Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) affects 1 in 5 pregnant women. It is caused by the hormones of pregnancy loosening the ligaments that hold the pelvis together. This allows extra movement of the pelvis, which causes pain. Sometimes it can be due to a previous pelvic injury. It can lead to discomfort when you move your legs apart, to get out of the car or out of bed. It may cause pain when you turn in bed at night. The degree of pain can be mild or very severe.
What can you do to improve pain? It is important to stay active in pregnancy even if you have pelvic girdle pain. Non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming may be more comfortable. Sleeping with a pillow between your legs may help. Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time. Paracetamol is safe and effective for pain in pregnancy. A pelvic support belt can be used to stabilize the pelvis and thus reduce pain. Referral to physiotherapy can help and a small number of women may need crutches.
I often get asked about what type of delivery would be best for a woman with pelvic girdle pain. You can have a vaginal delivery and this is better than a caesarean section. If you have pain during labour or when you open your legs you can have an epidural. After delivery it may take a few weeks for the pelvic girdle pain to subside and if you have a caesarean section you will have post-operative pain too. Finally don’t despair it will go away and it won’t necessarily come back in your next pregnancy.