Low Back and Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Shannon M. Clark, MD
April 21, 2021
Low Back and Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Aches and pains in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a unique experience to each person, but few will make it through pregnancy without some aches and pains. If you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, this information can help you prevent, and hopefully find some relief from, low back pain and pelvic girdle pain. Click on the video below to watch a live discussion I did for Belly Bandit!

Low Back Pain and Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

The basics of low back pain and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy

Pelvic pain in pregnancy is now called pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP). Another common term used is “symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)”. PGP is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms caused by a stiffness of your pelvic joints or the joints moving unevenly at either the back or front of your pelvis.

Low back pain affects an estimated 50 to 80 percent of pregnant persons. It can range from mild pain associated with specific activities, acute pain, or even chronic pain. Studies show that lower back pain usually occurs between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy, although in some cases it can begin as early as eight to twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Persons with pre-existing low back/pelvic pain from surgery or prior injuries are at higher risk for pain in pregnancy, and their pain tends to occur earlier in pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

People with PGP may feel:

  • pain over the pubic bone at the front in the centre, roughly level with your hips
  • pain across 1 or both sides of your lower back
  • pain in the area between your vagina and anus (perineum)
  • pain spreading to your thighs

or hear a clicking or grinding in the pelvic area.

The pain can be worse when you’re walking, going up or down stairs, standing on 1 leg (for example, when you’re getting dressed), turning over in bed, or moving your legs apart (for example, when you get out of a car).

Low back pain during pregnancy is generally located at and above the waist in the center of the back, and it may be concurrent with pain that radiates into the person’s leg or foot (sciatica). Posterior pelvic pain (in the back of the pelvis) is four times more prevalent than lumbar pain in pregnancy. It is a deep pain felt below the waistline, on one or both sides or across the tailbone.

Why do these pains occur?

A large contributing factor is hormonal changes. Hormones released during pregnancy allow pelvic-area ligaments to soften and joints to loosen in preparation for the birthing process. This change may affect the support your back normally experiences.

Other contributing factors include your center of gravity changing, additional weight that your back is trying to support, posture or position, and stress on the pelvic area from the pregnancy.

If you are not yet pregnant and are trying to become pregnant, start a good core strengthening program to help you prevent and/or decrease future pain during pregnancy. A strong core is a key component to decreasing back pain and PGP.

3 ways to help alleviate the pain

1. If you are pregnant and experiencing pain, don’t be afraid to seek care specifically for these pains through physical therapy (PT). PT aims to relieve or ease pain, improve muscle function, and improve your pelvic joint position and stability, which can help back pain. Finding someone who specializes in pelvic floor PT is ideal.

2. Add in these movement protocols that include a range of exercises safe to do in pregnancy and specific to easing the pain associated with pregnancy.

Safe Exercises to Combat Low-Back & Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy from OrthoCarolina

8 Great Pelvic Floor Stretches to Do During Pregnancy from Ability Rehabilitation

3. Wear a maternity support belt. Belly Bandit offers several different styles of support belts, as well as a range of products to help in the postpartum phase. They have solution-based maternity and postpartum support products. Click here to shop their products and use my discount code: SHANNON10 for 10% off products!

Here are some highly recommended items:

Upsie Belly

2-in-1 Bandit


Wearing a maternity support belt can help reduce and alleviate back and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy!

Click here to check out the wide variety of styles Belly Bandit offers. Use code: SHANNONC10 at checkout for 10% off products!

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Follow Shannon on TikTok @tiktokbabydoc, Facebook @babiesafter35, and Instagram @babiesafter35.

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