Pelvic girdle pain or PGP is a tem used to describe pain in the joints of the pelvis. Most frequently occurring in pregnancy, it is triggered by the joints in the pelvis moving unevenly due to lax ligaments, a common side effect of your body producing the hormone relaxin to prep itself for the onset of labour.
Often describe as a dull ache or shooting pain, Pelivic Girdle Pain can be one sided or appear to jump from side to side and is experienced anywhere within the pelvic region including; lower back, symphysis pubis join, sacroiliac joins, grown, thighs, hips, vagina and perineum.
My first experience of Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) started 7 months in to my first pregnancy. Initially mild, bought on only via long walks, the pain steadily increased and by those last few weeks of pregnancy just getting out of bed was agonising.Thankfully when I finally gave birth to my son the pain literally disappeared over night and all was forgotten…That was until round two.
Full swing in to my second pregnancy, PGP has not only reared its ugly head, its come back with a vengeance. At 26 weeks pregnant, I struggle to walk any distance with out being in severe pain, have limited all forms of cardio to the spin bike (where I can comfortable sit down) and have to avoid putting too much weight on to any one leg in even the most simplest of activities including; carrying my son up the stairs and even getting dressed standing up!
Keen to prevent the pain from getting any worse, I spoke to my favourite pre and postnatal trainer Charlie Launder from Bumps and Burpees, to find out if exercise can help prevent or in my case, ease the pain of Pelvic Girdle Pain and if so what exercises should we be doing.
Hi Charlie, Thanks so much for answering my questions. I am desperate to know, can exercise actually help prevent Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) instead of just aggravate it?
As your baby grows your pelvic floor and abdominals will naturally stretch and weaken. It is important to exercise these muscles to keep them as strong as possible so they can provide support for your baby. The stronger they are, the less strain there will be on your back and pelvis. Having said this, some women find that they suffer from pelvic girdle pain even though they have been exercising so it does not prevent it altogether, it will definitely help to minimise any discomfort that you may experience.
Exactly my experience, I had initially though because I exercise so much I wouldn’t have suffered from PGP but it’s good to know that there is something I can do to ease the discomfort. Around what stage in pregnancy does PGP usually first make an appearance?
Every pregnancy is different, so there is no set time that you will start to feel the effects of PGP. Generally, if you are going to get it you will feel it towards the end of the second trimester and into your third, as you bump is really starting to come out, and the effects of relaxin start to become more noticeable.
So what exercise would you recommend to help ease the pain of PGP?
Starting your basic pelvic floor exercises from the very beginning of your pregnancy is going to put you in a good position so the earlier the better with these. These include pelvic tilting on a swiss ball or lying on a foam roller, and as often as you can. Unfortunately it is more a case of avoiding certain exercises to keep the pain from worsening rather than fixing it. (For examples of pelvic floor tilts click here)
Ok got it, yet another very good reason to be practising those pelvic floor exercises then. What about the opposite end of the spectrum, are there any exercises we should be avoiding?
Keeping equal weight on each leg is important when suffering from any pelvic girdle pain therefore, exercises to avoid during this time are those that involve using only one one leg, so high step up and lunges are best left out at this stage. Twisting from a standing position is also something that can aggravate the symptoms so be careful when doing everyday chores such as hoovering or carrying a toddler on your hip. Lifting weights that are too heavy for you is something that will most certainly make any symptoms worse, therefore it is vital to chose a weight that is suitable for you and increase it slowly and steadily.
And finally lets talk about when the baby gets here. Is it common to suffer from Pelvic Girdle Pain after the birth and are there any exercise we can do to help post pregnancy?
Whether you have suffered from pelvic girdle pain or not, post pregnancy you must ensure that you work on building your pelvic floor strength back up. The pain should dissipate once your baby is born but don’t underestimate the strain your pelvis has been through. Continue with your pelvic floor exercises, and slowly build up your core (seeking advise from a medical or fitness professional as to when it is safe to do so)
Charlie Launder is Head of Pre and Postnatal at Bumps and Burpees.