Many women experience some form of hip pain during pregnancy. It can occur at any stage, but it’s more common during the third trimester (week 28 to the birth) as your body prepares for labour.
This pain shouldn’t affect your baby and usually isn’t anything to worry about, but you should see a doctor if you’re worried or the pain is severe.
There are a range of things you can do safely at home, however, to help relieve any mild hip pain.
What causes hip pain in pregnancy?
When you’re pregnant, your body produces a hormone called relaxin that loosens and relaxes the ligaments and joints around the bones in your pelvis.
This makes it easier for your baby to move during labour, but also makes it easier for your joints to become injured, which can contribute to any pain you feel in your hips.
Painful hips in pregnancy can also be caused by weight gain and any changes in your posture. This is because as your baby grows and becomes heavier, you're likely to change how you sit and stand, and this can lead to hip pain.
The extra weight can also put more pressure on your lower back and pelvis, potentially causing pain around your hips.
Pain felt towards the front or back of your pelvis is known as pelvic girdle pain or PGP. If you’ve injured your pelvis in the past or had back problems before your pregnancy, this can increase your chance of getting PGP during pregnancy.
How to relieve hip pain during pregnancy
There are a few things you can try at home to help you manage any hip pain you experience during pregnancy.
It’s generally safe to exercise during your pregnancy, but you should only do what feels comfortable.
Any gentle stretching and exercise that helps to strengthen your tummy and lower back muscles may ease your hip pain.
Swimming is ideal, as the water supports your weight and reduces pressure on your joints. Avoid doing breaststroke, however, as the kicking action could be painful if you have back or hip pain already.
Instead, try a backstroke or swim on your front, kicking with your legs while keeping your knees together and holding a float.
In general, avoid doing anything too strenuous, such as running or contact sports like martial arts, and rest as much as possible in between exercise.
Focus on your posture
As changes in posture can contribute to hip pain, there are things you can try to correct this, such as:
- putting a pillow between your knees while you sleep
- keeping your legs together when getting out of bed or a car
- using a chair that supports your lower back
- keeping your back straight and not crossing your legs while sitting
- not sitting for too long -- try to move around every 30 minutes
- sitting upright in a chair and at a desk while using a computer -- face the screen, and don’t twist your back to 1 side
- standing with your weight evenly distributed over both your hips -- don’t shift your weight onto 1 leg as this can place more pressure on that hip
Relax your muscles
You may find that taking a warm bath or applying a warm compress to the hip helps to ease pain naturally by relaxing the muscles in that area. Hot baths aren't recommended during pregnancy because of the risks of overheating.
You could also ask a partner or friend to give you a massage around the hip and lower back area to help ease pressure and tension.
To do this, lie on your side to expose the hip that’s in pain and bring your knees up slightly. You may find it more comfortable to place a pillow under your bump or between your knees.
Adapt your sleeping position
While pregnant, it’s generally advised that women sleep on their side, particularly during the third trimester. If the pain is in 1 hip only, try sleeping on the opposite side so your weight is not on your painful hip.
If the pain is in both hips, try to sleep equally on both sides.
You may also find it helps to bend your legs and put a pillow between your knees. This will improve your posture and offer support to your lower back and may make you feel more comfortable during the night.
Avoid anything that makes the pain worse
As well as doing things that help ease hip pain, you should stop doing anything that may make it worse, such as carrying heavy bags of shopping or doing heavy-duty chores around the house. This includes pulling a vacuum or doing any cleaning with heavy buckets or equipment.
You should also avoid walking up stairs too often, or sitting or standing for long periods. Try to strike a balance between resting and doing activities that help to keep your muscles moving.
Can I take painkillers while pregnant?
It’s generally safe to take a painkiller like paracetamol during pregnancy to help ease hip pain.
Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for further guidance on how to safely get and use these medicines.
When should I see a doctor about hip pain during pregnancy?
You should also speak to a doctor if your pain is severe or affects your ability to do everyday tasks like walking or climbing stairs. They may refer you to a physiotherapist for treatment if necessary.
Will I still get hip pain after pregnancy?
In most cases, hip pain or PGP tends to stop within a month of giving birth, as there’s no longer a weight putting pressure on your pelvis. But it can take around 4 months for the ligaments in your pelvis to return to normal.
Some women (around 1 to 2%) continue to experience hip pain for up to a year after birth.
Physical activity and pelvic floor exercises may help, but if you still have hip pain a month or more after giving birth, speak to a doctor. They may refer you to a physiotherapist.