Your pelvis is one of the areas of your body that pregnancy puts the most stress on. And prenatal pelvic pain can be uncomfortable, painful, and even debilitating. Fortunately, there are plenty of yoga poses that can help. Keep reading for tips on prenatal yoga for pelvic pain!
(The contents of this post do not constitute medical advice. This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read our disclaimer.)
Types of Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy
Let’s start with a little anatomy refresher. What exactly is your pelvis, and what are its jobs?
The pelvis is a basin-shaped structure. Its purpose is to support your spine and protect your abdominal organs, which include your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Your pelvis is made up of the sacrum, coccyx (tailbone), and the three hip bones: the ilium, pubis, and ischium. (1)
There are several reasons you might experience during pregnancy. This post will focus on two of them: round ligament pain and pelvic girdle pain.
Round Ligament Pain
A common cause of pelvic discomfort during pregnancy is round ligament pain. These rope-like ligaments support your uterus and attach it to your groin.
As your uterus expands during pregnancy, your round ligaments get stretched, too. This can become painful as they continue to support your heavier uterus.
Round ligament pain may:
- be sharp, sudden, and short-lived.
- feel like something is stretching inside you.
- be felt on the right side of your body more often. However, round ligament pain can be felt on the left side or both sides of your body at the same time.
- get triggered by sudden movements, such as rolling over in bed.
Pelvic Girdle Pain
Another type of pelvic pain you might experience during pregnancy is pelvic girdle pain. Your pelvic girdle is the bony ring of your pelvis. It is formed by the ilium, ischium, and pubis. (2)
Several changes in your pregnant body can cause pain and discomfort for your pelvic girdle. As you gain weight during pregnancy, the pelvic girdle experiences extra stress. The bones and joints of your pelvis may not bear this weight evenly, which can cause discomfort in the areas that are working harder.
Another factor is the hormone relaxin, which helps your joints and ligaments relax during pregnancy. While relaxin is helpful in preparing your body for childbirth, it also weakens the ligaments you need for support. This can put greater stress on your pelvic girdle and cause pain in that area.
Pelvic girdle pain may:
- be felt in your lower back, hips, groin, or down your legs.
- feel either sharp or dull.
- make walking, climbing stairs, sitting, standing on or lifting one leg, or rolling over in bed uncomfortable or painful.
Round ligament and pelvic girdle pain are both common and usually not serious. However, if you’re experiencing either one, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about it.
Prenatal Yoga for Pelvic Pain
All of these pregnancy yoga poses can help to address pelvic pain. Strengthening, stabilizing, alignment, and hip opening.
You may find it helpful to have some props on hand. In a few poses, I suggest squeezing a block between your thighs for activation of your glutes and strengthening your pelvis. These blocks are my favorites and last forever.
It may be helpful to use a bolster in some of the resting poses to bring the floor closer to you and make space for your growing belly. My go-to bolster is both soft and durable, and it provides support while not being too bulky.
You can practice these poses in sequence or pick and choose the ones that appeal to you the most. If a pose feels uncomfortable, try making the adjustments suggested in Variations. However, if you feel pain in a yoga pose, stop and move on to a different one.
As with any new type of exercise or movement, check in with your healthcare provider before beginning a yoga practice.
Mountain Pose with Block
Practicing proper posture while standing can improve your postural alignment and decrease pelvic pain. Holding a block between your legs engages your glutes, opens your lower back, and builds strength in your pelvis.
How to Do It: From a standing position, bring your feet hip-width distance apart. Place a block between your thighs, holding it there with your legs.
Let your arms fall by your sides. Roll your shoulders up and back to open your chest. Open your palms to the front. Keep equal weight in your feet and a soft bend in your knees.
Variations: If standing with your legs apart is painful, remove the block from between your thighs and bring your feet together. You may also stand with your back against a wall for added support.
Moving through a cow/cat flow mobilizes your spine to release lower back pain and tension, as well as tightness in your pelvis.
How to Do It: Transition to your hands and knees, bringing your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips or a little wider, depending on what’s most comfortable for you. Spread your fingers wide.
Draw your belly button in toward your spine, as though you’re hugging your baby. Inhale and drop your belly. LIft your head and hips, looking up toward the ceiling. Keep drawing your belly up and in, and only stretch as far as feels safe and comfortable. This is cow.
Exhale. Round your spine. Drop your head and hips, and look back toward your belly. Broaden through your shoulders. This is cat.
Repeat the transition between cow and cat as many times as you’d like, linking your breath with your movement.
Variations: If being on your hands and knees hurts your wrists, try a seated cow/cat variation. Find a comfortable seated position, either on the floor or in a chair. Sit up tall, drawing your belly button up and in, and place your hands on your lap. Inhale into cow, puffing out your chest and looking up. Exhale into cat, rounding your spine and looking toward your belly.
Sunbird provides support to your pelvis by strengthening your lower back and stabilizing your core. It also provides low-to-the ground balance practice, which is extremely valuable as your balance changes during pregnancy.
How to Do It: Begin in tabletop on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Draw your belly button up and in.
Extend your right leg behind you, tapping your toe on the mat. Lift your leg straight up until it’s in line with your back. Dial your toes down toward the floor, flexing your foot.
If you feel stable, reach your left arm in front of you with your palm facing to the right. Hold your balance while taking deep, steady breaths.
Return to tabletop and switch sides.
Variations: If you don’t feel stable enough to lift your arm, you can keep both hands on your mat and hold the pose while lifting just your leg. You can also practice leg extensions by stretching one leg back and keeping your toes tapped on the mat. Gently press back into your foot for several breaths.
Downward dog is an amazing stretch for your back body and legs, which you really need during pregnancy! If your hips have been feeling “off” or uneven, downward dog can help you find neutral alignment.
How to Do It: From tabletop, walk your hands forward slightly, lift your knees, and press your hips up and back. Spread your fingers wide, pressing into your palms and fingertips. Broaden through your shoulders. If your lower back feels tight, keep a bend (big or small) in your knees. Hug your baby in. Hold for several breaths, bringing your knees to the floor if you ever need a break.
Variations: If downward dog is starting to feel intense or unsafe as your belly grows, use a wall for a supported variation. Stand in mountain pose, placing your hands on the wall in front of you. Slowly walk your feet back, extending your arms and pressing your hips back.
Chair Pose with Block
Chair pose strengthens your lower body and stabilizes the transverse abdominis, which supports your pelvis.
How to Do It: Stand in mountain pose. Place a block between your thighs. Hugging this block will engage your glutes, open your lower back, and build strength in your pelvis.
Bend your knees. Reach your hips back and down, as if you’re reaching for a chair that’s just out of reach. Draw your belly button up and in.
You can place your hands on your hips, reach them forward or up, or bring them into prayer.
Variations: For added support, you may want to practice chair pose against a wall.
Child’s pose releases tension in your hips and thighs while gently stretching your spine.
How to Do It: From tabletop, widen your knees and bring your big toes together. Press your hips back toward your heels. Stretch your arms forward and bring your forehead to the mat. You might also stack your hands and bring your forehead to rest on top of them.
Variations: Bring a bolster under your torso to create extra space for your belly. You can keep your arms extended forward or bring them back by your sides. Turn your head to rest one cheek on the bolster.
Reclining Bound Angle
Reclining bound angle provides a gentle stretch to your pelvis, groin, and inner thighs. It’s also a relaxing hip opener.
How to Do It: Lying on your back, open your knees to the sides and bring the soles of your feet together. If your pelvic region or inner thighs feel tight, move your feet further away from your body.
You can take your arms out to the sides or overhead. You might also place your hands on your belly.
Variations: If lying on your back has become uncomfortable or isn’t recommended by your healthcare provider, try building a ramp to lean against with a bolster and blocks.
Daily Living Tips for Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
Besides practicing prenatal yoga, here are some simple things you can do to alleviate pelvic pain in pregnancy:
- Focus on your posture. Pay attention to good posture when walking, standing and sitting, and avoid tipping your pelvis either anteriorly or posteriorly.
- Wear a belly band. You wear these stretch pieces of fabric under your clothes, and they provide extra support to your joints and ligaments as they hold up your growing belly. I started wearing Belevation’s maternity band during my second trimester, and it made a big difference with my round ligament pain. (add photo)
- Strengthen your hips and glutes. If it’s comfortable, try adding a few strengthening exercises to your daily routine, such as clams and gluteal bridges. No reason to overdo it; a few repetitions each day will help these muscles provide extra support to your pelvic area.
Share your prenatal yoga practice on Instagram! Tag me @mamaembodied so I can see how you use these yoga poses.
Have questions about any of these poses? Share them in the comments below.