For most women, temporary pelvic pain is not a concern in early pregnancy. It can occur normally when bones and ligaments shift and stretch to accommodate your baby’s growth.
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Pelvic pain or pressure refers to discomfort in the lower torso, in the area below the belly button and between the hips (pelvis). Such discomfort can come and go with a sharp or cramping pain, just like what you typically feel on the lower abdomen during your menstrual period.
While most of these pains are mild and generally seen as normal symptoms of early pregnancy, others may be signs of serious obstetric complications. Still others have nothing to do with pregnancy.
What causes pelvic pain in early pregnancy?
The most common causes of pelvic pain in early pregnancy are natural reactions and physical changes that commonly occur during pregnancy. But it can also be due to a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or other organic disorders, particularly digestive and urinary tract.
Physical pelvic pain in early pregnancy
Physical pelvic pain can be felt as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. Indeed, as the uterus grows in size, it pulls on the round ligaments that hold it in place by connecting its front to the groin and pubic region. And when it pulls, it can hurt, especially in the groin area.
In addition, some pregnancy hormones, especially Relaxin, cause ligaments to relax and stretch in preparation for childbirth. The pelvis remains, therefore, a source of real discomfort, or even pain.
Pelvic pain linked to miscarriage
In early pregnancy, pelvic pain can be a sign of more serious problems. These include a miscarriage that might occur (threatened abortion), or that is occurring (spontaneous abortion).
Severe lower abdominal pain or cramps slightly stronger than those of menstruation should, therefore, lead you to consult, especially if they are accompanied by bleeding.
Pelvic pain linked to ectopic pregnancy
Another possible cause of pelvic pain in the first trimester is an ectopic pregnancy. This happens when an embryo implants somewhere outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube) and begins to grow.
Sharp pelvic pain or cramps (especially on one side), vaginal bleeding, nausea, and dizziness are common symptoms. If untreated, ectopic pregnancy can lead to internal bleeding. Seek medical help immediately, this is a life-threatening emergency.
Other origins of pelvic pain
Besides the uterus, other organ disorders, like those of the urinary and digestive tract, can also trigger pelvic pain without any link to pregnancy. These include urinary tract infections, appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, etc.
When to consult a doctor?
Pelvic pain can be sudden and intolerable, dull and constant, or a combination of both. You should seek medical advice for any severe pelvic pains that interfere with your daily activities – such as climbing stairs or getting into the car or bathtub, for example.
Fainting, light-headedness, accelerated heart rate, fever and chills (especially if accompanied by vaginal discharge containing pus), low blood pressure, and vaginal bleeding are symptoms that should be considered as warning indicators.
If the symptoms become worse in a very short time or much worse than your last pregnancy, you should consult your doctor immediately to eliminate any further complications.
How to reduce pelvic pain in early pregnancy?
Most pregnant women have reduced pelvic pain when they follow these tips:
- Use a maternity support belt.
- Try a heating pad on the sore area or take a warm bath.
- Rest as much as possible with your back well-supported. It is also recommended to sleep on your left side with a pregnancy pillow between your knees and ankles.
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- Do not stand for too long or, if a long-standing position is inevitable, pause as often as possible.
- Do not carry or push any heavy items – such as shopping carts.
- When climbing stairs, first place one foot on the step and then pull the other one up to the same level.
- When putting on pants or socks, it is preferable to sit on a chair, lean back and pull the pants or socks on one foot and then on the other. Then roll up the clothes.
- Swimming is recommended, but you should avoid breaststroke as it will spread your legs out.
- Do Kegel exercises.