When “Relaxin” Can Be Disturbing

By Riva Preil

Pregnant women experience many anatomical changes, in large part due to the various hormones circulating through the bloodstream while pregnant. One of these hormones, relaxin, causes a loosening of the ligaments, the structures in the body that keep bones securely connected to one another. On the one hand, this ligament laxity is important because it allows for widening of the pelvic bones in order to allow room for the fetus to grow, develop, and eventually emerge from the mother. However, just like chocolate cake, too much of anything, even something good, can actually be harmful. If there is too much ligament laxity, the pelvic bones may move out of alignment and the pubic bones may separate from one another which can be very painful. This separation, known as pubic symphysis diastasis (or pubic bone pain), may cause a pregnant women to feel pain just above the mons pubis, especially during prolonged walking, standing, and during activities that involve separating the legs (ex. stairs, donning pants).

Several helpful hints to help alleviate this type of pain are to stabilize the pelvic bones with a pregnancy belt. The belt can help provide the extra support which the lax ligaments are not providing as efficiently. In addition, a pregnant woman experiencing pubic bone pain should try to avoid activities that involve separating the legs or reciprocal movement (ex. when entering a bathtub or getting up from bed, swing both legs together over the edge rather than one at a time). In addition, prolonged standing and walking should be avoided, and she should take rests as needed. If pain persists, one should seek advice from their ob/gyn and a skilled physical therapist trained in prenatal/postpartum rehabilitation.

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