Pregnancy Related Aches and Pains
Being pregnant is a unique, joyful experience but also one of many adaptations for the mother, and no two pregnancies are ever the same! Growing a baby places a number of physical demands on the body of the mother and very few women are lucky enough to go through a pregnancy without experiencing any pregnancy related aches and pains.
Pregnancy Related Back Pain
During pregnancy, the uterus expands to accommodate the growing baby leading to a number of physical changes and potential side effects, including lower back pain and pregnancy related sciatica. Hormonal alterations contribute towards these changes as levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones such as relaxin all increase throughout pregnancy.
The effects of the increase in relaxin are particularly significant as this hormone allows the ligaments to stretch and increase in preparation for safe delivery of the baby. Sometimes the ligaments become overly softened, allowing them to be overstretched and more prone to aches and pains, and these are most commonly experienced in the lower back and around the hip and pelvis region. The weight gain puts the joints and supporting muscles under strain, something that frequently leads to lower back pain. Pregnancy related sciatica can occur when pressure is exerted onto the sciatic nerve due to the expansion of the uterus.
Pregnancy Related Pelvic Pain
Many women experience discomfort in their pelvis or in their hips. Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) is typically related to the softened ligaments and the postural changes adopted by the mother as she adapts to carrying the weight of the child.
Round Ligament Pain
The round ligaments are two cords of connective tissue located on either side of the uterus. During the second trimester, the uterus begins to expand, this stretches the round ligaments often causing painful symptoms, typically characterised by a sharp cramping pain or discomfort on either or both sides of the abdomen.
The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for supporting the internal organs such as the bowel and the bladder and can also impact sexual function. During pregnancy these muscles become weaker, and for some women this can lead to incontinence both during the pregnancy and after delivery, making it important to keep these muscles strong through targeted pelvic floor exercises.
Changes To Posture and Balance
Some women experience issues with posture and balance during pregnancy. This is generally due to the physical changes to the body such as the softened ligaments, supporting the growth of the baby and adapting to carrying the weight at the front of the body.
Other General Aches and Pains
Many expectant mothers experience general aches and pains in the back, the abdomen, the buttocks, the groin and through to the legs. Leg cramps can occur at any time during the pregnancy with spasms felt in the legs or in the feet, and this often occurs at night. As the breasts begin to change in preparation for breastfeeding, they begin to increase in size and often feel heavier and more tender.
Other common complaints include:
- Altered sense of taste and heightened sense of smell
- Digestive changes, gas, and or, constipation
- Frequent urination
- Mood alterations
Remaining Active and Safe Antenatal Exercise
Safe exercising is generally a good idea during pregnancy although it is important to always consult a specialist physiotherapist, GP or midwife before starting.
The Importance Of Core Muscle Strength
The core muscles should be strengthened in order to help support the abdominal muscles. Sometimes during pregnancy a gap between the abdominal muscles begins to form as the baby grows, this is known as diastasis recti. Maintaining muscle strength through safe exercise and stretching throughout can help to prevent or reduce the separation of the abdominal muscles, as well as minimising the effects and aiding recovery. Strengthening these muscles can also help to stabilise the deep muscles and the glutes helping to counterbalance the increased laxity and reduce the risk of lower back pain.
Physiotherapy for Pregnancy Related Aches and Pains
Some women may need help managing the painful symptoms and conditions, such as pregnancy related sciatica, pelvic pain and round ligament pain. A GP or a midwife may recommend pregnancy physiotherapy. This typically includes planning a safe and effective exercise plan designed to strengthen and retrain muscles as well as helping to ensure that correct posture is maintained as the weight of the baby increases – ensuring that the spine, pelvis and hips are moving correctly.
Safe exercise during pregnancy can offer further health benefits including the following:
- A reduction in the risk of high blood pressure
- A reduction in the risk of developing gestational diabetes
- To maintain a healthy weight throughout and return to pre-weight more easily. Maintaining fitness and keeping the muscles in shape, helps both during pregnancy and in post pregnancy recovery
- Mental health benefits – improved mood, reduced anxiety and stress
- Improved sleep
- Helps to reduce general pregnancy related aches and pains
We offer a comprehensive range of physiotherapy-related services including both antenatal physiotherapy, post-natal physiotherapy and other health conditions unique to women. For more information on our pregnancy related aches and pains services, get in touch today.