When human beings stopped walking on four legs to adopt the standing position, the pelvis suffered the greatest changes. To redistribute all the body weight on just our legs while the arms became much more functional and target-specific, required significant adaptations.
At the same time, the female’s pelvis not only had to be strong enough to support her upper half while she was on her legs, but it had to allow for the space for birth to happen.
This means the pelvic bony structure has a large hole in it and the abdominal organs are kept in the right place by a strong muscle layer: the pelvic floor muscles.
Let’s look at pregnancy pelvis and how it modifies itself and adapts as pregnancy progresses.
A bit of pelvic anatomy and physiology
Don’t worry, we aren’t going to start talking science and throw in big words like ‘sacroiliac joints’, or how the pelvic joints might lead to ‘pubis dysfunction’ or ‘pelvic girdle pain’.
Of course, there might be pelvic pain during pregnancy, and we will address it, with guidance on what to do if you develop pelvic pain during your pregnancy.
We need to start, however, with the basic idea that pregnancy is normal, and the body usually adapts accordingly as pregnancy progresses.
One of the pregnancy-specific hormones is called relaxin and that’s exactly what it does; it relaxes your body, especially your joints. Your pelvic joints move and change shape, adapting to the baby.
During labor, the pelvis opens up greatly if the woman moves freely. Unfortunately, relaxin might also be responsible for the occasional episode of urinary incontinence, when pregnant women laugh very hard, cough heavily or sneeze.
If you struggle with urinary incontinence you might want to try a pelvic support belt that will redistribute weight equally in the pelvic area.
Fortunately, the hormone relaxin disappears rapidly after the birth; vaginal birth is the main reason for high concentrations of relaxin.
When does the pelvis widen during pregnancy?
As the baby grows and the pregnancy advances, the pelvis widens to adapt to the bigger baby and to prepare for birth. Because the weight of the belly has modified the pregnant woman’s posture, low back pain might develop. As a consequence of this new posture, the heads of the femurs – the long thigh bones – rotate slightly outwards, opening up the gap between the feet of pregnant women. This is the reason for the ‘duck-like’ way of walking pregnant women have.
Pregnancy Pelvis pain
Sometimes there is pelvic pain in pregnancy; this makes the last few weeks uncomfortable and, for some, even painful.
Let’s look at the different types of pelvic pain in pregnancy, the risk factors and the types of pain relief that can be offered, when necessary.
Pelvic girdle pain
As the pregnancy advances, sometimes we develop pelvic girdle pain. This could be because of pregnancy adaptations in a body that is not given all of the necessary attention.
Only in the last few decades have we become lazy; our bodies are not as fit as they used to be. Life is so full of commodities that we’ve dropped healthy behaviors, such as standing and squatting as resting positions, in favor of unhealthy ones. Sitting down on sofas and chairs has changed our pelvic anatomy and has made many of our muscles and joint ligaments very lazy. Even though these muscles haven’t been prepared as they should be, they’re still expected to do what they must do as the pregnancy advances. That’s when we develop pelvic pain, muscle spasms and cramps.
The symphysis pubis joins the pelvic girdle at the front.
When there are asynchronicities in our muscles and ligaments (joints moving unevenly), the body interprets it as an area that might present an obstacle to a functional pregnancy. Therefore, relaxin helps the area to become more lax. The pubis bone then suffers from extreme laxity (looseness) and the joint becomes painful. Some women find pubic pelvic pain in pregnancy so debilitating that they can hardly walk and even need crutches to do so. This condition is called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
Many women experience pelvic pain as their pelvic floor muscles readapt to the growing baby.
The pelvic floor muscles are in constant use, as they are in charge of keeping the abdominal organs in the right place. The increasing pressure exerted on the pelvic floor muscles will debilitate them and pain might develop.
If you suffer from pubic dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain, low back pain or any kind of discomfort in your pelvic floor, look for a professional who is a specialist in pelvic pain and not just a specialist in pregnancy, as many tend to regard pregnancy pain and discomfort as something you need to learn to cope with.
The program Acupressure for Pregnancy, Labor and the Postpartum Period [insert Rob’s link]will help you relieve the most common pregnancy ailments while preparing you for the most complete labor experience, where you and your partner are in full control of highly efficient natural pain relief.
If you experience any kind of pelvic pain, make sure to include it in your birth plan. That way, the midwife or doctor in charge of your care will be able to make any necessary adaptations, to make sure your pelvic pain doesn’t get any worse or interfere with your birthing experience.
You can read more about this in our article Pelvic Girdle Pain | Symptoms and Treatment
Why does my pelvis hurt during pregnancy?
For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have been active and fully mobile. Each muscle in most of our ancestors’ bodies was fully functioning. It has only been for the past few hundred years that we’ve made sitting our most commonly adopted position.
That means, for most of us (women and men), our pelvic floor muscles are very rarely exercised and it has consequences in all activities involving that area, which means birth and sex.
Sexual intercourse usually happens between two individuals with quite dysfunctional anatomical features. A healthy pelvic floor is not just important for normal vaginal birth.
Most people never realize this and, when the problem comes to the surface, it usually manifests in women as pelvic pain during a period or as endometriosis, or as erectile dysfunction in men. The damage sitting down has done to our body’s normal functioning manifests itself when pelvic pressure increases, affecting the pelvic girdle and the pelvic floor as the pregnancy progresses.
Impact on your sexual life
For many women, a healthy pelvis means preventing uncomfortable symptoms like pelvic pain.
For most women and men, a healthy pelvis means that sexual life is much more pleasurable and fulfilling.
It’s important to learn about the relevance of recovering your pelvic floor’s functionality to its fullest.
This is not just about stopping lifting heavy weights, special exercises, or having to wear special stockings for extra support in late pregnancy. This is about the emotional impact a healthy pelvic floor, pelvis, thighs and hips will have on your whole being.
This is the most relevant piece of information I’m giving you today. Pay attention to it. Start to search for ways to unleash your full sexual potential, whether you’re pregnant or not, when you read this.
Narrow pelvis in pregnancy
Narrow hips as a problem is more of an old wives’ tale than a true statement. We’ve already learned about the role of the hormone relaxin and how it allows the joints in the hip to move and adapt to the baby. A woman with a pelvis unfitted for childbirth would be completely aware of this fact, as it would affect her greatly in many other aspects of her life.
Let me tell you a story of how amazing our bodies are – especially the pelvis – during childbirth.
In the early days of my relationship with my husband, I fell on my back while skating. For two years it hurt to stand up. As my firstborn navigated my pelvis, we heard (and I felt) how she pushed my sacrum into the right position. It didn’t hurt for years until I fell again on the snow. My last baby once again pushed it back into place.
Each birth heals tremendously.
For some, birth opens a huge wound and they can only see hurt and pain to begin with. At the same time, birth is highly abused by institutions around the globe and most women go through an ‘abusive’ childbirth experience.
How long does it take for the pelvis to return to normal after pregnancy?
It takes a while for your bones to return to their non-pregnant state. Your hip, thighs and legs have widened but will eventually go back to normal. In some cultures, such as the Mayan culture in Mexico, there is a ‘closing of the bones‘ ceremony after birth. This ceremony acknowledges the birthing body, honors it and helps it heal faster to be completely ‘pampered’ back to normality before the next pregnancy if there is one. This ceremony is starting to be widely used in other cultures, as a closing treatment.
By six weeks postpartum, the bones should have returned to their non-pregnant state but this is not the case for many women. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any worries or worrying symptoms, if you struggle climbing stairs or can’t stand without experiencing pelvic pain. There’s a specific pelvic treatment for each ailment.
Positions to relieve pelvic pain during pregnancy
Research has shown that prevention and early diagnosis are key to having a happy, pain-free pregnancy.
A randomized controlled trial has shown that exercises tailored to each woman’s specific needs are the best approach to avoid pelvic girdle pain.
Women tend to overdo it, suffer and keep putting themselves last. You’re more clever than that! Now you’re pregnant, you have the best reasons to listen to your body and to dedicate time to resting, reading and meditating. You must be as stress-free as possible. That means slowing down, listening to your baby’s needs and allowing yourself to be the most thriving environment for your baby to grow and develop in.
Contact a chiropractor or a specialist in pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy and start the exercises. No matter how severe your symptoms are, the best treatment will be the one that goes to the root cause of the problem and corrects it. In the meantime, acupressure or acupuncture can help, to relieve pressure in areas where you are experiencing pain. Think of how has your pregnancy affected that area of your body and then find a position that’s kinder to the affected area.