Should I use a maternity belt for pelvic girdle pain?

pregnant belly with hands on bump

January 3, 2024

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is a common condition during pregnancy that I regularly see as a Chiropractor in practice. It can have a huge impact on your pregnancy because it can be extremely painful and significantly limit what you are able to do day to day. There are so many different types of maternity belt out there, it can be confusing to know which is the best type to buy, and whether you even need them at all. I’m going to do my best to answer those questions for you here.

Firstly, what is pelvic girdle pain?

Pelvic girdle pain is a term used to describe pain around the pelvis area and hips. It affects the joints at the back of the pelvis called the sacro-iliac joints, and the pubic symphsis at the front of the pelvis. Pelvic girdle pain is a common condition in pregnancy, with the RCOG estimating it affects 1 in 5 pregnant women. Pelvic girdle pain can often be associated with pubic symphysis dysfunction (SPD). I go into more detail on SPD and how to manage it here.

What causes pelvic girdle pain?

The sacro-iliac joints and pubic symphysis are connected by ligaments, which provide support to the joint. During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is produced which increases the ligament laxity in preparation for pregnancy and birth. This ligament laxity can cause a slight increase in movement within the pelvis joints. If the muscles are not able to stabilise the pelvis instead, this increased movement can lead to pain in the joints. Changes in the posture during pregnancy as the baby grows also increases the pressure on the pelvic joints.

Pelvic girdle pain can affect anyone and everyone. However, you are more likely to suffer if you have had a previous injury to the pelvis as the ligaments are not as strong. You are also more likely to suffer if you are hypermobile, as this means the ligaments in the pelvis are already laxer than they should be.

Can a maternity belt help to reduce pelvic girdle pain?

Yes! The right maternity belt really can help to reduce the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain. Have a look below to see which type of belt is the best.

Which type of maternity belt is the best for pelvic girdle pain?

There are different types of maternity belt. This belt below is designed to support the low back and bump and can be useful for low back pain or if you need to support the bump with a low lying baby. It is not so effective for pelvic girdle pain as it doesn’t provide adequate support to the pelvis joints. You can purchase a babygo maternity belt pregnant women wearing back and belly support band.

Image from babygo.uk

This belt below is a belly support band, supporting the bump and the abdominal muscles. It is useful for those suffering from round ligament pain or issues with abdominal muscle separation. However, it is still not ideal for pelvic girdle pain.

pregnant women wearing belly support band
image from babygo.uk

This belt below is a sacro-iliac belt. The belt helps to create tension across the pelvic joints, helping to minimise movement in the joints and therefore reduce pain. It is important to ensure you are wearing it over the sacro-iliac joints for maximum benefit. It is also not comfortable to wear sitting down as it will dig into the bump- wear it only when standing and walking for the best results. You can purchase your own serola belt image of pelvic girdle belt serola

image from serola

Apart from a maternity belt, what else can I do to help my pelvic girdle pain?

Whilst the right belt can help give you relief from symptoms, I also like to advise my patients on other things they can do to manage their pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. There are small changes you can make day-to-day that can help:

  • Keep your legs together when getting in and out of the car/turning over in bed
  • sit down to do things like getting changed, putting shoes on
  • try to keep your weight equally through both legs when standing
  • move little and often- it can help to move every 30 minutes but don’t overdo it- rest is important!
  • avoid lifting anything heavy
  • avoid standing on one leg
  • building up strength in the muscles around your pelvis can help to manage the symptoms- have a look at the exercises below to help with this.

Should I exercise with pelvic girdle pain?

You can still exercise with pelvic girdle pain, but you may need to modify what exercise you do. A good rule to follow here is that if it hurts, don’t do it!

Whilst swimming is normally a fantastic exercise during pregnancy, it is not advised to do breaststroke legs when suffering from pelvic girdle pain as it puts a lot of stress on the front of your pelvis. Front crawl and back stroke are generally better , although in extreme cases, even kicking may aggravate the symptoms. Exercise that involves side to side movement, such as racquet sports, or impact exercise, such as running, are not advised. You may find that even walking aggravates the pain, so reducing walking to little and often can be beneficial.

Strength and resistance training is important because it builds up muscles that can help to stabilise the pelvis. But there are certain exercises that are good, and others that should be avoided. As always, if you’re unsure about whether and how to exercise, please consult your midwife or GP.

What exercises can I do to help with pelvic girdle pain?

  1. Bridge: lie on back with knees bent. Clench bottom muscles and lift pelvis slightly off the floor. Only lift as high as is not painful. Hold three seconds and the relax back down. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Pelvic tilts: sit on chair or pregnancy ball with feet on the floor. slowly sit as tall as you can, increasing the curve in your lower back. Here you are tipping your pelvis forward. Then slowly sit backwards so your curve rounds the other way. Here you are tipping your pelvis backwards. Repeat 10 times.
  3. Childs pose: Kneel down on the floor and sit back onto your feet. Widen your knees to allow spare for your bump, then lean forward with your hands on the floor as far as you can. Rest in this position for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  4. Bird Dog: Kneel on hands and knees. The aim of this exercise is to keep your torso completely still to engage your core stabilisers. Slowly lift one arm on the floor in front of you. Hold 3s and relax. Repeat on the other side, 5 times each side.

As always, please consult your GP or midwife before starting a new exercise programme.

Will my pelvic girdle pain go away after I give birth?

Many women will find the pain resolves once they have given birth. However, 1 in 10 women1 will continue to experience symptoms post partum. Women who have experiences SPD in one pregnancy are also more likely to experience it in the second. With this in mind, it is essential to make sure that you build up your strength post partum to reduce the likelihood of this happening. We have some fantastic programmes on post natal training here.

1 royal college of obstetricians and gynaecologists. www.rcog.org.uk

featured image by freestocks on Unsplash

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