Pelvic Pain and Pregnancy
The Pains Of Reproduction
Women experience a variety of different pains related to reproduction. There is the common cramping that is a precursor to menstruation, as well as pelvic pain that is associated with ovulation. It is a foregone conclusion for most women that pain is just part of the monthly cycle and the unspoken hope is that it will all go away once they become pregnant. Oh, if it were only so.
Most pregnancies go along well, but an unexpected pain in the pelvic area of a pregnant woman can trigger worry in short order. Often the pain is harmless, but there are times when medical care is necessary.
Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
Pelvic pain in early pregnancy is common, usually occurring around the time of the first missed menstrual period. Low abdominal pain, similar to the dull pain often felt just before menstruation starts, signifies the embryo, the fertilized egg, is embedding into the uterus. The pain might go on for a couple of days accompanied by some light vaginal bleeding.
A little later in pregnancy, during the second trimester, many women experience sharp, stabbing, pains in their groin or on one side of the abdomen. The pain may suddenly strike while rising from a chair or while walking. As alarming as it is, this type of pain often indicates the stretching and thickening of the muscles and ligaments around the uterus as they work to support the growing baby and is not a cause for concern.
By the last trimester, pelvic pain may be frequent and uncomfortable. The pain in late pregnancy can be due to Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are practice contractions that prepare the body for labor. Late pregnancy pain can also be caused by SPD or simply the movement necessary for the baby to get into birth position.
SPD - A Specific Joint Pain
SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) is pelvic joint pain that occurs in about one in 35 women during pregnancy. Pregnant women secrete a hormone called relaxin which does basically what its name implies. It softens the joints of the pelvis in order to prepare for the birth of the baby. When this hormone is excessively produced it causes the ligaments and joints to soften and stretch too much.
The symphysis pubis is the joining spot for the four bones of the pelvis. Normally there is a gap of 4-5mm between the pubic points. This gap widens to about 6-8mm during pregnancy. If the gap is greater due to stretching too far, then pain occurs. Low back and hip pain, discomfort and pain in the groin area, and difficulty walking, taking stairs, and even moving, are all signals of SPD.
Left Side Pelvic Pain...
As the uterus expands with the growing baby, the ligaments and muscles in the pelvis get a real workout. They have to stretch and increase in size in order to support and carry the load of a baby, placenta, and the amniotic fluid that fills the sac. Round ligament pain is perhaps one of the most common causes of pelvic pain in pregnancy. It begins early in the pregnancy-occurring randomly-and can carry on throughout. Sneezing, laughing, or moving suddenly can end up in a stabbing pain, usually on the left side of the pelvis.
...Or Right Side Pelvic Pain
Right side pelvic pain or pelvic pressure can be an indication of something relatively simple, like ligament or muscle pain, constipation, or trapped wind. Both pain and pressure can be attributed to the growth of the uterus pressing against various abdominal walls and nerves with the pelvis. But, sometimes pelvic pain and pressure can be an indication of something more serious.
It Could Be Something Very Serious
Early pregnancy pelvic pain can signal an oncoming miscarriage or an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. Pain in the later part of the pregnancy may indicate pre-eclampsia or a separating placenta. Pain or discomfort when urinating, low side and back pain accompanied by fever and chills that occurs any time during the pregnancy can mean a urinary tract infection. Any of these situations require medical aid.
Regardless what type of pain is occurring, if it is causing worry and anxiety, the best plan of action is to consult with the doctor, midwife, or the hospital maternity unit immediately.