Hip Pain & Pregnancy
Many women report hip pain during pregnancy. The pain may be in in one or both hips and can make the last trimester of pregnancy more difficult. After delivering their baby many women find their hip pain goes away, however for some it continues to be painful and limiting.
During pregnancy the body goes through several hormonal and physical changes that increase the likelihood of feeling pain or discomfort in the the hips.
Hip pain is sometimes misdiagnosed as pelvic floor dysfunction, leading women to endure unnecessary treatments that do not provide relief.
Let's unpack some of the changes that occur during pregnancy:
In order to create space for the baby to move in the belly an eventually be delivered, hormones are released that relax and soften the connective tissue in the pelvis. This softening does a fantastic job of helping the baby go through the birth canal, but it also causes the other ligaments in the body to relax and loosen. Relaxing of the strong ligaments the support and surround the hip joint can create excess movement, instability and pain. Pain from the "round ligaments" can also occur due to this stretching and softening.
As the baby grows, more and more space is taken up by the uterus (and baby), which can begin to push on nearby structures such as the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can feel like numbness, tingling, or shooting pain down the back of the leg and thigh.
As the baby grows in size and the abdominal muscles relax, the extra and space weight in the abdomen causes the pelvis to naturally tilt forward when standing and sitting. This natural postural change is more comfortable for Mom but causes small but important changes in the way the hip functions. Depending on the shape of the hip socket, this subtle change can be enough to cause hip impingement leading to painful joint inflammation.
During pregnancy the abdominal wall and muscles stretch and relax. After delivering, these muscles start to heal and tighten up, but often never go back to exactly how they were before (unless you're a movie star with a significant amount of time and a private trainer!). Most importantly, some women who were previously physically active stop during pregnancy and never return to exercising (understandable, as they are busy and have a new important focus in life!). This change in lifestyle can lead to a significant decrease in muscle mass and tone in the muscles that surround and support the hip. A hip that is 'at risk' of developing pain and dysfunction may start to be a problem due to these physiological changes.
If you're pregnant or a new mom with hip pain, don't despair. You're body has gone through many important changes and hip pain is a treatable condition if properly diagnosed and addressed. Consider seeing a hip preservation specialist like Dr. Scott if struggling with hip pain after pregnancy.