What is it?
During pregnancy women experience a dramatic increase in oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones. The hormone relaxin increases and this can cause mild to severe pelvic pain during pregnancy. These symptoms are known as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) and is quite common - 1 in 5 pregnant women will experience some form of this pelvic discomfort. The relaxin hormone is allowing the connective tissues to soften and allow space for the growing baby, but this can cause discomfort in the pelvis, lower back and SI joint. PGP can also be caused by a number of other issues, such hyper-mobility, imbalances in the pelvis, previous injuries etc. PGP can also flare up – so you may find at times it is worse than others.
What about our yoga practise?
Some yoga postures can be inaccessible for women experiencing PGP or can make the pain worse! This is an important reason why you should choose classes that are specially sequenced to pregnancy and are taught by a prenatal yoga teacher who can advise you on how to modify your poses so that you do not cause pain or aggravate PGP.
What should we avoid and why?
As the connective tissues begin to soften and make space for the baby to grow, we don’t want to take advantage of this increase in flexibility and over-stretch our muscles. This can lead to the uncomfortable feeling of pain caused by the bones in the pelvis being pulled and separated. In general, taking care wear flat, supportive shoes, sitting down to get dressed and keeping your knees together when getting in and out of the car or bed can all help to prevent the pain from getting worse. In yoga, avoiding hip openers, one legged standing postures and wide legged folds is important as any asana that unbalances the pelvic bowl or pulls the pelvis can aggravate the pain. Avoid any postures that cause you pain, as this will spike your stress hormone, your body will try to produce more relaxin and ultimately you will start to feel exhausted!
How can yoga help?
Beyond the postures – yoga can offer you support through a difficult time where you may be feeling many emotions and juggling many hats throughout your journey to motherhood. Meditations, affirmations and deep rest through restorative yoga and yoga nidra can all help to allow your body to release tension and for you to cultivate positivity and presence. You can still practise yoga and it will be a kind and safe way to move your body – you may find some of the postures actually provide relief from the discomfort of PGP. Modify your practise, for example by shortening your stance in postures such as warriors (if these are still accessible to you) and use a chair or a wall to help support you in standing postures. You can also use a bolster in hero’s pose if you are able to sit in this posture. Keep your legs straight out in front of you, rather than wide-legged for your forward folds.
What else can help?
Osteopathy can help to balance your coccyx and realign your body and a women’s health physio can work with you to release an over-tight pelvic floor – both common issues with PGP. It is also very important to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings as this will help to support the pelvis and cope with the changes to the spine and abs as the baby grows and weight increases. Using a support belt around the belly and lower back can also help to relieve some of the pressure and encourage a feeling that the pelvis is coming ‘back together’.
PGP is a huge topic in pregnancy and exercise, here’s just a small snippet. The most important part is to raise awareness about PGP for yourself and others, so we can support our friends and move our body in a kind, safe way. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent the condition from getting worse, relieve the pain and allow you to continue with the daily activities that you need. Always see a medical professional for advice on how to prevent and cope with PGP x