Hip and Leg Pain During Pregnancy

As a woman’s body changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby, many common discomforts arise. Hip and leg pain is one of the most prevalent complaints, affecting up to 80% of pregnant women. Here are some of the main causes of hip and leg pain during pregnancy and what you can do to relieve the discomfort.

Growing Belly and Change in Posture

As the uterus expands during pregnancy, it causes the abdominal muscles to stretch and separate. This change in posture puts strain on the hips, lower back, and pelvic muscles. The extra weight of the belly also pulls the upper body forward, causing mom-to-be to lean forward from the hips. This posture puts pressure on thighs, knees, and ankles.

To relieve this strain:

  • Wear compression socks and support hose to reduce swelling in your legs.
  • Practice good posture. Stand up straight, engage your core muscles, and gently pull your shoulders back. Use a back brace or belly band for support.
  • Get fitted for maternity supports to help stabilize your hips and pelvis. Options include support belts, SI joint braces, and pregnancy girdles.
  • Do low-impact leg stretches to mobilize your hips and knees. Avoid intense stretching that may strain muscles.
  • Ask your partner for help with chores that require being on your feet for long periods.

Loosening Ligaments

The hormones released during pregnancy cause the body’s ligaments to loosen and soften in preparation for childbirth. This affects ligaments in your hips, pelvis, and lower back, making them more lax and unstable.

To deal with loose ligaments:

  • Strengthen the muscles around your hips and legs through low-impact exercise, physical therapy, or prenatal yoga. Toned muscles can help provide stability.
  • Apply heat or take a warm bath to ease discomfort and relax tight muscles.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to improve hip stability.
  • Use a rolled towel under your bump for support when sitting. And sit down as much as possible to relieve pressure on your legs.

Pelvic Girdle Pain

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), a type of pelvic girdle pain, occurs when the cartilage and ligaments in your pelvis become overstretched and irritated. It causes pain in your pelvis, groin, upper thighs, and lower back.

Try these strategies to alleviate pelvic girdle pain:

  • Wear a maternity support belt or SI joint brace while moving around.
  • Apply ice or heat to the sore areas.
  • Do pelvic tilts and rotations to mobilize your pelvis and relieve strain. Avoid any moves that exacerbate discomfort.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees for added support.
  • Limit stairs and any activities that aggravate your symptoms.

Circulatory and Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, your blood volume and cardiac output increase to provide enough blood and oxygen to you and your baby. However, this extra blood can cause swelling in your legs and feet, putting pressure on muscles and joints.

On top of that, hormonal changes loosen joints, relax muscles, and increase sensitivity to pain. These factors can all contribute to aches and tenderness in your legs.

To manage this discomfort:

  • Prop your feet up whenever possible to reduce pooling of fluid in your legs.
  • Avoid standing or sitting in one position for too long. Move and flex your legs frequently.
  • Continue low-impact cardiovascular exercise throughout your pregnancy. It helps keep blood circulating properly.
  • Treat leg cramps at night by massaging and stretching your calves and thighs. Sip water or an electrolyte drink before bed.
  • Talk to your doctor about any leg pain that interferes significantly with sleep and daily activities.

In summary, hip and leg pain during pregnancy is very common but usually not serious. With a combination of lifestyle changes, support devices, and appropriate exercises, most women can find relief and continue enjoying their pregnancy journey. Always speak with your obstetrician about any concerns and work together on a management plan for your pregnancy symptoms. With proper care, you can stay comfortable and mobile so you can nurture your growing baby!

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