Pre pregnancy, the uterus weighs approximately 50-100gms and is situated deep in the pelvis, as the pregnancy progress it grows to about the size of a watermelon, weighing nearly a kilo and stretches from the pubic bone to the rib area. As your baby’s home expands, you may feel aches and pains in the back, abdomen, groin/pelvis area and legs. The increased weight gain in pregnancy (average gain is 11kg- 6kg of maternal tissue- breast, fat, blood and uterine tissue and 5 kg of baby, placenta and amniotic fluid), pressure of the babies’ head and the loosing of ligaments due to hormones can all add to the discomfort felt during pregnancy.
Here are the most common aches and pains felt and some suggestions on how to lessen the discomfort *always check with your health care provider before self-diagnosing/treating*:
During pregnancy, the body produces the hormone, relaxin, which works to soften and loosen the body’s ligaments and joints. This allows for the rapid growth of the baby/uterus and allows the baby to pass through the birth canal during labour. You may be diagnosed with pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD) if you have severe pain in the pelvis, pubic bone, perineum, hips and buttocks/down legs. The pain is usually increased when walking, using stairs, standing on one leg and rolling over in bed.
Tips on how to reduce pelvic pain:
- See a physio- they can assist with manual therapy of the joints and improve muscle function and give you exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, abs and back.
- Gentle exercise such as swimming
- Rest when you can, with a pillow between your legs to reduce strain
- Wear flat, supportive shoes.
- Avoid one leg activities- Sit down to put pants on
- Try keep knees together- Turn over in bed with knees together and try swivel to get out of car (using a plastic bag on the seat can help with this)
- Take small steps. There’s a reason pregnant ladies waddle!
- Use ice or heat packs
- Wear compression shorts/leggings
Back pain during pregnancy typically occurs in the lower back, where the pelvis meets the spine (sacroiliac joint). It is also usually due to a number of normal pregnancy changes e.g. weight gain, effect of relaxin but also the posture changes and separation of the rectal abdominis muscle which can lead to instability.
To help treat low back pain, try:
- Light exercise- this can strengthen the muscles and ease the stress on the spine. Swimming is a great low impact exercise
- Heat packs
- Work with a physio to improve your posture.
- Acupuncture- Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in relieving low back pain during pregnancy.
- Wearing compression leggings/shorts for added support.
Varicose veins and vulval varicosities
Varicose veins are dark purple/blue, twisted, and enlarged veins that appear near the surface of the skin. They may develop in your legs and vulva during pregnancy due to normal pregnancy changes, such as increased blood volume, softening of the vein walls (due to hormones) and the increasing pressure on the veins in the pelvis (due to the growth and weight of the baby). Other factors such as increased age, obesity and family history can increase your risk of developing varicose veins in pregnancy, but luckily they should improve without medical treatment three to 12 months after delivery.
Ways to help reduce risk of varicose veins:
- Avoid standing still for any length of time
- Avoid constipation (this increases the strain and pressure on your veins)
- Lie down to rest–often. Lying on your side is best as this relieves the pressure on this area
- Wear compression leggings or shorts
Most pregnant women have had to shake their sleeping partner awake at 3am to help stretch a painful cramp out. Leg cramps are common in pregnancy, especially during the third trimester due to the additional weight gain and changes to the circulation. Pressure placed on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs from the growing baby can also cause cramps.
Ways to help reduce leg cramps:
- Drink plenty of water
- Increase magnesium intake. Try magnesium salts in a relaxing bath
- Stretch often- especially before bed
- Wear compression leggings
SRC Pregnancy Leggings review
SRC pregnancy leggings are designed to support the muscles of the pelvis by providing gentle compression. They help to activate the muscles around the pelvic area to promote better core and pelvic stability to reduce the aches and pains of pregnancy mentioned above (pelvic pain, back pain, leg cramps and varicose veins). Using anatomically targeting panels to delivering a low compression feeling they are able to provide support but are also comfortable enough to wear 24/7. They come from sizes XXXS- XXXL with an adjustable elastic waist; so can provide support to a large variety of pregnant women (check out the website on how to measure the correct size). The fabric is high quality (no seeing your undies when you bend over!), breathable and moisture wicking, which made them perfect to exercising in throughout my pregnancy. I think they were initially designed to be worn under clothes such as work pants and to bed.. But I wore them to the gym most days.. ok and the shops.. on multiple occasions as the comfort they provided to my aching legs and back was too wonderful to care! . They are well worth the investment and can be used for subsequent pregnancies. The aches and pains of pregnancy unfortunately don’t magically disappear once the baby is born, so the SRC recovery shorts are packed in my labour bag to continue providing support to my back, pelvis and perineum in my recovery.
You can purchase the SRC range at: https://www.srchealth.com