Are you pregnant and experiencing pain in your groin? This is a complaint that many pregnant women have. It can be quite debilitating for some, particularly as the pregnancy progresses. Groin pain is often contributed to ligaments stretching during the pregnancy. We will describe this further in the article. There are other reasons though that may cause groin pain. This article will detail those potential reasons as well.
Groin pain can be described as discomfort where your upper inner thigh meets your lower abdomen. Pain may occur as you lift your knee, or as you bring your legs together. Most commonly though, these movements happen during walking, so walking may be painful. Standing from a seated position, including getting up from a couch or chair, as well as getting out of the car is also a culprit. For some, pain may be experienced when rolling over in bed.
Groin pain is usually a symptom of a condition or issue, rather than an isolated problem. Let’s explore the more common reasons behind groin pain.
There are quite a few reasons that pregnant women have pain in their groin. It’s important that all these potential causes are explored, as your outcomes will be better if you are diagnosed appropriately to begin with.
Round ligaments are a common cause of groin pain. These ligaments are tough bands, that are able to stretch through pregnancy. We need this stretch to occur, because these bands attach to, and support the uterus. So as the uterus grows, the round ligament stretches. Round ligament pain can be different for everyone. Pain may radiate from the groin, around to the hips, or even into the upper leg. Some experience a dull ache in the groin or a spasm in the muscles on the sides of the stomach. Pain may also be incredibly sharp and intense, especially on sudden movements.
Sacroiliac joint pain (SIJ pain) can sometimes refer into the groin. The SIJ is located between your pelvis and sacrum (tail bone). Pain usually starts in the low back, but can radiate into the hip, upper thigh as well as the groin. Pain is usually because of mechanical changes in the pelvis with a growing baby, and also compressive pressures as well.
Sometimes groin pain can be referred from the low back itself. The lumbar spine may be the cause of groin pain referral. This can be from a herniated disc that protrudes and irritates the nerves. The pain that refers into the groin is called radiculopathy. During pregnancy, compression through the lower spine occurs as the body changes to accommodate a growing baby. Perhaps you had a previous history of disc injury or perhaps it is an underlying issue that is now presenting itself because of the mechanical changes occurring.
A fairly simple reason for your groin pain may be tight hip flexor muscles or thigh muscles. This is actually a common reason for many people experiencing groin pain, pregnant or not! The hip flexor group includes the psoas and iliopsoas muscles. These muscles attach to your upper thigh at the front, cross the pelvis and attaching into the pelvis, up through to the spine. The thigh muscles include the quadriceps group. These muscles are responsible for flexing the hip, amongst other combined movements. When these muscles are overly tight, they can ache and refer into the groin. Movements like walking and lifting the knee to put shoes on may be painful too.
Pubic symphysis pain is pain or discomfort that occurs in the pelvic region. Usually, pain is felt around the pubic bone, the lower back, and the perineum (the space between your vagina and anus). There are times when pain can feel so bad that it refers to the groin as well. Some women experience muscle spasms or shooting pains in the pelvis region that may be confused as groin pain. In this scenario, there’s usually other, more pressing symptoms, however it is a diagnosis to keep in mind.
Pelvic girdle pain is a broader term. Often Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), as described above, are used interchangeably. Symptoms of these issues include groin pain. However, groin pain is rarely an isolated issue. Most women experience similar issues in walking, rolling over in bed and climbing stairs. This is why taking a broad approach to treating groin pain through pregnancy is appropriate.
The third trimester is a common time to get groin pain! This can be for a number of reasons, including pressure from the baby, who is now getting much bigger in the third trimester!
Hormones are also changing and preparing you to give birth. Some of the hormones released are called relaxin, and they are there to loosen ligaments and muscles. This needs to happen to increase your range of motion to help you give birth. With all this stretching though, some women then develop discomfort and pain.
For some women, that hormone relaxin may kick in early in pregnancy. So, pain and discomfort may occur earlier in the pregnancy. If you are concerned about shooting pain, or it just doesn’t feel right, please seek advice from your medical team!
The short answer is, every pregnancy is different, and what you experience in one pregnancy, does not mean you will experience the same in the next. If you suffered from groin pain during pregnancy, and you wish to get pregnant again, you can always address some of the “non-pregnancy” related causes of your pain. That is, sometimes it’s the pregnancy itself that causes discomfort, but other times, it’s a history of injury. When you are ready after giving birth, exercise and strength routines can be really beneficial. Not just for future pregnancies, but for your health and wellbeing in general!
It is really important to get a proper musculoskeletal diagnosis when you have groin pain. Because groin pain is usually a symptom of a broader problem, we want to be able to target the right areas to relieve your pain. Depending on the nature of your pregnancy groin pain, there’s a few things you can try to feel better.
Sometimes, we will recommend a sacroiliac joint (SIJ) belt for some pregnant women experiencing pain and instability. These belts may not necessarily help groin pain in all scenarios. However, if your pregnancy groin pain is a result of a pelvic instability issue, then an SIJ belt may be appropriate. The aim of these belts is to keep the pelvis stable. This may reduce pain and discomfort when moving around.
You don’t need to suffer through pain during your pregnancy! If you are worried about your pain, you should always speak to your medical team first. Once they are happy with how your pregnancy is progressing, there is so much you can do to address any pregnancy related pain, especially groin pain. As we mentioned earlier, groin pain is often one symptom of a broader issue.
Osteopaths look at the whole picture when it comes to pregnancy related groin pain. We check all the related muscles in the area, all the joints in the area, but most importantly, we check how your posture is adapting to your pregnancy. We use a variety of techniques to encourage muscles to relax and joints to move better. You may also be prescribed some pregnancy appropriate exercises and stretches. The aim is to reduce some of the external pressures on your body so that it can focus on growing a baby, and to minimize your pain!