Pregnancy Hip Pain: Is It Normal and How To Find Relief

Published July 19th, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

There are tons of different symptoms that you might expect when you become pregnant.

Everything from cravings to cramping, fatigue to muscle pain – it’s good to be prepared, so these changes do not blindside you.

However, a hidden symptom many individuals don’t expect to feel is hip pain, which affects many women during their reproductive years.

But why exactly does this happen? Is it normal, and what can you do to find pain relief? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Does Pregnancy Hip Pain Feel Like?

While hip pain during pregnancy is common, it’s not an expected or normal part of the reproductive period.

Hip discomfort is often felt later in pregnancy, especially during the third trimester.

Hip pain can feel like tension or soreness in one or both sides of the hips. In most cases, the pain is most noticeable on the side of the body where the baby lies in the uterus.

This pain might feel dull, but other times it might lead to a sharp, shooting sensation.

pregnant woman having hip pain

What Causes Pregnancy Hip Pain?

There are many different reasons why you might start to feel some increased back pain or tension in your hips while pregnant. Let’s look at some of the causes of hip pain during pregnancy. 

Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, your ovaries and placenta create the pregnancy hormone relaxin.

This hormone prepares the body for birth by relaxing the connective tissue and ligaments in the pelvis while also softening and widening the cervix.

Of course, it also makes all the ligaments in your body a bit looser, increasing flexibility overall. This flexibility decreases the support of your joints and bones in the pelvic area, often leading to discomfort and pain.

Increased Pressure on Your Spine

It’s not just the increased relaxin that can make your hip joints feel more loose and painful.

Pressure increases on your spine's sciatic nerve as you gain more weight in later trimesters.

An enlarged uterus can place pressure on the two sciatic nerves that run from the lower back down to the feet.

This sensation can present as numbness, tingling, or pain in the hips and thighs.

This sensation is called sciatica and can affect even those who are not pregnant. As you get closer to your due date, you might notice this problem worsening as the baby changes positions in the uterus.

Round Ligament Pain

The round ligaments are two cord-like ligaments on each side of the uterus.

They connect the uterus to the pelvis and hold the uterus in place. These ligaments loosen and flex as the baby grows in the womb. They also become less stable due to the release of relaxin.

Round ligament pain can feel like sharp pains in the abdomen, groin, or hips. They often intensify with rapid changes in position or movement, such as laughing or sneezing.

Changes in Posture

Carrying extra baby weight can greatly change your posture as your spine tries to adjust to the added weight.

You might experience pain in or around the hips as you try to adjust to postural differences.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones weaken, and a specific type known as transient osteoporosis is more common in pregnant individuals.

Transient osteoporosis includes joint pain due to demineralization of bone marrow. It can begin in the second or third trimester due to changes in calcium levels.

This condition usually gets better after delivery but can sometimes lead to hip fractures. Getting an MRI is the only accurate way to get a proper diagnosis.

Alleviating Hip Pain While Pregnant

Minor hip pain is usually not something to worry about, and you can take some steps to alleviate the discomfort without needing medical interventions.

Stretching and Exercise

Pregnant women should continue to exercise.

Regular exercise can help prevent added weight gain (which puts pressure on the hips) and help ensure that your body continues to support the growing baby in the womb.

Appropriate exercises for pregnant women include walking or swimming, as these are low impact and safe for the baby.

You might also consider prenatal yoga, which includes several different postures to help burn calories while simultaneously stretching out the hips and other problem areas of the body.

Moreover, a study found that prenatal yoga vastly improved vaginal delivery and decreased the risk of premature birth. Not only does it help reduce pain and discomfort, but it also helps to enhance the delivery itself.

Pelvic Belt

A pelvic belt is an adjustable body belt with four elastic compression bands that help provide pressure to the body. They can also adjust the force applied to the hips to support the extremity.

A supportive belt can be hard to find, but it might be able to give you the relief you need in the same way that compression wraps for other parts of the body can alleviate pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy during pregnancy lets you make the most of guided stretches and exercises from a professional who can pinpoint problem areas.

They can also help you find new ways to complete daily activities that might not involve as much pain or discomfort.

Physical therapists can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that works for you. And since it’s medically based, most insurance providers will cover at least some out-of-pocket costs.

Monitor Posture

The pain in your hips might be an indirect effect of your posture being affected by the added weight of childbearing.

So, you might be able to find some relief by adjusting your posture while standing and sleeping.

Hold your head up straight and keep your chin from rising. Think about bringing your shoulder blades back and your chest forward while ensuring that your ears align with the middle of your shoulders.

This posture can help make sure your core bears most of the weight.

You may want to consider specially designed pregnancy pillows between the legs when sleeping.

A pillow provides extra support on the full length of the body to reduce the risk of aches, pains, and everything in between. Finding the right sleeping position can be challenging, but it can make all the difference.

Warm Compresses

Using warmth can bring blood flow to an area to lessen joint stiffness and muscle spasms.

You can moisten a washcloth with warm water or apply a heating pad to your hips to feel some relief from pain, stiffness, or general discomfort.

A warm bath is another great way to get the benefits of warm temperatures all over your body to relieve aches and pains from other spots besides your hips. Just be sure the temperature is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Pain Relievers

If natural remedies cannot help, a healthcare provider might recommend some medical interventions instead.

In some cases, they might recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to help reduce discomfort in the hips or other areas of the body.

Most OTC pain relievers are safe for pregnant individuals, but you should never take a new medication while pregnant without first talking to a medical professional.

This is especially true since a doctor might recommend you take these medications differently than the label describes.

When To See a Doctor About Pregnancy Hip Pain

Feeling pain in the hips or other areas of the body when pregnant is not uncommon, and in most cases, you don’t need to visit a doctor just because you feel some minor discomfort.

However, certain co-occurring symptoms might represent something a bit more serious.

It is best to talk to your doctor if:

  • The pain is constant or recurring.
  • The pain is severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.
  • You have co-occurring vaginal bleeding or spotting.

As a general rule of thumb, it never hurts to speak with your doctor if you have any fears or concerns. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Hip Pain or Contractions?

Labor contractions feel like a dull achiness in the low back or lower abdomen. It also sometimes feels like pressure in the pelvis.

Many individuals describe this as strong menstrual cramping. It might signify preterm labor if you feel these sensations consistently about 10 to 12 minutes apart.

Monitor your symptoms, and never be afraid to contact your doctor if there is anything you’re feeling unsure about.

How To Prevent Pregnancy Hip Pain

You can take steps to prevent pregnancy hip pain from starting in the first place by keeping a few measures in mind.

Keep Active

Doctors recommend that pregnant women engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

Exercising can help strengthen the core and pelvic muscles to reduce hip pain and make the hips more stable as the baby grows.

Exercise can help maintain weight, reducing the burden placed on the hip area and legs as the baby grows in the womb.

Wear Supportive Footwear

You can reduce lower body pain during pregnancy by switching your footwear. Wear flat, supportive shoes with arch support during exercise and other activities to foster good posture.

Additionally, rest as much as you can once you notice any discomfort.

Avoid Certain Activities

Postures like crossing your legs, vacuuming, lifting heavy objects, or standing for long periods can aggravate lower body pain, so try to avoid these activities as often as possible.

Consider Prenatal Massage

Getting a massage has multiple benefits for pregnant individuals.

It can help manage stress and anxiety while providing a great excuse for a self-care day. But it can also help reduce pain.

Specialized prenatal massage can alleviate lower back pain and leg pain, reduce labor pain during childbirth, and even lessen post-operative discomfort. Regardless, it can help boost your mood and lift your spirits.

In Conclusion

Hip pain during pregnancy is a common occurrence that isn’t usually a cause for concern.

In most circumstances, it results from hormonal changes, round ligament pain, increased pressure on the spine, or osteoporosis.

You can work to alleviate this discomfort through home remedies like warm compresses, pelvic belts, exercise and stretching, or over-the-counter pain relievers.

Medical interventions like physical therapy can be effective if you need extra support.

If your pain is causing stress or interfering with your daily life, reaching out to a medical professional never hurts to ensure everything is okay.

Hip pain paired with contractions or spotting might signify preterm labor or another underlying condition.

References, Studies and Sources:

Relaxin | You and Your Hormones from the Society for Endocrinology

Sciatica - Symptoms and causes | The Mayo Clinic

The effectiveness of prenatal yoga on delivery outcomes: A meta-analysis | National Library of Medicine

Pregnancy Physical Therapy | American Pregnancy Association

Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let's move! | The Mayo Clinic

Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy | AMT

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