What does ‘pelvic joint pain’ mean?

Pelvic joint pain refers to pain felt around the pelvis; either at the back in the buttocks on one or both sides and /or pain over the pubic bone, or pain over all three areas.

There are three joints in the pelvis, and each has only a small amount of movement. Pain and problems can occur during pregnancy when normal function is affected by pregnancy hormones, or when any one or more of the three are damaged, for example, a fall or an accident, i.e. a car accident.

Pain might be felt directly over the joints at the back, in the buttock, and can radiate out to the hip or the ‘sit bones’. Pain may be felt down the back of the leg. It can feel similar to sciatica but is caused by the pelvic joints. The pain may also be felt in the pelvic floor or the vagina. At the front of the pelvis, the pubic bone may become painful to touch, and there may be groin pain on one or both sides. If inflamed, a burning, aching sensation can be felt. This sort of pain needs professional expertise for ongoing management.


What causes pelvic joint pain? 

Pregnancy hormones soften the strong ligaments that hold the bones of the pelvis together to allow a little more space for your baby to pass through the pelvis during birth. These hormones start to take effect about 10 days after your baby is conceived, and are quite a normal part of pregnancy.

By about 18-20 weeks, due to the weight and size of the growing baby, the tummy muscles are becoming stretched and weakened. There is more weight on the pelvic floor. This process can leave your pelvis less supported.

Many women may start to feel a little laxity, and around 1 in 5 women might develop some symptoms in the pelvic joints.

These symptoms may be occasional twinges and easily self-managed, or progress to distressing pain and an inability to walk comfortably or change position in bed.

The ‘PREGNANCY ROLL”when walking is often a sign of this.

The pain can come on suddenly following an incident or develop slowly.

Sometimes the need to ‘not let pregnancy change my life’ drives us to overdo activities, such as social outings, work activities and exercise. Be aware if this attitude may be triggering your pain and modify your activity accordingly.


Will pelvic joint pain affect my baby? 

No. Even though you might have quite considerable pain or discomfort, it will not affect your baby.


What can I do if I have a problem?

Early diagnosis and treatment can mean a better outcome. It is important to have an assessment by an appropriate health professional who has expertise in this area, to get a correct diagnosis.


Gentle exercises, specific treatment or advice regarding lifestyle choices, and sometimes a support belt, such as the MITTON Pelvic Support Belt™, can be helpful in women with mild or moderate pain and dysfunction. If your pain is severe, then your health professional can help you navigate through the difficulties. Your health professional can assist with guidelines to help make your pregnancy as comfortable and safe as possible.


What happens after the birth of my baby?

The pelvic joints are still vulnerable for up to 6-8 weeks after delivery, and care needs to be taken to protect them as you become more active and deal with the demands of motherhood. Many women find that wearing a MITTON Pelvic Support Belt™ gives more support and relieves discomfort, and you may find this too.

However, most women will find that their pain eases. Some women will experience ongoing problems and if your pain persists, review with your health professional.


Further reading…

You may wish to read ‘Pelvic Girdle Pain During Pregnancy and as a New Mum: Management and Solutions‘ by Gen McGlashan FACP* thanks to Fitwise Physiotherapy.