 6 months after the birth of baby, with only 5% of women reporting pain beyond that point. Having a check up with a women’s health physiotherapist once your baby is 6 weeks old is a great idea to make sure you back, pelvis, abdominals and pelvic floor muscles are all returning to normal and to prevent potential problems in the future.

8. Should I push through the pain or rest?

While it is important to remain active during pregnancy, it is important to avoid aggravating your symptoms. Listen to your body, keep active within pain limits and rest when you need to. Sometimes applying ice to the painful area can reduce pain and discomfort.

9. Can I still have a normal labour and delivery?

In most cases, women with PGP can go on to have normal vaginal deliveries. Make sure to discuss your concerns with your physiotherapist, midwife and obstetrician so that you can have a positive experience for labour. Your physiotherapist will assess the range of motion in your hips and show you suitable positions for labour which you can practise beforehand to help you to feel empowered and in control.

10. Top Tips to reduce my pain?

  • Turning in Bed: Keep your knees together, try to “roll under” instead of “over” (ie go from one side, on to all fours, then on to your other side)
  • Sleeping: If you lie on your side, try putting pillows between your legs from your groin to your feet
  • Avoid doing things that make your pain worse: Heavy lifting, repetitive jobs like vacuuming
  • Avoid standing on one leg: Sit down to put on trousers or to dry your feet after the shower!
  • Take regular rests: Walk shorter distances, Don’t “overdo it” if you’re having a good day.
  • Don’t put up with it! Physiotherapy is effective in treating this painful condition - have an assessment sooner rather than later
Have you experienced Pelvic Girdle Pain? Let us know how you dealt with it in the comment section below.

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