14 Reasons for Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
Pelvic pain during pregnancy is a common side effect of adjusting to physical changes in the abdomen and pelvis, as well as Braxton Hicks contractions. However, because it can be a sign of an ovarian cyst, infection, or early labor, you should always notify your healthcare provider.
Pelvic pain affects 41% to 78% of pregnant women. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, the suspected causes of pelvic pain can vary.
The causes of pelvic pain during pregnancy are discussed in this article. You'll also discover why it's critical to consult your doctor if you're experiencing pelvic pain while pregnant.
1. Diastasis Recti
You may notice a bulge in the middle of your abdomen during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the two sides of your rectus abdominus—the muscles that run from the top to the bottom of your abdomen—can stretch apart and separate, resulting in diastasis recti (DR).
Weakness can result from abdominal muscle separation. You may have difficulty lifting heavy objects. DR is common in the late second and third trimesters, and it can last after pregnancy.
2. Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as false labor pains because they feel like real contractions but do not indicate that you are in labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions can happen as early as in the six weeks of pregnancy, but you won't feel them. You may begin to experience false labor pains in your second or third trimester, which can be frightening if your due date is still several weeks away.
Braxton Hicks contractions are common and are thought to prepare your body for actual labor. What you're feeling is your uterine muscle fibers tightening and relaxing.
3. Vaginal Infection
Vaginal infections can occur during pregnancy because changing hormones, particularly rising estrogen, disrupt your vagina's normal acid balance. Yeast and bacterial vaginosis are two types of vaginal infections that are common during pregnancy.
Vaginal infections can cause itching, burning, redness, swelling, and pain around the vulva, which is located just outside your vagina. Pain can occur during sex or while urinating. You may notice spotting and changes in your discharge, such as an abnormal color, odor, or amount.
4. Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can form on or inside your ovaries. Two small oval-shaped ovaries are normally found in the lower abdomen. Every month, one of them will lay an egg. The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, both of which are important during pregnancy.
Ovarian cysts can appear at any time and go unnoticed most of the time. A cyst during the first trimester of pregnancy usually does not cause any symptoms. They usually go away on their own after a while.
When a cyst ruptures or twists, you may experience pain, bloating, or swelling on one side of your abdomen. The pain may be intermittent, dull, or sharp and stabbing.
5. Round Ligament Pain
Pain in the round ligaments is common during pregnancy. The round ligaments resemble ropes or cords and connect your uterus to your groin. These ligaments support your uterus and may become painful during the second trimester as they soften and stretch to accommodate your growing belly.
6. Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Pain
SIJ pain is a type of low back pain that can radiate down your legs. The bones that make up your pelvic girdle are located at the base of your spine, around your pelvis. The pelvic girdle is supported by the two sacroiliac joints, which are located at the back of your body.
Weight gain during pregnancy can put a strain on your pelvic girdle bones and joints. Your joints may begin to bear the load unevenly, putting additional strain and friction on your SIJ. SIJ pain usually begins in the late second or third trimester.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy are another factor. The same hormone that relaxes your muscles and prepares them for birth can weaken the ligaments that provide support, contributing to pain.
7. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)
SPD is also known as pelvic girdle pain because, like SIJ pain, it affects the pelvis—in this case, the front of the pelvis.
SPD causes are the same as SIJ—relaxing and weight gain, which cause uneven pressure and friction on the bones and joints of the pelvic girdle.
SPD pain is characterized by shooting pain in the front of the pelvis that may spread to the lower abdomen, back, groin, perineum, and thighs. You may hear or feel clicking, grinding, or snapping sounds. It may worsen when you climb stairs, get in and out of bed or the bathtub, or bend over.
8. Pubic Symphysis Separation
The pubic symphysis is a joint that connects the bones in your pelvis. This joint needs to widen during pregnancy to allow for delivery. This widening can sometimes cause pain as the pelvis becomes unstable and less supportive.
Pubic symphysis separation, also known as diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP), is characterized by shooting, sharp pain in the front of the pelvis. The pain may radiate to your lower back, hips, thighs, lower abdomen, and the back of your legs. A clicking, grinding, or snapping sensation is possible.
The sciatic nerve is your body's largest nerve. It starts in your lower back and spreads to your buttocks, hips, and the back of your legs. Sciatica can occur when the nerve is pinched.
Sciatica symptoms can appear as you gain weight in the second and third trimesters. Weight gain, fluid retention, and your growing uterus can all put pressure on the sciatic nerve and pinch it along its path. Your baby's head may occasionally press against the nerve. Changes in posture as you gain weight in the front can also contribute to sciatica.
Miscarriages are pregnancy losses that occur before the 20th week of pregnancy. Most occur early in the pregnancy, sometimes before the mother is aware of the pregnancy, and frequently go unnoticed. Miscarriage occurs in 10 to 20% of known pregnancies. Although pregnancy loss is common, it can be emotionally draining.
Miscarriage cannot be stopped once it has begun. If the embryo or fetus is not developing normally, miscarriage can occur.
11. Preterm Labor
Preterm labor occurs when contractions and cervical opening for birth occur prematurely. Preterm labor can occur between the 20th and 37th week of pregnancy and affects approximately 12% of pregnancies.
You are considered full-term if you are 37 weeks or older. The earlier preterm labor occurs between the ages of 20 and 37 weeks, the more dangerous it is.
If you believe you are in labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, seek emergency medical attention.
12. Placental Abruption
Placental abruptions occur when your placenta detaches partially or completely from the uterine wall. Because the placenta provides nutrients and oxygen to your baby, this is a medical emergency. Placental abruptions are most common in the third trimester.
A placental abruption occurs in one out of every 100 pregnancies. Half of these cases are minor, 25% are moderate, and 25% are potentially fatal to both the mother and baby.
13. Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches anywhere outside the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy most commonly occurs in the fallopian tubes, which normally serve as passageways for eggs to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can occur anywhere in the body, including the cervix, ovary, and abdominal cavity.
Ectopic pregnancies do not develop into babies and, if left untreated, can be fatal to the mother.
14. Uterine Rupture
Uterine ruptures are uncommon, dangerous, and require immediate medical attention. A uterine rupture may occur in 1 in 67 to 1 in 500 women who have had a previous cesarean (C)-section.
When the uterine wall tears, a uterine rupture occurs. This is something that can happen during pregnancy or childbirth. If you've previously had a C-section, you're at risk of uterine rupture during vaginal birth.