A pregnant woman holds her stomach. She appears uncomfortable.
Hip or pelvic pain affects about 50 percent of pregnant women at some point. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Pregnancy affects your body in many different ways—some obvious, some not.

The size of your belly as the baby grows inside you? Quite obvious.

Momnesia? Less obvious.

In the past, we’ve looked at how hormones can affect pregnancy. One pregnancy change that isn’t so obvious is the release of relaxin, a hormone that does pretty much what it sounds like.

As the Society of Endocrinology explains: “Relaxin is a hormone produced by the ovary and the placenta with important effects in the female reproductive system and during pregnancy. In preparation for childbirth, it relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix.”

Many women may experience pain or discomfort in the hips or pelvis during pregnancy, which can sometimes be explained by the hormone relaxin. The hormone’s job is to prepare the pelvic area for the birth of the new baby.

A woman’s hip bones are broader than a man’s, which allows a woman to give birth, but it also comes with some added difficulties. Among them, hip and pelvic pain.

The bones of the pelvis include the ilium, the pubis, and the ischium. If you look at a diagram of the human skeletal system, you can see how these bones relate to this topic.

Research indicates women stand roughly a 50-50 chance of developing pelvic pain at some point during pregnancy.

Some of the various hip and pelvic issues during pregnancy can include pelvic girdle pain and symphysis pubis dysfunction, or SPD, the latter affecting about 1 in 3 pregnant moms.

A few notable characteristics, conditions and activities that may increase a woman’s risk of developing pelvic issues in pregnancy:

  • Pregnant with twins or a large baby
  • Poor posture
  • High BMI before pregnancy
  • Menstrual cycles that began before age 11
  • Strenuous activities, including heavy lifting
  • Previous trauma to pelvis
  • Lack of exercise

In regard to symphysis pubis dysfunction, some of the recognizable symptoms include onset of pain when trying to lift your legs—for instance, when getting in and out of a vehicle.

Symphysis pubis dysfunction can also involve mild or prolonged pain and sharp, stabbing or achy pain. A woman with this condition would also notice a “clicking” in the hips, and it would be quite difficult to turn over in bed because of the hip pain.

Pregnant moms with this condition can’t just make it go away, but there are some steps that can help:

  • Ample rest typically relieves the pain.
  • Giving birth will typically erase the pain, although not always.
  • A maternity pillow or a body pillow often helps.
  • Place a pillow behind your lower back when sitting in a chair.
  • Sit on a birth ball to help with sciatica.
  • Move your legs together when getting out of a vehicle, rather than one leg at a time.
  • Use a pregnancy belt.
  • Use a foam roller on your back.
  • Check with your OB provider about seeing a chiropractor.
  • Use ice packs in affected areas.
  • Practice pelvic tilts.
  • Change positions every 30 minutes or so.
  • Take a warm bath as needed.