Updated: Jun 8
Pregnancy is a lot of things-- joyful, exciting, new, special. I loved feeling my babies kick and move and had wonderful birth experiences. But, carrying a human life is not always easy on your body. I have had 3 pregnancies-- very big babies-- and births and have experienced my own pain in pregnancy and postpartum. My littlest is 20 months old and I’m still rehabilitating myself!
Pain in pregnancy is common-- 50% of pregnant women have low back pain and/or pelvic girdle pain (pain around the pubic symphysis or cute little dimples in the back-- the sacroiliac joints or tailbone), but it is not normal (Vermani). Women with pain are more likely to have experienced pain in previous pregnancies (Haakstad)-- that is me! And… 8.5-10.3% of women still report pain 2 years after childbirth! (Haakstad, Vermani) Why? We can only speculate-- metabolic, hormonal, mechanical and degenerative factors have been proposed (Vermani). I’ve seen hundreds of pregnant patients in my physical therapy practice and each and every one is unique. A common theme, though, is slight issues women have prior to pregnancy often become BIG issues with the hormonal, weight and mechanical changes of pregnancy.
In my own body, my joints became very loosy-goosy with pregnancy. I took a pregnancy test with my 2nd daughter because my SI pain came back. I was like “ooh, that is my SI pain from being pregnant with #1”-- sure enough, the test was positive, and that was at 28 days since my last cycle! My “little issue” that became a bigger and bigger issue with each pregnancy was a slight assymetry in my ankle and hip due to an old labral tear. I work on it a lot!
So, what does this mean for you? If you are having back or pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy, you are not alone. Here are some things I work on with my pregnant (and postpartum) clients. Oh, and “postpartum” issues can still be there 5 or 10 years post baby!
Creating space and mobility in the areas of your body where you are tight
Strengthening the areas in your body that tend to be “lazy” or not kicking in when you move
Modifying your exercise routine so that you can stay as active as possible without aggravating your pain
Teaching moms how to move! You’d be surprised how much teaching a “hip hinge” with bending can improve your pain. Oh, and how to roll in bed and get out of bed -- some easy techniques can make a world of difference
Supporting the pelvis or spine with garments, belts or kinesiotaping -- again, this can be a game changer
Teaching labor and delivery positions, so that mom can feel good after delivery, protect her back or pelvis and pelvic floor, too… because you have a tiny human to take care of!
I look at pain as a gift. It is a message that you need to change things up a bit. Maybe you need more “nutritious movement” (think standing desk and sitting desk and varying your positions during your day) or maybe we need to tease out an old ankle or neck issue that is impacting “the middle” of your body. It is all connected! Now, I am 20 months
postpartum. My “gift” is that it reminds me to work on my persnickety hip, strengthen my core, cross train, keep moving dynamically and (ahem) practice taking care of myself as well as I do others (moms, isn't this all of us?).
Linked is a video that a LOT of my patients find useful for "finding" their deep core muscles and exercises to strengthen some of the muscles that support the pelvis such as the gluteus medius and maximus.