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Causes and Treatment of Hip Pain during Pregnancy

Hip pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. Most pregnant women suffer from hip pain in their second and/or third trimester and it occurs because the pregnant woman’s body is preparing itself for labor. The hip pain and soreness are usually felt on the side where the baby tends to position him/herself in the uterus. Pregnancy hip pain is also known as pelvic girdle pain and it can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely incapacitating. For some expectant mothers, this hip pain can be annoying but for others, it causes them sleepless nights and can even interfere with their daily activities because of the excruciating pain.

A pregnant women who suffer from hip pain
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Causes of Pregnancy Hip Pain

The causes of hip pain vary per trimester. Although hip pain is more common in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, hip pain is possible to occur at any stage.

1.Relaxin

The body of a pregnant woman releases relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that allows the connective tissue, joints, and muscles to relax and soften. It lets the ligaments and tendons stretch to allow the pelvis to shift, open, and be more flexible for childbirth. Relaxin hormone increases a pregnant person’s sensitivity to trauma which can result in hip pain.

2.Weight Gain

A pregnant woman usually gains weight because of the weight of the baby that she is carrying plus the added weight that she gets from eating more than her usual food intake. The relaxed tendons and ligaments change the weight distribution of a pregnant woman which can result in hip pain. Gaining extra weight during pregnancy can put much pressure on the pelvis which lets the pelvis be pulled into a forward tilt resulting in a shift, stress on the lower back, and pain.

3.Sciatica

There are two sciatic nerves in the body and they run from the lower back to the feet. Enlargement of the uterus puts increased pressure on the sciatic nerve which results in numbness, pain, and a tingling sensation in the hips, thighs, and buttocks. This is known as nerve compression or sciatica.

4.Round Ligament Pain

The round ligaments support and surround the uterus and connect it to the groins.
The round ligaments become thick and stretch as the uterus expands during pregnancy to support the changes. This thickening and stretching cause pain especially in the second trimester. It brings about the sharp pain in the hips or abdomen. The pain can be triggered by sudden movements.

5.Transient Osteoporosis

This usually occurs in the second or third trimester. It causes a temporary bone loss in the upper portion of the thigh bone and results in a sudden onset of pain on the hip which gets worse when walking or doing other physical activities.

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6.Wrong Posture

Having a wrong posture can occur in the second or third trimester when the body is not in perfect balance due to the baby’s weight.

7.Sleeping on the Side

Sleeping on the side causes hip pain because of the pressure.

Other Causes of Pregnancy Hip Pain

  • Overweight women and women who have prior hip issues often experience hip pain especially when they sleep on their side because of the built-in pressure.
  • Stretching of the hip and abdominal muscles can cause hip pain. The bulk of the weight gained by a pregnant woman is found in front of the abdomen making it more difficult for a pregnant woman to keep a natural gentle curve in the lower back. This results in a compression of the lumbar vertebrae and a more pronounced curve in the lower back which causes hip and back pain.

How to Treat Hip Pain during Pregnancy

  • Do exercises that strengthen both the abdominal and back muscles to help reduce hip pain. Pilates and prenatal yoga provide relief and help stabilize the joints. Water exercises can be soothing and can help alleviate the pain.
  • Take a warm bath or apply a warm compress to the sore area.
  • A therapeutic massage may ease the soreness and help provide comfort and relief from pain in the hip and other discomforts during pregnancy.
  • Use a body pillow for sleeping to help maintain a good posture while sleeping and to provide proper support to the body. The pillows will support the abdomen and upper leg.
  • Sleep on your side and keep both your legs and knees bent.
  • Maintain a good posture. Avoid slouching to alleviate the pressure. Hold your shoulders back, keep your head up, and tuck your pelvis in when standing.
  • Use a lumbar pillow when sitting down and make sure that the chair allows your feet to rest flat on the floor to allow the tendons in the sides and front of your hips to relax. Get up to stretch at least once or twice per hour.
  • Change the mattress if possible as its firmness can also be a factor for having hip pain. Try using an egg crate pad that is made of foam rubber to make the mattress a bit softer.
  • Drink lots of water and include magnesium and calcium-rich foods in your diet.
  • Rest as much as you can. Avoid prolonged periods of standing.
  • Wear a prenatal girdle around the hips to help stabilize your hips.
  • Sleep with a pillow in between the knees to support the leg and the pelvic and hip joints.
  • Get help from a physical therapist or chiropractor to help reduce the pain, put your body back into proper alignment, and allow you to go back doing your normal activities.

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