What is Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and PRGP?
Any pain or twinges in pregnancy are a huge worry for mums-to-be, yet most turn out to be totally normal and nothing to worry about. Pelvic pain is something one in five women will experience when they are expecting, and for some, it can be quite severe and debilitating.
At a glance
- PRGP occurs when the ligaments around your pelvis soften prematurely and become too relaxed and stretchy
- Is not harmful at all to your baby, but it could make things a bit uncomfortable for you as you try to move around
- The pains can be in the hips, above the pubic bone, between your vagina and bottom, and down to your thighs
How it can affect you
Pelvic pain in pregnancy is known as pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or PRGP (pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain) and it can make every day movements such as walking up and downstairs, getting in and out of bed or up and out of a chair pretty uncomfortable.
Where does it occur?
The pains can be in the hips, above the pubic bone, between your vagina and bottom, and down to your thighs. Along with the discomfort, some women will also hear or feel clicks or grinding in their pelvis. Pelvic girdle pain relates to all the joints in the pelvis, however, some pelvic girdle pain may specifically relate to the symphysis pubis joint in the front centre of your pubic bone and some women may specifically experience Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).
When does it occur?
PGP occurs during pregnancy when the ligaments around your pelvis soften prematurely and become too relaxed and stretchy, meaning they can no longer keep your pelvis correctly aligned.
Can it harm my baby?
PGP is not harmful at all to your baby, but it could make things a bit uncomfortable for you as you try to move around. Your midwife might refer you for physiotherapy, or suggest you wear a supportive girdle or a band of stretchy (Tubigrip) bandage to help ease your symptoms. Some women have to succumb to crutches to ease the pressure when walking.
Relieving the pain
You can take some measures to lessen the pain yourself, too – keeping your knees together when getting up and down (in a chair or in bed), for example, and sleeping with a pillow placed between your knees.
If you want to talk to someone about Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and get some advice or support, contact the The Pelvic Partnership.
In addition, the POGP is a professional network affiliated to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and they have useful patient information.
Tips to help you cope with PGP
- Be active but at the same time don't push yourself too hard that it causes more pain.
- If you've been advised to do pelvic floor and tummy exercises do them religiously.
- Don't try to do everything yourself, accept offers of help at home and ask for it if you need it.
- Only part your legs to your pain-free range. This is a good tip to follow when getting in and out of the car, bed or bath.
- When lying down, pull your knees up as far as you can to help when parting your legs. If you are sitting, try arching your back and sticking your chest out before parting or moving your legs.
- Avoid sitting cross-legged or carrying your toddler on your hip. If you feel sudden pain, stop what you're doing straight away.
- It is advised to sleep on your side, particularly in the third trimester, keep your legs bent and a pillow between your knees.
- Sit and rest regularly. If you sit on a birth ball or get down on your hands and knees, it takes the weight of your baby off your pelvis.
- Avoid heavy lifting or pushing. Many women find the action of pushing the supermarket trolley makes the pain worse, so shop online or even better, ask someone to go and do the shop for you if you can.
- Although it may take longer, when you're climbing stairs, take one step at a time. Step up onto one step with your best leg and then bring your other leg to meet it. Repeat with each step.
- When you're getting dressed try to avoid standing on one leg to put on underwear or trousers, it's better to sit down to do this.
- A referral to physiotherapy may be made by your midwife. You will be given advice around labour and birth and exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, stomach, back and hip muscles.