If you’re experiencing hip pain in pregnancy, you’re not alone. Around 20 percent of women experience some type of hip pain during pregnancy. The pain may be focused on the side or the back of the hip, or in the general pelvic girdle area. It may feel dull or sharp, and come on gradually or suddenly.
Hip pain can start at any point during pregnancy, but it’s more likely to occur in the second and third trimesters as your baby grows and your body prepares for birth.
Read on to learn how to manage and prevent hip pain during pregnancy.
If your pain is particularly severe or limiting, you may consider visiting a chiropractor or physical therapist for a professional evaluation. Be sure to let them know that you’re pregnant. Otherwise, here are a few things you can do at home that may help you feel better.
Stretching may help loosen tight hips and provide pain relief. Yoga can also be good exercise in pregnancy since it’s gentle and low-impact.
Certain forms of yoga, including ‘hot yoga,’ is not recommended in pregnancy. Be sure and let your instructor know that you are pregnant if you choose to attend yoga classes.
You can find many free online videos with sequences of poses specifically intended to help with hip and back issues during pregnancy.
For example, Yoga Sidsel shares this 20-minute Hips and Lower Back session. She focuses on the following poses:
- Position yourself on all fours with your knees spread hip-distance apart, hips over your knees and shoulders over your wrists.
- Slowly drop your belly toward the mat, arcing your spine.
- Return to a neutral position and repeat.
Optional: You can also slowly move around on all fours as it feels good to you.
- From cow, tuck your toes under and extend your arms out ahead of you.
- Bring your hips backward with your knees spread a bit wider than before.
- Rest your head on the ground.
Optional: You can also rock forward and backward in this position.
Bound angle pose
- Bring yourself to a seated position with your legs bent into a butterfly, soles of feet touching.
- It’s especially helpful to lift your seat up with a folded blanket or bolster to give your belly extra room.
- You can stay up high or walk your hands forward while keeping your spine erect. Do not curve your spine.
2. Other exercises
There are also physical therapy moves you can try at home to get relief. Jane with myPhysioSA for Her details a few stretches that are appropriate for pregnancy:
Figure 4 stretch
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Slide one knee forward as far as you can and slide your foot toward the opposite wrist.
- Slide your other foot back until you feel a stretch on the bottom of your front leg.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat on other side.
Figure 4 (seated)
- Sitting on a stable chair or other surface, bring one ankle up to your opposite thigh, forming the number 4.
- Sit up tall, keeping your spine erect.
- Lean forward at the hip joint until you feel a stretch.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on other side.
3. OTC pain relievers
Beyond exercises and stretches, you may find relief with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Ask your doctor which might work best for you, as well as what dosage you should take.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), for example, is a category B drug and is generally considered safe during pregnancy.
4. Warm bath or compress
You’ll want to use warm rather than cold when applying temperature treatment for hip pain. Warmth helps to bring blood flow to the area. It also lessens joint stiffness and muscle spasms.
To use a warm compress, you may use a heating pad or a homemade compress (damp towel soaked in warm water). Apply for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. You should not apply the heating pad directly onto your stomach.
When using a warm bath for pain relief during pregnancy, make sure the water isn’t too hot. It should be warm enough that you don’t feel cold, but not so hot that your body temperature rises. Consider adding ½ cup Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to release your tight muscles.
Your partner can massage certain areas around your hips to help release pain and pressure. Certified massage practitioner Isis Arjeta explains that side-lying hip and leg massage can be done safely at home.
- Lay on your side with your knees and arms hugging a pregnancy pillow or a few separate pillows.
- Have your partner find the edge of your triangular sacrum, which is located on your back. Imagine a line going through your pelvis from your hip bone to your back. That’s your triangular sacrum. Press down with the palm toward your feet. At the same time, have them stretch in the opposite direction with their other palm towards the rib cage.
- Your partner can also focus directly on the hip bone, massaging the area with gentle pressure in a circular or rocking motion with their fists.
- Repeat massage as desired on the other side of your body.
Note: Throughout the massage, your partner should focus on opening your torso and stretching the muscles back toward the spine.
There are several reasons why you might experience hip pain during pregnancy. It’s often not a sign of a complication or anything you’ve done wrong. Here are five common causes:
The hormone relaxin increases during pregnancy. As the name implies, it relaxes the tissue that connect your bones throughout the body. This can lead to pelvic discomfort, especially back pain or hip pain.
2. Weight gain
As you and your baby gain weight, it puts more stress on your bones and joints. Excessive weight gain may lead to hip pain and other discomfort.
Doctors recommend gaining between 11 and 40 pounds total during a singleton pregnancy. The amount recommended for you depends on your starting weight. Generally, women with a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain between 25 and 35 pounds.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations on weight gain during pregnancy, and never try to lose weight during pregnancy unless specifically recommended and overseen by your doctor.
3. Poor posture
Your posture may change with weight gain and the redistribution of weight being focused around your belly. Not only that, but if your baby is settling to one side more than another, it may also cause aches and pains.
Holding an older child on your hip or carrying other heavy items without proper posture is another posture issue that can lead to hip pain.
To practice good posture, focus on wearing supportive shoes throughout your pregnancy. When possible, reduce the number of heavy things you lift or carry. Take breaks when walking so that you don’t resort to poor posture as a result of fatigue.
Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Instead, get up and move around to avoid adding additional strain on your joints and muscles.
4. Transient osteoporosis
Some hip pain may be caused by a demineralization of your hip bones, or what is known as transient osteoporosis. This condition typically begins sometime in the second or third trimester and may be related to calcium and potassium levels.
You may experience pain in the hips or groin. To get a proper diagnosis, you’ll need an MRI.
Transient osteoporosis generally gets better shortly after delivery, but in rare cases, you may experience hip fractures that take longer to heal.
5. Sleeping position
Side sleeping may contribute to hip pain by putting pressure on your joints. With fewer sleeping positions available during pregnancy, though, side sleeping may be your most comfortable option.
If this position bothers your hips, consider sleeping with a pillow between your knees to put your legs in better alignment. A standard pillow will work, but special pregnancy pillows, like the Snoogle, are also helpful and offer total-body support.
While hip pain during pregnancy can be normal, you may want to see your doctor if the pain is interfering with your everyday life. For example, talk to your healthcare provider if you find yourself avoiding certain activities, like walking, due to pain.
If the pain becomes severe, pay close attention. Pain and pressure could be signs of preterm labor, especially if you also experience contractions. Contractions may feel like stomach cramping that is 10 to 12 minutes apart (or closer). Another sign is clear, pink, or brown vaginal discharge.
Want to prevent hip pain before it starts? Here are a few things you can try. Keep in mind that preventive measures may not work for everyone.
- Stay active in your pregnancy. Low-impact exercises, like walking, cycling, and swimming, may be best for avoiding hip pain.
- Keep weight gain in check. You generally only need to consume around 300 extra calories each day to support a healthy pregnancy.
- Wear flat, supportive shoes with good arch support during exercise and everyday activities. And stay off your feet for extended periods of time as much as you can if you start to notice pain.
- Practice good posture while sitting, standing, and lifting or carrying heavy items.
- Avoid certain activities that may aggravate pelvic pain, like crossing your legs, standing for long periods of time, vacuuming, or lifting heavy objects.
- Purchase a pregnancy support belt to support your hip joints throughout the day.
- Consider scheduling regular prenatal massages with a licensed therapist to keep muscles loose.
Hip pain may be a reality of pregnancy, especially as the delivery date draws closer. If these exercises, stretches, and other comfort measures don’t bring you relief, consider seeing your healthcare provider, or seeking specialized care from a physical therapist or chiropractor. Hip pain caused by pregnancy will likely subside shortly after delivery.
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