My husband and I have a running joke that no matter what symptoms you tell your OB you’re having, they will just smile and respond with “yup, you’re pregnant!” Pain in your big toe? Itchy bellybutton? “Yup! You’re just pregnant!” If you know my husband and his British sense of humor, you can imagine how creative these examples can get :)
But I’ve found that, unfortunately, the same can be true for real aches and pains you’re having. When I was around 7 months pregnant with my first, I complained that it felt like I’d been kicked in the vagina - it hurt to walk, it hurt to roll over in bed, it hurt to put pants on. She just looked at me and reminded me I was 7 months pregnant.
I learned later through my own research that I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or SPD. Super common (1 in 5 pregnancies), but that doesn’t make it less painful and there things you can do to help it. You also come across a plethora of mom jokes about peeing when you laugh or sneeze. It’s assumed that this just happens after you have a baby and you just live with it. But you don’t have to!
The body is an amazing thing, but pregnancy and delivery can definitely take its toll. Here are 5 “common” conditions that are “normal” - that you don’t have to live with:
1) Diastasis Recti: a separation of the Rectus Abdominal muscles, or your “6-pack” abs. If you have DR (see my post on Core Rehab for how to check!) consult a physical therapist if the gap is wider than 2 fingers or if you are able to stick your fingers deep down in between the muscles. Otherwise, a certified pre/postnatal trainer should be able to advise on gentle abdominal work that can help strengthen your core and alleviate any residual discomfort.
2) Incontinence: if you have any issues going to the bathroom, whether it be frequency, leaking, or inability to hold it if you have to go, this is a pelvic floor issue. Those kegels you’re always told to do? Time to really do them. I recommend consulting with a women’s health or pelvic floor physical therapist who can help you work through it with a specific regimen, but in the mean time, try doing a set of 10 kegels 3 times per day, holding for 5 seconds on each one.
3) SPD: aka Pelvic Girdle Pain, is pain on the pubic bone and can sometimes radiate to the inner thighs. It’s caused by a misalignment at the front or the back of the pelvis and can happen during or after pregnancy. The typical course of action is to strengthen the pelvic joints through core and pelvic floor muscle exercises, avoid opening your legs too wide or putting all your weight on one leg. Aim for keeping your pelvic as neutral and balanced as possible. If the pain is persistent check in with a physical therapist.
4) Low back pain: there are many causes of low back pain but it is often caused by a weak core and glutes, and often goes hand in hand with SPD. Strengthening the transverse abdominal muscle (your inner most layer of an muscle) and learning to activate your glutes properly through squats and your daily movements will make a big difference.
5) Sciatica pain: usually surfaces as pain in the lower back or butt and can radiate down the back of the leg. It typically stems from a lower back issue where the sciatic nerve is being pinched. It’s described as a sharp pain made worse by prolonged sitting or standing. Stretching is the best place to start to alleviate the pain and core exercises will help stabilize the lower spine and pelvis. Laying on your back with your feet stretched out, pull one knee to your chest and then to the opposite shoulder to stretch the piriformis muscle and the glutes. Repeat on other side. Pigeon pose is another great one.