The way that a woman’s body changes during pregnancy is amazing. The way that women adjust to these changes may be even more so. Our centre of gravity shifts forward, the way we walk changes with a wider hip stance, the pressure on the muscles and tissues in our feet and legs skyrocket – and we haven’t even started on everything that’s going on inside – hormones and all!
With these changes often comes pain, and the hips take a particular toll. To help mums understand what they can expect – or are currently going through, here are the top four causes of hip pain we see during pregnancy.
1. The relaxin hormone
When you’re pregnant, your body increases its production of a hormone called relaxin. Aptly named, its key role is to help your body relax, softening the joints and ligaments in your body to accommodate your growing baby and prepare you for birth. It is this hormone that has a big effect on the pelvis and lower back, which causes pain in many women.
As the pelvis gains elasticity and the pelvic bones widen, the new hip position can cause pain and strain to the joints and muscles that connect to the hips. Often, the discomfort is at its peak towards the end of pregnancy. Some women find the widening of their hips to be temporary, while other women find their hips are permanently widened by pregnancy.
2. Your sciatic nerve
Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down to your feet and gives feeling to most of your lower limbs. As your baby grows and becomes heavier, your enlarged uterus can put pressure on your sciatic nerve, which may cause pain, numbness, discomfort or a general tingling around the hip and thigh area. This is known as sciatica.
For many women, this is only a temporary discomfort and towards the end of their pregnancy, their babies change position in the uterus and relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve, hence relieving the symptoms.
3. Round ligament pain
The round ligament is one of several thick ligaments that surround and support your expanding uterus. It connects the front part of the uterus to your groin (where your legs attach to your pelvis). Normally, this ligament relaxes and contracts slowly, causing no discomfort.
During pregnancy, as your uterus expands, the round ligament stretches and is more susceptible to pain during sudden movements such as sneezing, coughing and standing too quickly. This is because these sudden movements cause the round ligament to tighten rapidly, which can cause intense pain in the hip, groin and abdomen area. This pain should only last a few seconds before disappearing and is considered normal during pregnancy, but can nonetheless be concerning and uncomfortable.
4. Overuse injury
With all these changes occurring during pregnancy combined with the added weight of your growing baby, your muscles and tissues are put under much more pressure than they are used to. For some women, this leads to a muscle, tendon or ligament strain.
Strains occur when the tissues undergo more force than they can safely handle, and micro-tears occur. If the repetitive force is not removed, the injury can worsen and become very painful. As these injuries are often easily managed when picked up early, it is important to see your podiatrist when you start noticing any painful symptoms.
How do you manage hip pain during pregnancy?
The first step to managing any pain is to understand what is causing it. Here at My FootDr, we start with a comprehensive assessment to better understand what is happening and why. We look at any other symptoms you’re experiencing at the feet, knees and legs, and include these in your care plan, too.
While some pregnancy pains are treatable, others are a natural side effect of your growing body. In this case, we look to improve your comfort on your feet, legs and hips as much as possible, helping keep your feet and legs supported and stable. We’re parents too, so we understand that it can be a worrying and uncomfortable time!