Prenatal care has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few decades, but many aspects of pregnancy are still shrouded in mystery. This is because most of what takes place is inside the body. There is only so much a sonogram, bloodwork and a doppler machine can reveal. The unknown can be scary, especially for first-time mothers.
During pregnancy, a mother’s body will go through some pretty drastic changes. As the uterus expands, it pushes outwards and puts pressure on the surrounding organs inside the body, causing them to move. The intestines, the stomach, the liver and the ribcage will shift to give the fetus the space it needs to grow. The muscles, tendons and ligaments loosen and stretch as the body prepares for delivery. As the body stretches, it is not unusual for mothers to experience leg pain, pain in the knees and pain in the pelvic area .
The female body is built to withstand all the changes a woman’s body undergoes to protect and nurture a growing fetus. For those nine months, an expectant mother may experience aches, pains, cramps, pokes and general discomfort. Sometimes, it is hard to tell if what you are feeling is within the range of usual pregnancy symptoms or if it is a cause for concern, especially for first-time moms .
Here Are Some Of The Changes That A Woman’s Body Will Go Through
Sore or tender breasts, similar to what many women feel when they are about to get their periods, is a common symptom of early pregnancy. During this time, the body’s production of hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin and progesterone goes into overdrive to prepare a woman’s breasts for lactation. For some women, the sensitivity of the breasts is the first inkling that they are expecting.
Gas and constipation
Hormones and an expanding uterus can wreak havoc on an expectant mother’s digestive system. The food ingested takes longer to pass through the intestines and stomach because of the relaxing muscles and the cramped space. In addition, the high iron content of prenatal vitamins can add to gas and constipation. Proper nutrition should be a priority. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, and include a lot of fiber in your diet. Cut back on red meat as it may further harden the stool.
As a baby drops lower into the pelvic area in preparation for birth, a woman may feel increased pressure on the pelvis, hips and bladder. Dropping typically occurs between 36 weeks pregnant to 38 weeks pregnant. Women who have previously been pregnant may experience this later in the pregnancy. Should you feel this earlier in the pregnancy, let your OB/GYN know. Pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvic region could be a sign of preterm labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions
These are considered “practice” labor cramps. Many first-time mothers have a hard time distinguishing Braxton Hicks from real labor contractions because they feel quite similar. Unlike labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions do not intensify and do not occur in irregular intervals, and they usually go away if the mother shifts positions.
Hip and pelvic pain
Hip pain pregnancy is relatively common. Hip and joint pain are mostly experienced in the third trimester of pregnancy or months seven to nine when the baby gets bigger, heavier, and harder to carry. The growing baby also causes some shift in the curvature of the spine and general soreness of the muscles around it, especially in the hips and lower back .
The Causes Of Hip Pain During Pregnancy
After having endured the first trimester with its morning sickness and fatigue, a pregnant woman must now grapple with a whole new set of issues. Hip pain can be annoying for any expectant mom because it hinders mobility and makes it difficult to get comfortable. The hip and surrounding joint pain are due to the “hip hormone,” relaxin. Relaxin softens the hip flexor muscles and loosens connective tissues, especially in the pelvic region, to prepare the body for labor and allow the fetus space to grow. This has some pretty drastic effects on the body’s structure including the bones and lower vertebrae .
Aside from the baby’s weight and the influx of hormones, a mother’s own weight gain may affect hip and back pain. A certain amount of weight gain is healthy and expected during pregnancy. On average, experts advise mothers to start gaining weight during the second and third trimesters and to keep the weight gain around 20 pounds. The healthy total amount of weight a woman gains depends on multiple factors such as her height, pre-pregnancy weight and overall health. A woman should work with her OB/GYN or nutritionist to determine the optimal amount of weight gain.
Probably brought on by intense food cravings, some mothers gain excess weight in a rather short span of time. Naturally, this sudden added weight puts a strain on the joints, especially the knees and hips.
If sharp, stabbing sensations in the abdomen accompany hip pain, a mother could be experiencing round ligament pain. The round ligaments cover the area from the mother’s hip bones to the pelvic area. The ligaments stretch to provide increased support of the weight of the uterus during pregnancy. This pelvic pain can be described as the feeling of being pulled around the hip bones and the labia. Mothers may feel generalized groin pain. Moving around and wearing maternity compression belts might help ease the pressure.
Preventing And Treating Hip Pain
Pay attention to what triggers the round ligament pain. It is different for every woman. Here are some general measures to prevent and alleviate round ligament pain and assist with pain relief:
Wear a maternity support or compression belt or tank top
This will go a long way in easing the weight and the pressure from a growing belly. This is especially helpful for working moms who are on their feet often.
Stand or switch positions slowly
This will give the muscles time to ease into the movement. Hold onto something for support when necessary.
Use hot compresses or take warm showers to soothe sore hip and abdominal muscles
Do not take any oral pain killers unless ordered by your OB/GYN. Even some ointments may include essential oils that can trigger preterm labor.
Keep the core strong with appropriate exercise and stretches
Work with your doctor to determine what is safe as some women are advised against doing anything too strenuous while pregnant.
Schedule a day of pampering or therapy
Get some chiropractic care or a soothing massage.
Utilize a special pregnancy pillow for hip pain to aid in pregnancy hip pain sleeping
Some women experience hip pain while sleeping during pregnancy. If this happens, consider using special pillows that support the abdomen and upper legs. These are often large, U-shaped pillows that hug a pregnant woman’s body offering support to both the back and stomach. These specially designed pillows may help provide a better night’s sleep. Alternatively, try placing a regular pillow behind the lower back, and then lean against a headboard or a wall. For side sleepers, place a small pillow at the small of the back, and sleep leaning against it. This reduces pressure on the hips.
Check your footwear, especially if walking and standing frequently
Footwear should be comfortable and offer sufficient cushion to the soles and adequate arch support.
Staying hydrated while pregnant is beneficial for many reasons. Regarding hip pain, it is good for the muscles as it improves blood volume and circulation.
Aches and pains during pregnancy can be hard to identify
Early pregnancy hip pain may be due to another cause such as sciatica. Sciatic nerve pain is characterized by a shooting pain down the back, hips, pelvic area (pelvic floor) and legs. This can occur when a person is in one position for too long. There are many causes of sciatica including a slipped disc. In the later stages of pregnancy, there may be a shift in the vertebrae and spinal alignment brought about by the expanding uterus and pressure on the pelvic floor and bone. Practicing good posture can be a treatment to relieve sciatica.
Hip Pain After Pregnancy
Hip pain after pregnancy is common. It can manifest as random sharp pains, dull pains or pain during sex. Hip pain post pregnancy may also occur while running. This can present as bilateral pain or as lateral hip pain. This may be due to muscle imbalance.
There are many causes of hip pain post pregnancy as well as pelvic pain in general. However, if it gets worse or consistently hurts after two to three weeks, consult a medical professional. Some doctors order their patients to be evaluated by physical therapists that are versed in the hips and pelvis as well as the glute muscles .
Hip Pain Pregnancy Resources: NHS; Pelvic pain in pregnancy, July 28, 2016.
 Health Direct; Pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy, October 2018.
 American Pregnancy Association; Hip Pain During Pregnancy, September 20, 2017.
 US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Musculoskeletal pain and symptoms in pregnancy: a descriptive study, Serdar Kesikburun, Ümüt Güzelküçük, Ulaş Fidan, Yasin Demir, Ali Ergün, Arif Kenan Tan, December 2018.
 US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain: an update, Nikolaos K Kanakaris, Craig S Roberts, Peter V Giannoudiscor, February 2011.