As any person who’s ever been pregnant can probably attest, musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy is not uncommon.

You might develop some aches and pains in your lower back, knees, ankles, and hips, among other places. These pains can be especially annoying during the third trimester when you’re nearing the proverbial finish line. But some pains can linger on into the postpartum period.

Read on for more information about postpartum hip pain and what to do if you have it.

The most common type of hip pain during pregnancy is pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), and it can range from mild to severe. PGP is pain that can occur in the front and back of your pelvis and may radiate to your hip or thigh.

It’s more common in late pregnancy, and it’s also more common in women with a history of low back pain or previous trauma to the pelvis or back.

In an ideal world, it would go away right after you give birth, but that’s not always the case. PGP may linger for a few months after delivery. And for some, it can persist even longer.

Everyone’s experience with postpartum pain is different. But there are some commonly experienced symptoms, including:

  • constant tightness or pain in your pelvic area
  • pain that gets worse with activity or exercise
  • pain deep in your pubic area
  • pain that shimmers across your lower back

Depending on the cause of the pain, you might also hear your hip joint click or feel it catch.

During pregnancy, hormonal changes and joint instability cause PGP. Experts say that when PGP continues into the postpartum period, it likely has other causes, such as reduced strength of the muscles in the abdominal and pelvic areas.

Another possible cause of postpartum hip pain is a labral tear. Cartilage lines the inside of your hip socket where the head of the thigh bone rests. But it can degenerate or wear away, or it can tear, causing some significant pain.

This injury typically develops over time, under pressure and strain. It can occur suddenly because of injury, but that’s rare.

Other possible causes of postpartum hip pain include piriformis syndrome and hyperthyroidism. Arthritis is known to cause long-term hip pain and can also play a role in this situation.

If you have pain in the pelvic or hip area after childbirth, your doctor may want to run some pain and functional ability tests to gauge the severity of the problem.

For example, you may need to undergo a straight leg raise test, which is often used to help diagnose people with lower back pain.

Other tests may include:

  • posterior pelvic pain provocation
  • symphysis pressure test
  • Patrick’s (FABER) test
  • modified Trendelenburg test
  • long dorsal sacroiliac ligament test
  • Gaenslen’s

Your doctor may choose to run various tests to better assess which parts of your pelvic area are affected.

If your doctor determines that you have persistent PGP after childbirth, you can try several nonsurgical options to see whether that helps alleviate some of the pain and discomfort, such as:

  • bed rest
  • a pelvic brace or binder
  • pain relief injections
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • physical or occupational therapy

Some strengthening exercises, often included in physical therapy, can be helpful, but you have to be careful. There’s a fine line between helpful and harmful, so you may need to avoid doing too much exercise, which can worsen your pain.

Also, some evidence indicates acupuncture can provide pain relief, especially with other treatments.

Your doctor might also discuss surgical options with you in some severe cases.

A 2019 study of PGP in postpartum women found that the most significant risk factors for this kind of pain persisting into the 6-month mark were pain intensity and disability during pregnancy.

So, if you had pretty significant pain and mobility limitation due to hip pain while you were pregnant, you may be more likely to experience lingering hip pain in the postpartum period. If you’ve had persistent girdle pain in one pregnancy, that could also raise your risk of having it again during a future pregnancy.

Some research suggests that a history of low back pain may also increase your risk, as well as dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles.

For many women with hip pain during pregnancy, the pain begins to improve during the postpartum period. For many of them, it levels off by around the 6-month mark.

But for others, it can linger, with no clear answer about the length of time. And it can be very disruptive. It can inhibit your ability to sleep well and even prevent you from being able to work as many hours at your job.

Some older research found that some women experience lingering back and pelvic pain as long as 3 years after childbirth.

And one 2016 study found that postpartum hip pain can linger even longer than that for some. Research indicates that 1 in 10 women with PGP during pregnancy experience severe pain 10 or 11 years later.

Because the research suggests that the more severe the PGP is during pregnancy, the more likely it is to develop into long-term pain, don’t ignore any hip pain during pregnancy. Ask about pain assessment tests and strategies for addressing the pain now that might help you ward off more pain later.

If the pain limits your mobility and curtails your ability to carry out your activities of daily living, or you feel that the pain is creating symptoms of depression or anxiety, contact a doctor. They may want to run some pain provocation tests to determine the extent of your pain and then suggest treatment options.

Also, if the postpartum months are ticking by and nothing seems to be improving, it’s time to contact a doctor.

Depending on the severity, postpartum hip pain can limit your mobility and affect your mood, which can affect your quality of life. If you’ve recently delivered a baby and you’re still experiencing pain in your hip area, let your doctor know so you can discuss the best options for helping you manage and, hopefully, heal too.