Hip Pain in Pregnancy – Causes and Treatment

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Pregnancy hormones bring a lot of changes to your body. One among the many major discomforts that a mother-to-be experiences is hip pain. Surfacing primarily in the second and third trimester, hip pain aggravates when the body gets heavier to accommodate the growing baby and is unable to balance this extra weight. The body also starts preparing for labour in the third trimester, and aching hips in pregnancy is a very common symptom at this time.

Hip Pain and Pregnancy

Hip pain affects many women during pregnancy. While some women are able to handle the discomfort, one in three pregnant women face problems with sleeping or performing day to day activities due to hip pain. Soreness and pain tend to be worse on the side of the uterus where the baby rests. At least half of all mums-to-be endure some sort of back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain at some point. As pregnancy progresses, these aches get more pronounced.

Causes of Hip Pain during Pregnancy

Hip pain is inevitable during pregnancy and is just another indication that the pelvic area is gearing up for childbirth. Pregnancy hormones are relaxing the ligaments (these ligaments hold the sacroiliac joints connecting the spine to the pelvis) to loosen up the pelvic bones so that they can shift for childbirth.

The physical changes in the body cause severe hip pain during pregnancy. Softening and shifting of the pelvic bones coupled with the pressure of carrying the uterus only add to it.

1. Relaxin

Relaxin, a hormone required for smooth delivery, is released as early as the first trimester. In the third trimester, relaxin is produced in large amounts and encourages the pelvic joints and muscles to relax, stretch, and become flexible. It helps the joints and ligaments between pelvic bones to loosen, increase in flexibility, thereby preparing the birth canal for an easy birth. Flexible bones ensure smooth movement of the baby through the body during labour.

2. Sciatica

The two sciatic nerves in your body (originating from the lower back region to the feet) are under a lot of pressure when your uterus is growing. This increased pressure on the sciatic nerve also causes severe hip cramps during pregnancy. The enlarged uterus applies pressure on the nerves, and you experience cramps in the hips, thighs and derrière. Generally, you feel a numbness, pain, and tingling sensation which is a common sign of sciatica.

3. Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain, considered a normal part of pregnancy, is a sharp jabbing pain felt in the lower belly and/or groin. The two round ligaments on either side of the uterus stretch and thicken to accommodate and support the baby. The pains are felt like occasional spasms lasting a few seconds which are uncomfortable but harmless. This occurs due to a sudden movement such as coughing, sneezing, or getting out of bed. These activities make the ligament tighten and cause a jabbing feeling. The pain is internal and difficult to gauge, but if it were to be traced on the skin, it would run along the bikini line of a high cut bathing suit.

4. Transitory Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis generally affects women over 40, but could also afflict younger women in the second and third trimester. Consult a doctor if you are experiencing sudden hip pain which aggravates while walking or during other normal physical activities. An MRI scan will be able to diagnose the condition, and the prognosis could last for up to 2 months. If left undiagnosed it could lead to a hip fracture.

5. Watch Out For

  • Increase in body weight owing to growing pregnancy can lead to pressure on the pelvis causing a shift and pain
  • It is important to maintain a good posture right from the start as your body’s usual balance will get affected due to the growing weight of the baby
  • Overweight women and with prior back and hip problems will definitely experience hip pain while pregnant. With an already existing pressure on the pelvis, your back and hips are only under added pressure due to the growing uterus

Treatment for Hip Pain While Pregnant

Treating pregnancy hip pain is imperative as it causes sleeping problems, stress, and discomfort during the day. Although hip pain is a very common symptom that accompanies pregnancy, there are several ways to relieve hip pain during pregnancy and make you feel comfortable.

1. Pregnancy Pillow

Good sleep is important for an expecting mother, and a good posture and proper support while sleeping alleviates sleep problems. A pregnancy pillow to support your pelvic region will aid in good sleep. The pillow adjusts to the body shape and offers support to the back, enlarged belly, and legs.

2. Sleeping On The Side

Hip pain can cause discomfort when you lie down in the third trimester. Sleep on your side with knees and legs bent to alleviate this. If pain persists, place a blanket or pillow under your lower back and try sleeping against it. Place a pillow to support the abdomen and the upper leg region for more comfort. Avoid crossing your legs while sleeping as this increases pressure on your hips.

3. Heat Remedy

A hot water bath or a placing a hot water bottle on your hips could give pregnancy hip pain relief. A massage with warm oil and a warm bath could also prove very relaxing but ensure the massage is gentle.

4. Adequate Rest

If you stand on your feet all day there is no doubt that there is more pressure on your pelvis, and this could aggravate hip pain. Try to sit or lie down at regular intervals to relax. Always stay in a position which gives maximum relief, rest and relaxation. Raise your legs while you sleep and ensure proper back support to ease the pain.

5. Schedule a Prenatal Massage

A therapeutic massage from a trained therapist can relieve aches and relax muscles. A therapist knows the exact sore points and will help you destress and unwind.

6. Yoga and Pilates

Enrol in a special pregnancy exercise class teaching Yoga or Pilates. The instructors are trained to identify and teach you the positions suitable to stretch your hip and pelvic muscles and provide relief from the discomfort.

7. Water Therapy

Sciatica hip pain is very common during pregnancy because the nerves are compressed by the growing uterus. Swimming is a great exercise when you are pregnant. It keeps the blood flowing and reduces tightness. It also reduces the pressure on the sciatic nerves and helps you stay in shape.

8. Belts and Girdles

Pregnancy belts and girdles or an iliac brace offer support to your back and stabilise the hip while performing any physical task.

Ways to Relieve Pain during Pregnancy – 7 Useful Commandments

By the end of the second trimester, you will have made peace with the fact that hip pain is here to stay, but it does not mean you can’t seek relief with some small tips. Here are a few ways to ease hip pain when pregnant:

  • Place a pillow under your baby bump to avoid rolling forward while sleeping.
  • Apply ice packs several times to give instant relief to the pain.
  • Gauge the comfort level of your mattress and try and invest in one which gives you maximum comfort.
  • Put aside those ‘high heels’ until your delivery. Choose flat pumps or slip ons to walk comfortably.
  • Drink lots of water and have food rich in calcium, magnesium and folic acid which help to retain bone density.
  • Pain killers are not recommended to alleviate the pain as the baby might get affected. Consult a doctor before administering any pain killers.

1. Stretching

Stretches help alleviate tightness, spasms and aches and also stimulate smooth labour. Pregnancy hip stretches are not just beneficial for you but for the baby too. When you stretch, it helps bring more oxygen to your baby, thus boosting his/her growth in the womb. Incorporate stretching into your daily routine while pregnant.

2. Simple Stretches to Relieve Hip Pain in Pregnancy

Stretching is helpful for the body, irrespective of whether or not you are pregnant. Stretching exercises lengthen your muscles and loosen the entire body to make you comfortable and improve well-being. Here are a few stretches you may try when you are pregnant:

3. Hamstring Stretches

Hamstrings, the largest muscles located at the back of your thighs, need to be flexible. Rigid hamstrings can cause hip or back pain. These stretches are best when done in a seating or standing position during the second trimester. Here is how to perform it:

  • While seated, extend one leg towards the front of your body
  • Bend the other leg with the foot resting on the thigh or knee bent inside your extended leg
  • Hamstrings will stretch when you lean towards the extended leg

4. Seated Piriformis Stretch

Piriformis, the tiny muscles passing from the tip of the femur bone towards the tailbone in the vertebrae, offers stability and controls the movement of the joints at the pelvis. Instability of this joint affects the muscle and causes pain. Here is how to perform it:

  • Sit in a cross legged position (one leg over another) and bend forward near the hip
  • Continue this stretch till you feel the elasticity at the back of your bottom

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexor denotes a group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. These become stiff during pregnancy and intensify hip pain. Here is how to perform this stretch:

  • Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs or a small stool. Hang on to the railing with one hand for support
  • Keep one foot on the first or second stair up (whichever you feel is comfortable) and bend the knee
  • The other leg on the floor behind you should be held straight with the knees standing erect
  • Move forward slightly and lean in your bent leg, keeping your back straight
  • The leg resting on the floor will feel stretched and relax the muscles

6. Child’s Pose

While accommodating the growing uterus, the spine becomes rigid and inflexible because of the weight imbalance in the body. This pose stretches and extends the muscles of the spine which often become stiff in pregnancy. Here is how to perform it:

  • Kneel with both palms firmly placed on the floor and the top of the feet pressed against the floor
  • The lower body should rest on the feet and the upper body and ankles above the thighs
  • Your forehead should touch the ground. Exhale as you stretch, and extend your arms to make your upper body parallel to the ground
  • Exhale as you bring your hands back into position and straighten your body

7. Breathe In and Out The Pain

For maximum benefit, stretching should be coupled with breathing. Deep breathe to allow more oxygen to the baby as you stretch. For those days when you don’t have time to stretch, it is a great idea to simply focus on deep breathing.

Care to Be Taken While Doing Hip Pain Exercises in Pregnancy

  • Always check with your physician when you plan to start a stretching exercise
  • Warm up first
  • Don’t overdo and do not bounce
  • Any pain or discomfort during stretches should not be neglected and medical intervention must be sought

Frequently asked Questions about Hip Pain

1. Can You Relieve Hip Pain during Pregnancy While Sleeping?

Try sleeping on your side to lower the pain. Try to lie on your back and squeeze a pillow between your knees. This realigns the pelvic bones and eases pain for a while. As your belly expands, the hip expands and you may need to add more pillows or a larger one to realign your hip.

2. Why is Hip Pain More Common during the Second and Third Trimester?

The baby bump which appears in the second trimester adds excess weight and pressure on joints and ligaments. This triggers back, pelvic and hip pain. Relaxin, a hormone to loosen the pelvic joints and muscles, is released from the first trimester, but increases manifold in the third trimester when the hip pain gets exacerbated. The pain is manageable with a little effort and healthy exercises.

3. Does It Hurt If You Walk When You Have Hip Pain?

You could try going on short walks to help reduce discomfort but try not to overdo it. Take sufficient breaks while walking.

4. Can You Get Hip Pain during the First Trimester or Is Hip Pain in Early Pregnancy Common?

Hip pain can occur at any point during pregnancy. The body releases relaxin right at the start of the first trimester but it does not react until the second or the third trimester. Some women experience an immediate release of relaxin in the first trimester even if the baby has not grown enough and this can cause hip pain.

5. What Does Left Hip Pain during Pregnancy Mean?

Hip pain is generally common across both sides of the pelvis. However, there are chances that you may experience a shooting pain on your left side of the hip. This could be because of wrong posture or lifting weights.

6. What Caution Signs Should You Watch Out for While Experiencing Hip Pain?

Hip pain accompanied by soreness in the pelvic region, lower abdominal cramps, pink or brown discharge from vagina, lower backache without relief, or unexpected contractions during your third trimester could be signs of pre-term labour.

Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can create many aches and pains. Hip pain is a common occurrence, especially as your baby grows in the last trimester. It could be a cause of major annoyance for some women causing sleep disruptions and hindrance in daily routines. The primary culprit – relaxin – is needed for a smooth delivery but it also causes hip pain.

With a little extra care, you are sure to be able to cope with the challenges and enjoy the joys of an expectant mother. Fortunately, hip pain due to pregnancy does not stay forever and wears out evenly once the baby is born.