Throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy, the female body experiences hormonal and biomechanical changes that can cause musculoskeletal problems ranging from lower back pain, swollen feet, and general body aches. One of the most common complaints our OB/GYNs treat at Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates of Hampton is hip pain during pregnancy.
Without proper treatment, hip pain can make it difficult for pregnant women to walk properly, especially once they enter their third trimester. In addition, extra weight concentrated in the middle of a woman’s body puts significantly more mechanical stress on hip and knee joints. Combining joint stress and joint laxity caused by fluctuating hormone levels can result in debilitating hip pain during pregnancy. If you have any immediate questions about pregnancy, use our contact form to get in touch right away!
The extra weight placed on weight-bearing joints and the release of a pregnancy hormone called relaxin are the primary reasons many women experience hip pain during their second and third trimesters. Secreted within the ovary by a gland called the corpus luteum, relaxin is released after a woman ovulates in preparation for a potential pregnancy. If the woman does not become pregnant, relaxin levels drop until the next time a woman ovulates.
However, if pregnancy occurs, relaxin levels begin rising. During the first trimester, relaxin is essential for placenta growth and preventing premature contractions as the fetus develops. Around the first half of the ninth month of pregnancy, relaxin changes how it functions to help relax pelvic ligaments before the baby drops and the mother gives birth.
Relaxin further “relaxes” connective tissues within the hip joints. Although this sounds like it would be a good thing, it’s not when you are pregnant! Along with the increased flexibility of joints comes the overcompensation of muscles and connective tissues that struggle to adapt to all this extra movement. Consequently, muscles and tissues involved in joint structures become overworked and worn out. In addition to hip pain during pregnancy, women in their second and third trimesters frequently experience sharp, sudden pain in their tail bone region and buttocks while bending over or twisting.
The sciatic nerve extends from the spine and into the buttocks, where it splits, giving each leg a sciatic nerve branch. A sensory and movement nerve essential for standing, walking, and running, the sciatic nerve is also responsible for a painful condition called sciatica during pregnancy.
As the uterus grows to accommodate the fetus, the extra pressure put on the sciatic nerve by the uterus can cause radiating pain, numbness, and tingling in the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Sciatica is typically an age-related condition attributed to herniated disks or spinal bone spurs in older adults. Fortunately for pregnant women experiencing sciatica pain, the baby starts moving around in the uterus more frequently as their due date approaches. As the baby shifts position and starts preparing for the birth position, pressure on the sciatic nerve begins decreasing and pain gradually diminishes.
Women entering their second trimester may start feeling sharp pains around their hip, groin, and abdominal area due to the hormone relaxin loosening the round ligaments. These ligaments support the uterus and also connect the pelvis to the uterus. As the womb enlarges throughout pregnancy, the round ligaments keep stretching, causing expectant mothers to experience achiness, sharp pain, and pulling sensations on one or both sides of their bodies. Although round ligament pain isn’t exactly hip joint pain, it often feels like other types of hip pain during pregnancy.
The OB/GYN Associates of Hampton can provide helpful information to pregnant patients about chiropractic care for women seeking medication-free hip pain relief. Always consult with your OB/GYN before taking pain relief medications to ensure they are safe for pregnant women.
According to a study involving several thousand pregnant women, acetaminophen has been demonstrated to alleviate musculoskeletal pain for pregnant women without negatively impacting pregnancy outcomes or increasing the risk of harm to the baby. However, pregnant women should always discuss using Tylenol or another acetaminophen with their OB/GYN first before taking them.
Regular dose aspirin (325mg per tablet) should not be taken during pregnancy due to aspirin’s ability to thin the blood and reduce platelet (clotting) functions. Aspirin may also contribute to fetal or maternal bleeding in some cases. However, there is growing evidence that low-dose aspirin (75mg to 100mg) may help reduce the development of preeclampsia in women who are at risk for this condition. Generally, most pregnant women should not take regular or low-dose aspirin unless their OB/GYN recommends aspirin for certain health problems.
Although NSAIDs are often doctor-recommended for treating pain and fever during pregnancy, studies show that chronic use of ibuprofen pain relievers (Aleve, Advil, Motrin) can lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some clinical evidence further indicates that taking NSAIDs in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm labor or miscarriage. Consequently, pregnant women should only take NSAIDs under the guidance of their OB/GYN.
Hip pain during pregnancy responds well to warm (not hot) baths or warm compresses using a hot water bottle or heating pad. Warmth applied to hip joints increases blood flow to the area, which can help relax painful muscle spasms caused by relaxin release and extra weight stress on joints. For added comfort, while soaking in a warm bath, place a cushioned bathtub mat under your body and use a bath pillow to provide neck support.
Physical therapists specializing in pregnancy wellness provide women with expert instruction in performing pelvic, core, and stabilization exercises. They can also help reduce hip pain during pregnancy by manually exercising hip joints to decrease spasms while strengthening ligaments. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends healthy pregnant women get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity (after consulting with their OB/GYN) each week and continue this activity post-partum.
Gravity is not kind to pregnant women. When a woman is not pregnant and close to their proportionate height, their body’s center of gravity remains consistent enough to stabilize stress on hip, knee, and ankle joints. A physics professor would define the “center of gravity” as the point where the total weight of any structure — including the human body — is concentrated.
Pregnant women entering their second and third trimesters experience a shift in their normal center of gravity as the growing baby develops in the uterus. The additional weight causes the center of gravity to move to the front of the pelvis. This shift not only causes the pregnancy “waddle” but also compresses nerve endings found in the lower spine.
Chiropractic adjustments for hip pain during pregnancy can remove pressure on nerves and relieve many forms of musculoskeletal discomfort. Massage therapy is also a safe and effective treatment for low back pain and general body achiness during pregnancy. Chiropractic massage improves circulation, eases muscle tension and soreness, and enhances soft tissue elasticity.
Although it is often difficult to completely eliminate pregnancy hip pain, there are things you can do to significantly reduce aches and pains:
Do Pilates, low-impact aerobics, and pregnancy-friendly yoga exercises. You could try searching for a yoga and Pilates class near your location that caters to pregnant women.
Adjust your sleeping position using a special pregnancy pillow designed to support your hips and back during sleep.
Try your best to avoid gaining extra weight. The U.S. CDC offers guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy.
Practicing good posture is beneficial to your health during pregnancy, especially when sitting down. Hunching over and slouching puts more stress on your spine, hips, and lower back.
Increasing in popularity among pregnant women over the past decade are devices called pregnancy support belts or “belly bands.” A pregnancy support belt provides postural support by gently raising the abdomen to ease pressure and reduce pelvic floor, hip, sciatica, and lower back pain. These belly bands also redistribute weight more evenly to partially restore a pregnant woman’s center of gravity. Made of soft, flexible materials that adapt to an ever-changing pregnant body, support belts wrap around the abdomen and lower back and are secured by Velcro fasteners.
If you are pregnant and experiencing hip pain during pregnancy, always seek medical advice before beginning any treatment, whether it involves medication, exercise, or chiropractic care. Please contact our caring team of OB/GYNs today to schedule an appointment to discuss your pregnancy concerns and to get help treating your pregnancy hip pain.
Ready to book your appointment? Just call 757-722-7401 or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch with you soon! The OB/GYN Associates of Hampton also provide other medical services to residents of Hampton, Newport, and surrounding areas, such as ultrasound, gynecological surgery, management of menopause symptoms, and family planning.