There’s a nagging pain in your pelvis – and a nagging worry that something may be wrong. You’re not the only woman to experience pain in her pelvis during pregnancy. In fact, up to 80% of women will experience pelvic pain during pregnancy. While it can happen at any time, it tends to be more common in the third trimester.
In most cases, pelvic pain isn’t anything to worry about, but there are exceptions to this rule.
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What’s Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
Pain the pelvis can be caused by a number of different things during pregnancy, from your baby’s weight to relaxed pelvic joints. The most common causes include:
1. Growing Pains
If you’re experiencing what feels like pelvic bone pain during your pregnancy, it may be caused by pressure from your baby’s weight. Between weeks 8 and 12, you may feel pain that resembles cramps – like what you get when your period is about to start. In most cases, this pain is just your uterus growing and expanding, and is nothing to worry about.
Women who are on their first pregnancies are far less likely to feel this pain than women who are on subsequent pregnancies. If that cramp-like pain you’re feeling is accompanied by bleeding, you need to see your doctor. It may be sign of something more serious.
2. Round Ligament Pain
Women who are in their second trimester may experience round ligament pain, which extends from the top of the uterus to the groin. The pain tends to come about when you’re walking or when you get up from a chair. What happens is the uterus tips and then pulls on the ligament, causing pain.
Most women find that the pain disappears when they lay down on the side that’s bothering them. The good news is that this pain should be gone completely by the time you reach 24 weeks.
3. Ovarian Cysts
Although not as common, ovarian cysts can also cause pain in the pelvic area. During pregnancy, the cysts may grow larger and put even more pressure on your growing uterus. If the cysts rupture, which can happen, the pain can be intense.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of cysts. She can monitor the cysts through ultrasounds to make sure they’re not growing too rapidly.
4. Braxton Hicks Contractions
Vaginal pressure during pregnancy can be caused by Braxton Hicks contractions, which come and go. These contractions are usually not painful and can be sporadic. Think of them as practice contractions. They tend to creep up around week 20.
Just one quick note about these contractions: they can be triggered by dehydration. Make sure that you drink plenty of water and rest.
5. Relaxed Pelvic Joints
The hormone relaxin is responsible for relaxing your ligaments to make it easier for your body to adapt to your growing baby. In the third trimester, the levels of this hormone increase greatly. Sometimes, relaxin can also cause your pelvic joint to loosen and even separate it a bit.
Keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal to feel pain in the pelvic area because of the relaxin hormone. You may even feel some pain near your pelvic bone, and your legs may feel unstable.
Pain in the groin area can also be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI). Don’t worry – UTIs are pretty common during pregnancy (about 10% of women get them). Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include the sudden urge to urinate and bloody urination. Some women also get abdominal pain. The biggest concern with a UTI is that the infection could spread to your kidneys, which would increase your risk of going into preterm labor.
Be sure to have your doctor check your urine with each visit, and if you have symptoms of a UTI, see your doctor for treatment.
Constipation is a problem for a lot of pregnant women, and this can lead to pelvic pain and discomfort. Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water and try to incorporate more fiber into your diet.
If diet changes and drinking more water don’t ease the pain or constipation, your doctor may be able to prescribe a glycerin suppository or stool softener.
5 Serious Cause of Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is usually nothing to worry about, but there are instances when the pain may be a sign of something very serious. The following conditions may cause pain in the pelvis when you’re pregnant.
An ectopic pregnancy can cause pelvic pain. This occurs when the egg implants itself on the uterus. In most cases, the egg winds up in the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies account for 1 in 50 pregnancies, so they’re not uncommon.
If you do have an ectopic pregnancy, you may experience severe pain and bleeding between weeks six and 10. The pain is caused by the tube becoming distended. An ectopic pregnancy requires immediate medical attention. An ultrasound can confirm whether the egg has implanted itself in the uterus or somewhere else.
If you’re in the first trimester of your pregnancy and you’re experiencing pain in the abdominal and pelvic area, it may be sign of a miscarriage. Unfortunately, 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Symptoms include cramping and bleeding. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage, see your doctor immediately.
3. Preterm Labor
Persistent pain in your pelvis or back can be a sign of preterm labor. If you’re experiencing four or more contractions in an hour and these contractions continue for two hours, see your doctor.
If the symptoms occur before 37 weeks, it is considered preterm labor.
About 5-8% of pregnant women experience preeclampsia, which can develop at any time after 20 weeks. This is why your doctor checks your blood pressure at every checkup. Preeclampsia occurs when your blood pressure is high and you have protein in your urine. High blood pressure constricts the blood vessels in your uterus, which supply your baby with nutrients and oxygen. If oxygen and nutrient levels are restricted, it could affect the baby’s growth.
If you suspect that you might have preeclampsia, see your doctor immediately.
5. Placental Abruption
Your baby receives oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. Usually, the placenta implants itself high up on the uterine wall, and will not detach until after the baby is born. In some cases, however, the placenta can become separated from the wall. When this happens (it’s rare – 1 in 200 births), it can be a dangerous complication. Placental abruption causes constant, sharp and intense pelvic pain that gets worse over time. Your uterus may become hard as a rock, and you may bleed red, dark-colored blood without clots. Some women go into labor when their placenta separates, which usually calls for an emergency C-section.
If you suspect that your placenta may have separate from the uterine wall, see your doctor immediately.
More often than not, pain in the pelvic area is normal during pregnancy. But keep a close eye on your symptoms and do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you feel that something may be wrong. If your symptoms get worse or you experience any of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor right away.