Women may experience a number of musculoskeletal issues during and after pregnancy, which include:
- ante and postnatal incontinence
- pelvic girdle pain (previously known as SPD)
- back pain and/or sciatica
- separation of the stomach muscles (diastasis recti)
- carpal tunnel
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pregnancy and childbirth can have a lasting effect on your pelvic floor muscle fitness.
During pregnancy, the hormone ‘relaxin' is released throughout your body, which softens the tissues and allows them to expand as your baby grows. It also allows your pelvic floor to stretch during birth.
The softening effect of relaxin and the increasing weight of the baby places pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, which can make it harder for the muscles to hold the pelvic floor organs in their correct position. The pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are also stretched at birth, which can sometimes lengthen the tissues permanently.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)
PGP is a descriptive term for symptoms of pain in the joints of the pelvis. These are the pubic symphysis and sacro-iliac joints.
Pain in these joints is very common during pregnancy (affecting up to 70% of women in some studies). Symptoms can range from mild discomfort on certain movements to severe pain with all activities.
Those with very severe symptoms may need to use crutches or a wheelchair for a period of time. Only around 20% of women will suffer severe symptoms and many resolve after birth with only around 7% of women suffering postnatally.
Also known as "separation" of the abdominal muscles, this is the stretching and thinning of the soft tissue in the centre of the abdomen that pides the right and left half of the abdominal muscles. It occurs in the 3rd trimester and is considered a normal effect of pregnancy as it occurs in 66% of women. It should return to normal by 6 weeks postnatally.
In some cases it does not return to normal within this time. This may be due to the diastasis being very large during pregnancy (due to a large baby, multiple pregnancy or several pregnancies in succession), or by incorrect use of the abdominal muscles postnatally.