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Hip Pain In Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment And Exercises For Relief

Hip Pain During Pregnancy

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Pelvic pain is one of the discomforts that some women experience during pregnancy. While this pain is usually not so severe and can be managed, it could become worrisome when it disturbs your routine activities.

Hip pain could affect you at any stage of pregnancy, and it could happen due to various reasons. This MomJunction post tells you about hip pain during pregnancy, its causes, prevention, and the treatments to alleviate the discomfort.

When Does Hip Pain Start During Pregnancy?

As every pregnancy is different, the timing of the hip pain is not definitive. Some women may start having it in the first trimester due to the changes in the body, while others may suffer in the second or third trimester when the uterus is growing. In many cases, the pain fades away after childbirth.

Regardless of the trimester it develops in, some common causes of hip pain include strenuous activities, standing for too long, or hormonal changes. Continue reading to know more about them.

Causes Of Hip Pain During Pregnancy

Some of the common reasons you could get hip pain when pregnant are explained below.

1. Hormonal changes

Hip pain in early pregnancy could be due to a hormone called relaxin, which is produced in high quantities in the first trimester. Although relaxin offers many benefits, it is also responsible for the increase in ligament and joint laxity and affects hips, lower back, and knees, causing hip pain and pelvic girdle pain (1).

2. Round ligament pain

The ligaments in the pelvic area that support the uterus from the groin are round ligaments. When pregnant, these ligaments become softer and cause pain when they tighten. The pain starts from the groin and moves up to the top and sides of the hip area. This hip pain starts in the second trimester, and may or may not continue in the third trimester (2).

3. Transient osteoporosis

Although rare, transient osteoporosis of the hip (TOH) is one of the causes of hip pain in the third trimester. It causes temporary bone loss, which triggers sudden pain, especially when lifting heavy objects or walking (3).

4. Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve that passes from the buttocks to the feet and connects the spinal cord to the skin and major muscles of the body. This is affected during pregnancy and triggers a sharp pain in the hip and buttock area (on one or two sides) (4).

This kind of hip pain is experienced in the third trimester or at the end of your pregnancy due to various causes such as weight gain, body posture, and uterus expansion.

5. Others

Hip pain in pregnancy could also be due to an increase in weight, body posture, and sleeping positions. These aspects could put pressure on the hip area, causing pain and discomfort.

Irrespective of the cause, following some simple measures could help you reduce the pain.

How To Relieve Hip Pain In Pregnancy?

Here are some ways to treat your hip pain in pregnancy. However, consult your doctor before following any method.

  1. Warm compress: It can provide relief from the pain as warm pads help in relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. You may even take a warm shower and see if there is a difference in pain. Ensure that the water is warm and not hot (5).
  1. Prenatal massage: Gentle massage therapy by a professional can help you relax and reduce your pain from the hips and pelvic area. Also, a massage helps in de-stressing (6).
  1. Exercises: Some stretching exercises and yoga postures may help treat hip pain in pregnancy. However, you need to consult your doctor before trying any exercises. And when you do, take help from your partner or any other family member.

Here, we discuss a few exercises that you can try to relieve hip pain.

a. Butterfly stretch

Butterfly stretch

Image: iStock

According to Raffles Hospital, Singapore, this posture provides relief to your hips and lower back by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles (7).

How to:

  • Sit down, keep your back straight, and bring your feet together.
  • Rest your hands on your ankles.
  • Press your knees with the elbows and lean forward.
  • Hold the posture for a few seconds.
  • Change the position by pushing knees upwards, and hold it for a few seconds.
  • Repeat the posture for three times.

Note: If this posture is putting pressure on your tummy or you are not feeling comfortable, you need to stop it.

b. Yoga squat or malasana

Yoga squat or malasana

Image: iStock

This posture is good for your lower body and will provide relief to your hips (8).

How to:

  • Stand straight with your back stiff.
  • Bend your right knee and move it outward to the right.
  • Do the same with your left knee.
  • Slowly bend your hips to squat.
  • See that your entire body is in a comfortable position, and you are making a wide squat.
  • Now join your hands and bring them close to your heart. You may take your partner’s help while doing this.

Note: If you experience pain in the abdomen, discontinue this posture.

c. Chair-seated exercise

Chair-seated exercise

Image: iStock

This seated posture on the chair is good to relieve pain in the hips, legs, and lower back area (9).

How to:

  • Sit on a chair and keep your back straight.
  • Cross your right leg and keep it on your left knee.
  • Slightly lean forward. You will feel a stretch on the outer area of your leg and glutes. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Repeat the same with left leg on the right knee. Hold on for a few seconds.
  • Continue this for three times in a day.

Note: You may practice this pose until you feel comfortable, else you can discontinue.

  1. Over-the-counter pain medications: If exercise or warm compress is not helping you manage the pain, you may ask your doctor to prescribe pain medications. Acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, is considered safe. However, consult the doctor before taking any medication (10).
  1. Pregnancy pillows and belt: Use pillows to support your knees, back and hips while sleeping. You may also wear a pregnancy belt to support your lower back and stabilize hips. It will provide you some relief and might promote good sleep too (11).

It is possible to prevent pain in the hip and pelvic area when you are pregnant if you are careful about what you are doing in your routine.

Tips To Prevent Hip Pain During Pregnancy

The following measures can help prevent hip pain and discomfort when you are pregnant.

  • Do exercises as per your capacity under the supervision of a trainer. Avoid doing anything you are unaccustomed to.
  • Standing or sitting for too long might cause hip pain in pregnancy; so you must rest and relax whenever possible.
  • Whether you are standing, sitting, or sleeping, your posture should be right. Leaning back for a long time could put pressure on your lower back and hips, so avoid doing that.
  • Unsupportive or uncomfortable footwear can increase pain in your hips, legs, and ankles. See that you are wearing good-quality shoes when you are walking or performing light exercises.
  • Maintain a healthy weight when you are pregnant, as gaining too many kilos could again put pressure on your hip, resulting in pain.

If preventive measures are not helping or the hip pain has increased and become unmanageable, you can consult a doctor for the right course of treatment.

When To Visit The Doctor?

If you can manage the pain by performing some exercises and bringing in some lifestyle changes, then you need not worry. However, if the pain increases and is troubling you all day and night, you should consult your doctor soon. Do not ignore hip pain in pregnancy.

Next, we address a few commonly raised doubts regarding hip pain during pregnancy.

Frequently Answered Questions

1. Is hip pain an early sign of pregnancy?

Although this discomfort is a part of pregnancy, it cannot be considered an early symptom of pregnancy. Pregnant women can experience hip pain at any time during the nine months, while some do not have it at all.

2. How long after birth does hip pain go away?

Ideally, the pain reduces or fades away after your baby is born. However, around 10-15% of women could experience this pain even after the delivery. The pain after delivery is not so common, and it could be due to chronic joint pain or infection, which requires a doctor’s consultation (1).

Mild hip pain is normal during pregnancy, and there is no need to worry about it. Try practicing some exercises and follow the tips we shared to manage the pain. Also, make sure that none of your routine activities are putting any extra pressure on your hips. If the pain is unmanageable, visit a healthcare provider.

Did you experience hip pain when you were pregnant? How did you manage it? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

References:

1. S. Kauffman; Relaxin – how much is too much?; Spectrum Health (2019)
2. Round ligament pain – its causes, symptoms and treatment; Marshfield Clinic Health System
3. Transient osteoporosis of the hip; The Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
4. R. Issuree; Pregnancy pain; Saint Alphonsus
5. S. Patel; 8 third trimester pains and how to deal with them; UT Southwestern Medical Center (2016)
6. Medical massage: Can a massage therapist help my health?; University of Utah
7. 4 exercises for pelvic girdle pain (part 1); Raffles Hospital
8. Prenatal yoga: Poses to ease the pains of pregnancy; RMC Health System
9. Stretches to relieve pregnancy hip, low back and leg pain; Sleigh Family Chiropractic: A Creating Wellness Center
10. R. A. Black and A. Hill; Over-the-counter medications in pregnancy; American Academy of Family Physicians (2003)
11. Pregnancy: Pelvic and hip pain; Kaiser Permanente

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