Between your growing baby, the increased volume of your blood, and the undeniable law of gravity, vaginal and pelvic pressure are common complaints for many moms-to-be.
Interestingly, it’s not just the third trimester when those telltale aches and general feelings of heaviness may strike. Some women report vaginal and pelvic pressure in the first and second trimesters, too.
The exact reason for vaginal or pelvic pressure can be tricky to diagnose. But rest assured: It’s very normal. Here’s what’s likely causing it, how to alleviate it, and when you should call your doctor.
Causes of vaginal and pelvic pressure
Understanding exactly what’s causing that uncomfortable feeling in your pelvic or vaginal region isn’t always easy. But if you’re experiencing pressure in the second and third trimesters, your growing baby is a likely culprit.
As your pregnancy progresses, your little one gets all the more snuggly against your organs, hips, and pelvis. That puts more stress on, well, everything!
Another likely culprit for all that pelvic pressure in the later months of pregnancy is the hormone relaxin. It helps loosen your ligaments as you move closer to childbirth, but it can affect your pelvic joints, too. Some women experience pain near their pubic bone and the sensation of shaky legs.
Your joints, muscles, and bones will be impacted by your pregnancy. Unfortunately, the increased pressure you’re feeling won’t go away until delivery. In fact, it’ll probably get worse when your baby drops — that’s when they move even further into your pelvic region in preparation for delivery.
You may notice that these feelings of pressure and mild pain happen with some kind of movement. That’s because the up and down motion of walking, climbing stairs, or even going over bumps in a car jostles your baby.
Pain during early pregnancy
If you’re experiencing vaginal or pelvic pressure in the first trimester, or early in the second, don’t blame your baby just yet. In the early weeks of pregnancy, your baby is likely much too small to be the reason. But there are many other things happening that could be to blame.
A cramping sensation in the early weeks of pregnancy may be due to your expanding uterus. Watch for signs of vaginal bleeding if you’re feeling cramp-like pains. Call your doctor if you start spotting or bleeding. Cramping is a common symptom for a miscarriage.
Constipation can also cause feelings of pressure. As surging pregnancy hormones and an uptick in iron (thanks to that prenatal vitamin) wreak havoc on your digestive tract, your pelvic discomfort could be related to your need for relief.
If that’s the case, make sure you’re drinking lots of water and consuming plenty of fiber. Ask your doctor about pregnancy-safe stool softeners, too.
To immediately relieve the pressure, try lying down on your side and focusing on breathing. You can also try the following ideas.
- Perform a few pelvic exercises, like pelvis tilts and rolls.
- Try relaxing in a soothing bath with warm water (not hot). You can also stand in the shower and aim the water at your back.
- Use a pregnancy support garment, also known as a belly sling. They’re designed to support your belly and offer relief to your hips, pelvis, and lower back.
- Avoid sudden movements if possible. Try not to twist at the waist. Instead, work on turning your whole body.
- Get a prenatal massage with a licensed therapist who specializes in treating pregnant women.
- Try to sit down as much as you can. Elevate your feet if possible.
- If you worked out regularly before becoming pregnant, don’t stop. Modify as necessary, but keep exercising consistently. If you’re uncertain about how to modify your workouts, ask your doctor.
Pressure vs. pain
While pressure in the vaginal or pelvic area is one thing, outright pain is quite another. Pressure in this area can feel similar to the ache you experience with menstrual cramps. You might also notice aching in your lower back.
Pain in your pelvic region is hard to mistake for pressure. When you’re experiencing pain in this area, it’s usually sharp enough that you’ll have a hard time walking or even talking through it. In that case, you should contact your doctor right away.
Other reasons to call your doctor immediately include:
- pelvic pain so intense that you can’t walk or talk
- severe headache
- sudden swelling of your hands, face, feet
Head to the hospital if you’re experiencing vaginal or pelvic pain in addition to other symptoms, including a fever, chills, or vaginal bleeding.
There are serious causes for pelvic pain during pregnancy. These might include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or preterm labor. Other dangerous conditions like preeclampsia or placental abruption can also cause pelvic pain.