Pubalgia in pregnancy: what it is, how to prevent it, how to treat it

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Pubalgia in pregnancy

A pain in the groin, which can also radiate to the thighs and back and it can make it difficult to carry out everyday gestures such as climbing stairs, putting on socks or pants, walking, turning over in bed. And the groin, a pain typical of sportsmen but which - for different reasons - can also affect pregnant women.

One in ten pregnant women (or even one in five, according to some studies) suffers from groin pain.

In this article

  • What is groin pain 
  • What does groin pain depend on?
  • What to do to alleviate the symptoms of groin pain
  • Groin pain prevention strategies
  • And after giving birth?
Read also: Back pain in pregnancy

What is groin pain

"It's about an inflammation affecting certain muscles that attach to the joints of the pelvis (or pelvis) ", explains Lorenzo Panella, physician specialized in physiotherapy, director of the physical medicine and rehabilitation unit of the Gaetano Pini Orthopedic Institute in our city." In particular, in pregnant women it mainly concerns the adductor muscle of the thigh , which anchors itself to one of these joints, called the pubic symphysis ".

The characteristic symptom is the pain in the groin, which sometimes also radiates to the inside of the thigh or to the lower back.

It is a pain that is felt mainly when walking or climbing stairs, when sitting for too long or trying to stay on one leg - it happens while getting dressed - when spreading the legs, for example to go down. from the car, or when you roll over in bed. In some cases there may also be pain during sexual intercourse or in general in the perineum area.


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What does groin pain depend on?

"Pubalgia typically concerns those who do a lot of sport and in this case it is due to a super-stress on the tendons, the structures through which the muscles are inserted into the joints" explains Panella. "In the case of the pregnant woman, however, the reasons are different and have to do with the changes that occur in the body due to pregnancy".

There are two main factors at play. On the one hand, the overstressing of muscles and other structures in the pubic area due to theenlargement of the uterus, resulting in weight gain. On the other, a series of hormonal changes that lead to greater relaxation of muscles, tendons and ligaments. This relaxation will help during childbirth, but it means that the pelvic joints are in a less balanced situation than usual, which can lead to inflammation and therefore pain.

Due to the contribution of the uterus weight to pain, this tends to increase as pregnancy progresses. Also there position of the child may affect the risk of groin pain.

Read also: Contractions in pregnancy

What to do to alleviate the symptoms of groin pain

The first thing to do is avoid anything that can make the situation worse. For instance:

  • weght lifting;
  • taking the stairs too often;
  • if you already have a small child, hold it in your arms resting on one hip;
  • sitting for too long, being cross-legged.

Then there is a series of small tricks that can help relieve pain:

  • get enough rest without standing still: keeping active helps;
  • change position oftentrying not to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time;
  • dressing and undressing from sessions;
  • when standing, try to distribute the weight equally between the two legs;
  • sleep with a pillow between your legs;
  • when you roll over in bed, or get out of the car, try to keep the two legs together and parallel (i.e. not to enlarge them too much).

"Many of these strategies actually come spontaneously, as a natural way to relieve pain," Panella comments. Who continues: "If the pain is severe, with the advice of the doctor you can evaluate a drug therapy" says Panella. "Most anti-inflammatories are contraindicated in pregnancy, but paracetamol can be used, perhaps for a short treatment course of 7-8 days ".

Another useful strategy is that of apply ice to the painful area. "It is an effective vasoconstrictor and anti-inflammatory," the doctor points out. "If you want, you can also do small local massages with an ice cube". As for the classic physical therapies used in sports, such as ultrasounds or lasers, they are generally preferred to avoid during pregnancy.

Finally, a moderate exercise can help. The classic swimming, one of the most suitable sports during pregnancy, helps in the sense that, in the water, where there are less stresses, the pain subsides. "The preventive or long-term pain-relieving effect, however, is minimal," explains the expert. "To achieve this, the thing to do is work on the elasticity of the muscles involved, through special stretching exercises".

Yoga, for example, can be indicated. For other simple muscle strengthening exercises, it is better to seek advice from experienced personnel, for example a physiotherapist or osteopath possibly specialized in pregnancy.

Read also: Sports in pregnancy, the checks before starting and the rules to follow

Groin pain prevention strategies

What if a woman who wants to have a baby or is in early pregnancy wants to do something to reduce the risk of experiencing this disorder while waiting? In this case the advice is only one: focus on exercise. The more elastic and "trained" the muscles that insist on the pelvis arrive, the lower the risk that there will be some problems during pregnancy.

This was also shown by a Norwegian study published in 2022 in the British Journal of Medical Sports: women who, in the three months prior to pregnancy, were very active in even demanding sports such as running, high-impact aerobics, baseball, have a lower risk of groin pain During the wait.

Read also: Belly pain in pregnancy: all cases

And after giving birth?

"Don't worry" reassures Panella. "With the birth of the baby and the end of the stresses to which the mother's pelvis was subjected, the symptoms should go away on their own in a short time".

Sources for this article:

Advice from Lorenzo Panella, physician specialist in physiotherapy, director of the physical medicine and rehabilitation unit of the Gaetano Pini Orthopedic Institute in our city;

Information material from the English National Health Service;

Fact sheet of the English Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists;

In-depth article on WebMD.

Questions and answers

What is groin pain and why does it affect pregnant women?

Pubalgia is the pain that affects the pubis, that is, the lower abdomen. This disorder in pregnancy is caused by a series of changes that gestation brings to the body of the expectant mother.

What are the causes of groin pain in pregnancy?

Pain due to pubia is mainly caused by the pressure on the pelvic girdle, that is, the muscular and tendinous part of the pelvis (the pelvis).

How to prevent groin pain in pregnancy?

To prevent groin pain it is recommended:

  • keep your weight under control
  • exercise
  • maintain correct posture

  • groin pain in pregnancy
  • pregnancy pelvic pain
  • pregnancy physiotherapy
  • sports pregnancy
  • pregnancy osteopathy
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