The female body displays its most miraculous side during pregnancy. Hormones trigger a number of changes in the body, preparing and enabling it to carry a baby into the world. One of these hormones is called relaxin. Its job is to make joints, ligaments and connective tissue softer, so that the pelvic becomes more flexible.This is what we call pelvic girdle pain (PGP), and it is necessary to give the baby room to pass through the birth canal.
For some pregnant women, the increased mobility can lead to joint problems, such as pain in the pelvis, hip, knee and lower back.The joint pain may occur early in the pregnancy as the relaxin is released at the moment a woman gets pregnant. But women with arthritis will actually often experience an improvement during pregnancy.
When the pain makes it difficult to walk, work and take part in daily chores, we call it symptomatic PGP. Approximately 15 % of Norwegian women get pelvic joint pain in the latter part of their pregnancy, and PGP is the most common cause of sick leave for pregnant women.
Is there anything you can do to prevent this?
It is smart to work the muscles of the abdomen, back and legs to support the joints and avoid excessive strain on them. According to the Directorate of Health, it is particularly important to work the transverse abdominal muscle in the early parts of pregnancy, to prevent painful PGP.
You don’t need to attend heavy gym sessions to work these muscles. Here is a simple exercise you can do at home:
- – Stand on all fours, if your pelvis can withstand it. Pull your navel inwards without moving your lower back. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Opt for ten repetitions, three times a day. But don’t feel guilty if you don’t make your goal. You can always try again tomorrow.
- – You can also do the same exercise sitting in a chair: Place one hand on the lower part of your stomach and the other on your lower back. Pull your navel inwards and hold for a few seconds before you release. Make sure that your lower back is not moving. Do ten repetitions, three times a day.
Training the pelvic floor muscles is important through the whole pregnancy, this is to make the pelvic floor more stable from the inside.
You can exercise your pelvic floor muscles as follows:
- – Lie on your side with a pillow between your legs. Contract the muscles around the rectum, vagina and urethra, until you feel a little lift inside the body. Try to hold each contraction for 6-8 seconds. As you get stronger you can increase the durations of the squeezes.
You can also do these exercises sitting down or standing up, while waiting for the bus, or simply standing in the checkout line. The options are endless, do what is convenient for you. To avoid incontinence, you should continue with these excercises after giving birth.
sources: Norsk Helseinformatikk AS and helsenorge.no