Of the many aches and pains that you can experience during pregnancy, pelvic pain is among the most common and frustrating. It can also be difficult to find a specialist who can help relieve this pain whether you’re pregnant or have already given birth, since many OB/GYNs may not know who to refer people to when they experience this type of pain.
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain, one specialist you can turn to is a physiatrist, which is a medical doctor (unlike physical therapists) who specializes in the interaction of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system and who can help diagnose and treat your pain without the need for surgery. Dr. Nathan Fox recorded an episode of the Healthful Woman podcast with the physiatrist we commonly refer patients to for this type of pain, Dr. Jaclyn Bonder, to talk about how she helps treat pain during and after pregnancy.
Dr. Bonder is quick to point out the difficulty of assessing what qualifies as “pelvic pain,” especially during pregnancy, as she says “the definition is so vague . . . . What is pelvic? What is vaginal? What is rectal? What is bony?” She delineates the difference between pelvic girdle pain compared to pelvic pain, where pelvic girdle refers to musculoskeletal pain and pelvic refers to more gynecological or interior soft tissue pain.
The more common pain, pelvic girdle pain, is typically caused by issues with the pubic bone and joint, hip joints, and the sacroiliac joints as well as the lower lumbar vertebrae. Muscle strains and joint soreness cause this type of pain, all of which can be more common during pregnancy due to the opening of the pelvis to allow for delivery and accommodate the size of the growing uterus.
Although the most common treatment plan for most mild to moderate pain during or after pregnancy is physical therapy, Dr. Bonder says “There’s little I wouldn’t recommend.” Everything from massages to medication, chiropractors to acupuncture can be helpful for people who are good candidates for specific treatments.
The key is knowing when to raise the alarm with your doctor so you can see a specialist like Dr. Bonder. There are many tolerable pains that you’ll likely experience during pregnancy, but when it begins to interfere with your daily activities, such as walking or standing for long periods of time, you should seek help. Another sign of trouble would be sudden changes in nerve sensations, such as tingling in your feet, or numbness in your legs.
Sometimes pain originates in one place but is felt in another, so pelvic issues may be the cause for neck pain or other pain throughout your body. This is why it’s important to see a physician who understands the whole body and not just a physical therapist.
Nearly anyone can be susceptible to pelvic pain during pregnancy because of the way your musculoskeletal system becomes, as Dr. Fox puts it, “loosey-goosey” as the baby grows. Your bones shift and your muscles can become tight and tense to compensate, leading to pain in many areas. This means that even the most fit individuals with the strongest core muscles and pelvic floor can experience this pain during pregnancy.
Still, having good core muscles and a strong lower back can reduce the risk of experiencing pelvic pain.
If you’re pregnant or recently gave birth and are experiencing moderate to severe pain in your pelvis, it’s important to call your doctor for an appointment to examine the area and help rid you of debilitating pain. Schedule your appointment with Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates by calling or contacting us online today.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!