Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy: How to Sleep Better?

During pregnancy, pelvic pain is common, and it's normal to feel concerned when you first notice it. A pregnant woman's body is busy using its energy to develop the fetus, and getting rest can be challenging. Understanding the "why" behind the pains can help alleviate concerns and ease your mind to allow for better rest.

Key takeaways:
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    Pelvic pain during pregnancy can be a normal occurrence.
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    Hormones and the added weight of the baby can contribute to the lower back and pelvic pain experienced.
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    Methods to assist in sleeping with pelvic pain include sleeping on your side and using a pillow.
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    Pregnant women can seek comfort from other measures to help alleviate pelvic pain, and improve the experience of the pregnancy journey.

What is pelvic pain?

Pelvic pain arises in the lower abdomen and is usually located below the belly button and can include the lower back, genital area, and buttocks. It can be challenging to decipher abdominal pain from pelvic pain, so a helpful cut-off point for determining the two would be to draw an imaginary line below the belly button when thinking about pelvic pain.

Pelvic pain gets placed into either acute or chronic. Pain called "acute" usually happens quickly and then goes away after medical intervention, whereas chronic pain usually sticks around for six months or more.

The quality of pain felt is determined by the person's perception of pain; however, generally, women who experience pelvic pain usually describe it as:

  • Constant.
  • Comes and goes.
  • Sharp.
  • Stabbing.
  • Burning.
  • Localized in one area.
  • Spread out over the abdomen.
  • Dull.
  • Cramping (as with menstrual cramps).
  • Pressure.
  • Painful urination.
  • Pain with sex.

When we experience pain in our bodies, it is an internal sign that something is wrong. Pelvic pain for women can be a warning sign for problems in the reproductive system and could ultimately affect your quality of life if it persists.

Causes of pelvic pain in pregnancy

Pregnant women find that experiencing pelvic pain can be scary, and it helps to know when to seek medical care. Pain that is short and brief is typically not a cause for concern. However, your doctor should check your when it becomes severe and does not go away, or there are other symptoms like vaginal bleeding or fever.

The following are common reasons for pelvic pain in pregnancy and why they might occur.

Pelvic pressure

Pregnant women will experience pelvic pressure in the vaginal area, which is often not a cause for alarm.

Let's look at some reasons you may be experiencing pelvic pressure.

Your uterus is growing

During pregnancy, the uterus expands as the baby grows, which can cause pressure on the vagina.

It could be constipation

Water is vital to keep things moving in our digestive tract. If you are not keeping yourself hydrated, then it is possible that the stool (for lack of better words, poop) is becoming hard and is not easily passable in the digestive tract.

Urinary tract infection

UTIs can happen in pregnancy and can make you feel like there is a ton of pressure in your pelvis.

Pelvic organ prolapse

Your baby (and uterus) is growing, causing weight on your pelvic floor muscles. Circulating hormones and the added weight causes the supporting ligaments to stretch, potentially pushing some organs into the vagina.

Women who have had multiple pregnancies are more prone to experience pelvic organ prolapse. Some women have described it as a feeling of pressure or like there is something "inside" the vagina.

Braxton hicks contractions

Also known as "false labor pains," Braxton hicks contractions typically occur in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. These types of contractions will come and go, and mimic real contractions as they prepare the uterus for the baby's arrival.

While a normal part of pregnancy, they differ from actual labor pains because they do not come in a regular pattern, are unpredictable, and do not increase in intensity. Those who experience them say they feel like menstrual cramps that are more annoying than painful.

Lower back pain

Experiencing lower back pain is typical in pregnancy, especially later in the third trimester when your growing belly creates disproportion and more stress on your spine. The additional weight can cause your center of gravity to change, and you might notice a change in posture.

Symphysis pubis dysfunction

The pain felt from symphysis pubis dysfunction is located where the right and left pelvic joints meet (near the vagina) and is due to the circulating hormone Relaxin. With a fitting name like Relaxin, it is not hard to understand what this hormone does. Relaxin is responsible for loosening the muscles, joints, and ligaments in the pelvis, all in preparation for the baby's delivery.

Pregnant women who have this condition often say the pain is:

  • Located in the lower back, sometimes on one or both sides.
  • Located between the vagina and anus.
  • In the inner thighs.
  • Causes mild discomfort.
  • Shooting pain in the pelvis.
  • Pain that radiates in the back, groin, thigh, and legs.
  • Increased pain with walking.
  • Clicking sounds while walking.
  • Difficulties with going from a sitting to a standing position.

This type of pain can be challenging for an expecting mother to experience. The good news is that this condition will most likely go away after the baby is born, as things shift back into a normal position.

How to sleep with pelvic pain during pregnancy

You know how important it is to get sleep while pregnant. Sometimes, that can be downright challenging with an extra tiny human in your belly. Here are some tips and tricks to sleep better with pelvic pain.

Sleep on your side

Try sleeping on your side, specifically on the left side, with your knees slightly bent. This position will help to take the weight off your lower abdomen. Sleeping on the left side gives some added benefits to the baby because it helps increase the blood flow and nutrients delivered to the baby.

If you need to rotate sides while sleeping, that is okay, too. Avoid sleeping on your back, especially as you get further along during pregnancy. The growth of the abdomen can put pressure on your pelvic floor and increase pain. It could also decrease circulation to the baby.

Add a pillow between your knees

Placing a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side might help ease pelvic pain, especially when its felt between your hips. The pillow will help align your hips into the correct position. The trick is to get the right size pillow and ensure you do not get anything too large.

Relieve pelvic pain when pregnant

Getting relief from pelvic pain during pregnancy can help improve the experience of being pregnant, and there are some things you can try that other mothers have found beneficial.

Exercise

Check with your obstetrician before you begin any new exercise. Exercise is excellent even while pregnant as long as you have a healthy pregnancy. Focus on activities that promote strength in the pelvic floor muscles and the lower back.

Get a pregnancy massage

Prenatal massages are a wonderful thing to incorporate into your pregnancy journey. The American Pregnancy Association suggests getting a Swedish massage while pregnant because it helps ease the associated pains with the hormonal effects on the muscles and joints by relaxing muscle tension.

Before getting a pregnancy massage, talk to your doctor; they can help you find a massage therapist licensed for prenatal massage therapy.

Take a warm bath

A nice warm bath is also a great option because the water's buoyancy will help relieve the baby's weight. The water in the tub mustn't be extremely hot as this could harm the baby. If the water is scalding, that is too hot.

Go see a chiropractor

A chiropractor specializing in aligning the spinal column can help reduce pelvic pain and lower back pain resulting from the increased pressure and poor posture experienced as the uterus and baby grows. Chiropractors have training in safely treating pregnant women; some have even undergone additional certification in prenatal chiropractic care.

Use a pregnancy belt

A pregnancy belt is worn under the abdomen and helps support the belly's extra weight. The support garment can help to reduce the pressure placed on the pelvis and lower back and helps to correct posture. These belts offer an affordable and easily accessible way for pregnant women to help alleviate pain.

Are there at home remedies

Working alongside your doctor, you can try to manage pelvic pain at home. Always listen to your body and try not to overdo activities. You might wish to try the following:

  • Prenatal yoga.
  • Improving posture.
  • Using a heat/ice pack on the pubic bone.
  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  • Stretching.
  • Meditation.
  • Wear flat shoes.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for a long time.
  • Most important: ask for your healthcare professional for help.

While pelvic pain during pregnancy can be a very regular occurrence to experience, it can be problematic and affect the quality of the pregnancy journey. Knowing when the pain is normal and what things the mother-to-be can do to help alleviate those symptoms is helpful. Try these solutions discussed in this article, and always communicate with your obstetrician when you have concerning symptoms.

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