Pregnancy is an exciting phase. However, it involves pains and aches with your body changing. Hip pain is one such common symptom that you may experience. It is the most felt discomfort in late pregnancy phase that is during your third trimester.
For some, it may be a minor problem, but for some others, it can interfere with their everyday activities and cause sleep disruptions. You will usually feel the pain in the back or side of the hip, and it turns worse while standing. The pain aggravates when lifting weights.
What Causes Hip Pain During Pregnancy?
There are many causes of hip pain during pregnancy. It is mainly caused when the ligaments holding the sacroiliac joints, which connect spine to pelvis, loosen.
1. Relaxin Hormone:
You body releases relaxin, a major hormone during pregnancy. It causes relaxation by softening all your joints and muscles. It is released in significant amounts to prepare your body for delivery. It softens the pelvic joints, so that your baby can easily pass through the birth canal at the time of labor. However, the hormone increases your sensitivity to trauma which can result in hip pain.
There are two sciatic nerves in the body. Both originate from the lower back region and connect to feet. When your bulging uterus exerts pressure on these nerves, it can lead to numbness, pain and a tingling sensation in the hips, thighs and buttocks. As you near your due date, the baby changes position, and you may feel less discomfort. Although sciatica is a common sign of pregnancy, you should inform your doctor as it may occur due to other serious causes.
3. Round Ligament Pain:
It is characterized by a throbbing pain in the hip, groin, and abdominal area. The pain increases with any changes or movements in the baby’s position.
4. Transient Osteoporosis:
It is another primary cause of hip pain that afflicts especially in the second and third trimester. Transient osteoporosis causes a temporary bone loss in the upper portion of the thigh bone. It, therefore, leads to the sudden onset of hip pain which intensifies with walking or other physical activities.
MRI scan is usually required to diagnose the condition. The healing process lasts for six weeks, but it sometimes leads to hip fracture.
5. Increase In Weight:
Extra weight from your growing pregnancy can put some amount of pressure on the pelvis causing a shift and thereby pain.
6. Wrong Posture:
It can lead to hip pain, especially during second and third trimester when your body is not in perfect balance due to your baby’s weight.
Other Causes For Pain In Hips During Pregnancy
- Overweight women and those with prior hip issues will develop pain when they sleep on their side. Though sleeping on the side is a must during late pregnancy, it can cause hip pain due to built-in pressure.
[ Read: How To Manage Weight While Pregnant ]
- Physical changes will also cause hip pain during pregnancy. The pressure built by the huge uterus and softening of pelvic bones can cause hip pain and discomfort in your third trimester.
- The center of gravity shifts during pregnancy because of the pressure built on your hip and pelvis. It can, therefore, cause hip pain, which you can reduce by changing your body structure.
How You Can Treat Hip Pain During Pregnancy
Hip pain can be severe enough to cause trouble while you are sleeping. It can also cause stress and discomfort during the day. Here is how you can get relief from the pain and discomfort:
1. Use A Pregnancy Pillow:
Using a full-body pregnancy pillow helps. You may experience hip pain when sleeping because of the poor posture or lack of support in the pelvic area. You can escape from this by using a pregnancy pillow. It adjusts to your body shape and offers excellent support to your belly, back and legs.
If the pillow is not enough, you can use a recliner, especially in the later stages of pregnancy to have control on your body position.
[ Read: How To Choose Best Pregnancy Pillow ]
2. Sleeping On Your Side:
In the final trimester, especially when you are getting closer to labor, you should sleep on your side, keeping your knees and legs bent. You can use pillows to support the abdomen and upper leg to find comfort. If sleeping on your side aggravates your hip pain, place a blanket or a pillow to your lower back and sleep against it. It will alleviate the pressure on your hip.
3. Heat Therapy:
When nothing else works, have a warm water bath or apply a hot water bottle on your hip. With advice and consultation from your doctor, you can also get a massage with warm oil to get relief from hip pain. The massage should be very gentle, and your bath water should be warm (not hot).
4. Rest Whenever Possible:
Standing on your feet all day long can aggravate your hip pain. Ensure that you take rest or sit down as much as you can during the day. Try to be in a position that gives you the most needed relief, rest and relaxation. Sitting and sleeping with legs raised and a proper back support will give you relief from hip pain.
[ Read: How Does Standing Affect Pregnant Women? ]
5. Prenatal Massage:
Scheduling a prenatal massage eases the pains and aches of pregnancy. A prenatal massage not only relaxes your muscles and de-stresses you but also makes you feel better. Go to a trained therapist so that they know where the exact sore spots lie.
6. Yoga and Pilates:
Both yoga and pilates provide relief from hip and back pain during pregnancy. You can join in a yoga or pilate class in your locality. The instructors will know which positions can stretch, align and relieve your hips and pelvis.
[ Read: Yoga Poses To Avoid During Pregnancy ]
7. Water Workouts:
When you are in the last trimester, you may have to stay off your feet as too much walking or standing will worsen your hip pain. As you are advised to exercise, you can opt for swimming. It relieves the strain on hips and all other joints. When you swim in the water, you feel weightless, and this can take off the pressure from your hip and joints.
8. Iliac Brace:
When you are standing or performing any physical work, you should be wearing an iliac brace or a pregnancy belt. It offers support to your back and midsection. Seek your healthcare provider’s advice on which brand to use.
Some More Tips To Manage Hip Pain In Pregnancy
- Do not cross your legs while sleeping as it could exert more pressure on the hips and increase the pain. Try to sleep with your legs parallel to each other, where ankles and knees are separated.
- Placing a pillow under your baby bump will prevent you from rolling forward.
- Place an extra layer of padding above or below the hip joint, whichever makes you feel better. A sleeping bag or quilt gives the best pain relief.
- While standing, you should hold shoulders back, head up and pelvis tucked in.
- Placing a warm wheat bag next to your hips will provide relief.
- Applying an ice pack several times a day will help relieve joint pains.
- Ask your healthcare provider whether you can take a pain reliever. Aspirin and ibuprofen combinations should not be taken.
- If you are lying on your back, keep a pillow between your knees and squeeze. It helps in realigning the pelvic bones and offers relief to your hip.
- The firmness of the mattress is another factor you should consider. If your mattress is too firm, use an ‘egg crate’ pad that is made of foam rubber which makes it softer. You can also buy a new mattress.
- Do not wear high heels as they can imbalance your body and aggravate pain. Choose platforms or flats as they support your weight.
[ Read: Risks Of Wearing Heels During Pregnancy ]
- Consume lots of water, and also include calcium and magnesium rich foods in your diet. You can also find out from your healthcare provider about any herbal remedies for finding relief from pain.
- One simple exercise that can offer relief is to lie on your back and elevate your hips above your chest and remain for a couple of minutes.
Stretches To Relieve Your Hip Pain During Pregnancy
Stretching is an activity that is incredibly helpful in reducing muscle-related pain. Apart from the above precautions, here are a few stretches that can significantly bring relief from your hip pain:
1. Hamstring Stretches:
Hamstrings are the largest muscles located at the backside of thigh. Tight hamstrings will cause hip or back pain during pregnancy.
Hamstring stretches are executed in a seated or standing position during the second trimester. In a seated variation, you should extend one leg towards the front of your body and bend the other with your foot resting on the thigh or inner knee of your extended leg. Leaning towards the extended leg causes the hamstrings to stretch on that particular side, which you can feel down to your thigh back.
2. Seated Piriformis Stretch:
Piriformis is a tiny muscle that passes from the tip of the thighbone towards tailbone. Its primary function is to offer stability and regulate the movement of the sacroiliac joint (pelvis joins tailbone). When this joint is not stable, it affects the piriformis and therefore causes pain in the gluteal area.
This form of stretch involves crossing one leg over another leg and bending ahead near the hip until you can feel a stretch in the back of your buttocks.
[ Read: 5 Hip Exercises To Do During Pregnancy ]
3. Hip Flexor Stretch:
Hip flexors run through the front of your hip, and they help in the movement of the upper leg towards the body front. These flexors become tight in your pregnancy and thus contribute to hip pain and discomfort. Weak abdominal muscles will also cause tightness in the hip flexors, disrupting the pelvic alignment and increasing the low back curve.
Hip flexor stretches involve kneeling on one leg while the other is placed in front of the body with a bent knee. Shifting the complete weight on the front leg will help in stretching the flexor muscles towards the opposite side.
4. Child’s Pose:
The child’s pose stretches and extends the muscles of the spine which often become tight in your pregnancy.
For a child’s pose, you should be in a kneeling posture and lower the body on the thighs so that the lower body rests on the feet and the upper body and ankles over the front of the thighs. Here the forehead will rest on the floor; the arms extend outward and palms will also rest on the floor. In late pregnancy stage, the knees are already spread apart.
Precautions While Performing Stretches
Always check with your physician when you plan to start a stretching exercise. See to it that you will not stretch beyond the point of pain. Avoid holding breath and bouncing when you perform the stretch.
If you experience any pain, difficulty in breathing or dizziness during these stretches, stop immediately. Sometimes, they will not improve with any change in position, movement or rest; it can only be evaluated by your doctor.
When To Seek A Doctor’s Help?
If your hip pain is associated with soreness or pressure in the pelvic region which radiates across the thighs before your 37th week during pregnancy, it is best you seek your doctor’s help. It can be a sign of premature labor. Also, seek the help if you have:
- Difficulty in walking
- Difficulty in taking weight over one side
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to relieve pregnancy-related hip pain while sleeping?
A slight change when sleeping on your side will help lower hip and back pain. Place a pillow in between or under your knees so that it decreases muscular discomfort and lowers back pain. The knee angle decreases from your hip when you use a pillow, reducing tension on gluteus medius muscles (present on the outer surface of the pelvis). It reduces the body weight pressure on the muscles.
As the uterus grows, the hip angle also increases. You need to add more pillows or use a larger pillow so as to avoid the angle in between the knee and the hip.
2. How to alleviate hip pain while sleeping on your side?
Hips usually hurt because of the extra weight you are carrying. Sleeping with a pillow between your legs helps to keep your hip aligned and thus reduces the pain. You can also place another pillow below your abdominal area and sleep leaning against it. It offers extra support and comfort.
3. What are the causes of hip pain during second and third trimester?
Hip pain during the second trimester of your pregnancy could be caused due to round ligament pain. It is a sharp throbbing pain in the abdomen, groin and hip region. It will increase when you change your position or move rapidly.
During your third trimester, your body releases relaxin, a hormone that relaxes the joints and ligaments around the pelvic region. It, thereby, prepares your body for an easy labor. Sometimes, relaxin also relaxes joints and ligaments of other body parts that may include your hips.
All women possess relaxin hormone in their bodies. But, it increases nearly ten times during pregnancy. Though relaxin is released from the first trimester, you will experience the effects only in the third trimester.
4. Can you experience hip pain in the first trimester?
During the first trimester, there are no musculoskeletal issues that can cause hip pain. Also, the fetus size is too small for any pressure to be created. Therefore, you will not experience any hip pain and complications are very rare.
Share your experiences with other expectant mommies in the comment section below.
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