Looking after yourself with pelvic girdle pain - Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) in pregnancy

Along with special exercises, you can also try to manage your pain with:

  • heat
  • meditation or relaxation pauses
  • pressure point release or massage

Heat

Applying heat to the areas that are tender such as the lower back and hip or bottom can help you to manage your pain. Heat can be a hot pack, hot water bottle, hot shower or bath. Do not apply heat directly to your baby bump.

It is easy to overheat in pregnancy. Make sure the room is well-ventilated and have a glass of water nearby if you're having a bath.

Important

Do not use heat in the first trimester (0 to 12 weeks of pregnancy)

Hot packs

These are small packs that you squeeze and shake before use. They are also known as heat packs. You can buy them at your local pharmacy.

Be careful when using a hot pack. There is a risk of burning your skin if it is too hot. Wrap the hot pack in a towel and leave it on for a maximum of 20 minutes. It should feel comfortable and soothing.

Meditation or relaxation pauses

Daily pauses to sit or lie in a quiet space and focus on long deep breaths can help to relax the nervous system and reduce pain. There are many useful guided meditation podcasts or soundtracks to support you with this.

Pressure point release and massage

Some muscles begin to work harder in pregnancy to compensate for the changes in your posture. These muscles develop tender points, which can cause pain down your thigh, lower back and to the front.

You can use a tennis ball or spiky massage ball to ease these tight muscles.

  1. Place the tennis ball against your bottom or lower back area (not over the spine).
  2. Try to find a tender point in the muscle using the ball.
  3. Use your body to push the tennis ball against a wall. Keep the pressure on the sore point - this will cause it to relax and release.
  4. Keep the pressure on until the pain eases - it can sometimes take 30 seconds or so.
  5. Move the ball to the next painful area. Repeat the steps above - make sure you check both sides of your back and both buttocks. Do not just check the areas that are painful.

Keeping fit

It is important to stay fit during pregnancy. This helps to prevent gestational diabetes. It can also help shorten the second stage of labour.

When you are experiencing PGP, it can be difficult to know what type of physical activity is best.

If one type of physical activity gives you pain, do a different physical activity that is not painful. This will help you stay active.

Walking

If you experience pain during or after walking, listen to your body. Limit your walking to what is necessary.

If walking is not sore, then stay within your comfort zone and adapt it as the pregnancy progresses.

Take shorter steps, slow down the pace and try and walk without waddling. The waddling walk puts a lot of pressure through 1 leg and then the other as you waddle.

If you can walk more smoothly it tends not to aggravate your pain. Walking with a good posture can be very helpful.

Running and high impact exercise

Do not run or do any high impact exercise if you have pelvic girdle pain.

Swimming

Swimming can help you manage your pain and stay fit during your pregnancy. Strokes such as front crawl or even gentle walking in the water can all help.

Different strokes can sometimes cause pain. It is best to do 1 stroke at each swim session to help learn if any particular one is causing your pain. Do whichever stroke is comfortable for you.

Pregnancy yoga

This can help you manage your pain. You may find the relaxation and breathing exercises helpful during your labour.

Single leg stances can irritate your pain. Stances where your body weight is on 1 leg more than the other can also do this.

If this happens, do stances:

  • where your legs are not spread as wide
  • where your weight is spread more evenly onto both legs

Pregnancy pilates

This can help improve your posture and maintain core stability.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 11 January 2023
Next review due: 11 January 2026