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What to Do About Hip Pain During Pregnancy

If your hips are hurting during pregnancy, you’re not alone. Here’s how to feel better soon.
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Published January 31, 2024
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Aches and pains during pregnancy are no joke, especially as your belly gets heavier and you head into the third trimester. Back and pelvic discomfort can be annoyingly persistent—but your hips might be vying for attention too. If you’re feeling hip pain during pregnancy, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you don’t need to suffer through it. Here’s what you need to know about pregnancy hip pain—including how to get relief.

When Does Pregnancy Hip Pain Start?

Hip pain can start at any point in pregnancy, says Ashley Rawlins, PT, DPT, a pelvic and obstetric physical therapist and clinical educator at Origin. “Most commonly, it’ll begin in the middle of the second trimester, due to the growing uterus and widening of the pelvic joints.”

Many people who experience hip pain during pregnancy will feel it by the third trimester, adds Christine Greves, MD, FACOG, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando. Pregnancy hip pain is pretty common, she adds, affecting around 32 percent of pregnant women, according to one study.

What Causes Hip Pain During Pregnancy?

There are quite a few possible culprits for sore hips during pregnancy, most of which are related to the strains your growing baby puts on your body. Here are a few reasons you might experience pregnancy hip pain:

  • Hormones. “There’s a hormone called relaxin that causes the muscles and ligaments in your pelvis to relax,” Greves says. “That has a purpose: To allow for the relaxation of the pelvis to accommodate baby.” But relaxin can also relax your joints, which can lead to pain.
  • Postural shifts. Pregnancy causes a shift in your posture, and that can compress or strain the muscles and joints in your pelvis and hips, Rawlins says. “These changes can also change your movement strategies and body mechanics during your usual activities,” she adds, which can contribute to irritation to your muscles and tendons. You may also deal with nerve compression or tension in your hips and thighs during pregnancy, which can lead to hip pain.
  • Weight gain. Pregnancy causes weight gain, which can lead to hip pain during pregnancy, says Greves.
  • Round ligament pain. Round ligament pain, aka what happens when ligaments around the uterus get stretched as it grows, can refer to the front of the hips, says Rawlins.
  • Pelvic girdle dysfunction. Pregnancy hip pain can be part of pelvic girdle pain, says Rawlins—another pregnancy condition caused by hormones and your growing baby.

In some cases, hip pain during pregnancy isn’t musculoskeletal in nature and could be a sign of another underlying medical condition. “This is why it’s important to note any new symptom, including new pain, to your physician,” Rawlins advises.

How to Relieve Hip Pain During Pregnancy

Finding relief for hip pain in pregnancy depends on its cause. That said, here are a couple of tips experts say may help:

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  • Apply ice—or heat. “Ice is typically your go-to for newer pain or injury as this helps minimize inflammation, in addition to easing pain,” Rawlins says. For lingering pain, she says you can try heat too. Just keep in mind that you should avoid placing ice or heat directly on your abdomen. Instead, put an ice or heat pack over your low back or hip area, plus several layers of clothing or towels to protect your skin.
  • Keep moving. Staying in one position or not moving often can make hip pain feel worse, Rawlins says. “Try pain-free movement or position shifts every 15 to 30 minutes or so.”

Don’t hesitate to check in with your provider if you need further help. “If stairs or getting in and out of bed or the car continue to aggravate your pain, check in with a physical therapist,” advises Rawlins. “They’ll be able to help you optimize your movement, and minimize strain and pain throughout your pregnancy.”

Best Sleeping Positions for Hip Pain While Pregnant

Generally speaking, it’s best to sleep on your side during pregnancy, particularly on your left side as it allows for better circulation, says Rawlins. To keep your body more comfortable as you’re sleeping, she suggests:

  • Resting your top arm on a pillow
  • Placing a long pillow or two (or your pregnancy pillow) between your knees, down to your ankles
  • Adding a small folded towel under your waist between the bottom of your ribs and top of your hips
  • Making sure your pillow isn’t too high—you want your head and neck to be in line with your body when you sleep, not tilted up or down

Can You Prevent Hip Pain During Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, you can’t completely prevent hip pain during pregnancy. But experts say there are a few things you can do to make it more manageable:

  • Keep your hips even. “During your daily activities, focus on keeping your hips even versus shifting to one side or crossing your legs,” Rawlins says. “Try imagining that the front of your hip bones have headlights on them while vacuuming, doing yoga or when reaching down to pick something up. You want these headlights to be facing forward and level.”
  • Wear supportive shoes. “Everything is connected,” Greves says. “Your hips may be taking the brunt if you don’t have good shoes.”
  • Exercise, if you’re up for it. “Exercise and safe movement used to maintain strength and endurance to support your changing body can really be effective,” Rawlins says.
  • Wear a belly support band. Greves suggests wearing a pregnancy belly band to help with aches and pains.
  • Get a massage. Your body’s going through a lot—why not treat yourself? It might not completely get rid of pain, but it can feel good. “Massages are fabulous,” says Greves.
  • Don’t write off aches. Small aches can turn into larger ones if you ignore them, Rawlins says. “Starting treatment sooner rather than later is best,” she says.

When will pregnancy hip pain go away?

It depends. “A lot depends on the underlying cause,” Greves says. If your hip pain is due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, you should start to feel better as your body returns to its baseline after giving birth, she says.

Of course, keep in mind that postpartum recovery can take time. “Have grace with yourself and recognize that your body may not be 100 percent better in six weeks,” Greves says.

If you’re dealing with hip pain during pregnancy and aren’t finding relief from at-home remedies, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a physical therapist. They’ll help you figure out what’s causing your discomfort and come up with a specialized treatment plan to help you feel better.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Ashley Rawlins, PT, DPT, is a pelvic and obstetric physical therapist and clinical educator at Origin. She specializes in the treatment of pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions.

Christine Greves, MD, FACOG, is an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando. She received her medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, Musculoskeletal Pain and Symptoms in Pregnancy: A Descriptive Study, November 2018

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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