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Many women experience hip pain during pregnancy. The pain is most common during the second and third trimesters, but it can start as early as the first trimester.
Read on to find out why pregnant women are prone to hip pain and how they can find relief. We also explain when it is best to see a doctor.
Pregnancy often goes hand in hand with various aches and pains. Hip pain during pregnancy is a common occurrence.
The findings of a 2018 study suggest that about 32% of pregnant women report hip pain at some point during the pregnancy.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), hormones that the body produces during pregnancy relax the joints, which make them more mobile and prone to injury.
The hips are prone to pain due to the role that they play in supporting the body and movement. Standing for long periods, doing certain exercises, and sitting or lying down in particular positions can aggravate the hips during pregnancy.
The main underlying causes of hip pain during pregnancy include:
- the release of a hormone called relaxin
- weight gain
- changes in posture
Although hip pain can occur during any trimester, it is most likely to develop in the second and third trimesters.
Relaxin is a hormone that causes changes to various parts of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system comprises bones, ligaments, and other connective tissues.
Relaxin alters cartilage and tendons, making them looser. It helps the hips spread and widen in preparation for delivery. These stretched muscles and ligaments can cause the following:
- dysfunction of the sacroiliac joints, which are weight-bearing joints in the hips
- pain in the round ligaments, the thick fibers on either side of the abdomen that run from the pubic region
- symphysis pubis dysfunction, which is pain and reduced mobility due to the separation of the pelvic bones
A natural effect of pregnancy is weight gain. A woman starting at a healthy weight can expect to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. As pregnant women gain weight, it can place additional stress on the hips.
As the majority of pregnancy-related weight gain tends to occur in the midsection, the body’s center of gravity can start to shift. This change can lead to poor postural alignment, which can put additional strain on the hips.
Hip pain during pregnancy is normal, and women do not need to talk to their doctor unless the pain has become so severe that it interferes with their daily routine.
It is best to talk to a doctor if the pain is recurring or constant. Preterm labor may cause additional pain in the hips, or it might lead to lower back pain.
It is also a good idea for a woman to talk to her doctor if she experiences any sharp pain during pregnancy.
There are several potential ways to treat hip pain during pregnancy. These include medical treatment options, at-home remedies, and stretches that help relieve hip pain.
In some cases, a combination of treatments may help relieve hip pain during pregnancy.
If a woman experiences persistent or intense pain in her hips during pregnancy, she should talk to her doctor. A doctor will examine the woman and fetus to check for signs of premature labor and other possible complications.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medication to help treat pain associated with the hips or other areas of the body. Pregnant women should follow their doctor’s instructions on taking medication precisely.
Common OTC medications, such as acetaminophen, have some associated risks. Therefore, it is important to speak to a doctor before taking OTC pain relievers during pregnancy.
A warm compress is one effective means to help relieve hip pain during pregnancy. People can make one by dampening a towel with warm water.
Alternatively, they can buy a compress or heating pad online or at their local pharmacy to apply heat to the hips. Pregnant women should avoid placing the hot compress directly against the skin or on the belly.
A pelvic belt is a supportive device that women can use to help support their hips during pregnancy.
According to one study, wearing a pelvic belt had a positive effect on the body during pregnancy and could help treat hip pain. People may need to look online or in a specialty pregnancy store to find a pelvic belt.
A person can purchase a pelvic belt online here.
If a woman sleeps on her side while pregnant, she should place a pillow between her legs. Specially designed pillows are available to provide extra support for pregnant women.
While a regular pillow will provide some support, pregnancy pillows are usually the full length of the body. A pregnant woman can carefully arrange herself on the pillow to relieve a wider variety of aches and pains.
Stretches or Exercises
The ACOG recommend that women who are pregnant continue exercising throughout their pregnancy.
Exercise can include walking, swimming, yoga, and other light-to-moderate activities. One major benefit of exercise is that it can help prevent extra weight gain, which puts additional pressure on the hips.
Yoga, particularly a prenatal yoga class, may be a good option for pregnant women. Several yoga poses help stretch the hips and other areas of the body that may be sore due to pregnancy aches and pains.
A 2019 study in Global Advances in Health and Medicine examined the effectiveness of prenatal yoga on a woman’s well-being and the prevention of common pregnancy complaints. The study found that modified yoga routines are safe and effective during pregnancy.
Some of the poses that the researchers included in the study’s yoga sessions may help improve stability and reduce hip pain.
These poses include:
- Child’s Pose
- Cat Pose
- One Leg Forward Bend
- Squat with Kegel
Before starting any new exercise program, a pregnant woman should talk to her doctor. They may be able to recommend group classes appropriate to the woman’s level of fitness.
The ACOG recommend that pregnant women stop any exercise if they experience any of the following:
- a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina
- a headache
- chest pain
- bleeding from the vagina
- muscle weakness
- shortness of breath before starting
- regular or painful contractions
- calf pain or swelling
Hip pain during pregnancy is a normal occurrence due to changes in hormones and weight distribution. A woman who experiences hip pain may find at-home treatments effective.
These can include:
- heated compresses
- supportive belts
- gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming
- modified yoga routines
Pregnant women should use caution before taking medications, even OTC ones, for hip pain during pregnancy. A doctor can offer advice on taking any medication or starting an exercise program.