Pregnancy tip

Getting diagnosed as early as possible can help to keep the pain to a minimum.

Pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy

Pain in the pelvis (pelvic girdle pain or symphysis pubis dysfunction) is common in pregnancy, but can be treated. Find out how to minimise discomfort and get help here.

This article covers the definition of pelvic girdle pain, the symptoms, and how to cope with PGP in pregnancy.

What is pelvic girdle pain?

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is a condition that affects around 3% of women in pregnancy and/or after the birth. It was formerly called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) but is now being referred to as PGP. They are both the same condition and there is no difference between the two. However this has been a fairly recent change and symphysis pubis dysfunction or SPD is still commonly used and may be the name you come across when you visit your GP or attend for antenatal care.

Symptoms of PGP

The symptoms can include mild, moderate or severe pain in the pubic bone area as well as pain in the hips, groin, lower abdomen, buttocks, lower back or inner thighs. 

Symptoms can be aggravated by the increasing weight of the baby, changes in the body’s centre of gravity, and posture. It usually occurs in pregnancy due to the pregnancy hormone 'relaxin' softening the ligaments in your body, allowing your pelvis to open up and make room for your baby to be born.

Standing and walking, turning over in bed and any movement that involves separating the legs, such as walking up stairs, getting in and out of the bath or car, can be very painful. Sometimes a clicking sensation can be felt or heard.

Coping with pelvic pain in pregnancy

The condition is usually diagnosed by its symptoms and by a thorough assessment of the pelvic joints and spine (which can include an ultrasound scan). Your healthcare team will be able to refer you to a specialist physiotherapist. Getting diagnosed as early as possible can help to keep the pain to a minimum and avoid long-term discomfort.

If you suffer from pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy it is best to try and avoid weight bearing activities. Many women have found that making small changes to everyday activities reduce discomfort, changes such as:

  • sitting with a straight and well supported back,
  • not stooping when working at a desk or table (make sure it is right for your height) and
  • wearing flat shoes.

You should still be able to have a normal birth - talk to your midwife about the options.

Page last reviewed: 29 August 2012

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

NHS choices has information on pelvic girdle pain.

The Pelvic Partnership is a charity which aims to pass on information about pelvic girdle pain based on research evidence and on other women’s experience.