Women often wonder if pregnancy changes their pelvises. Will there be a noticeable difference in their hips before and after pregnancy? Well, it typically depends on the woman and a variety of factors.
Some women will experience noticeable hip changes during pregnancy. However, other women might not notice that their hips have widened until after giving birth when they try to fit into their pre-pregnancy pants.
Relaxin During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman’s body starts to experience a surge in the hormone relaxin. Relaxin is produced not only by the mother-to-be’s system but also by the fetus. It plays a key role in the woman’s body by preparing it for birth.
As the name implies, relaxin relaxes the blood vessels, ligaments, joints, assists in mammary gland development, and prepares the cervix for birth. It also keeps the uterus from contracting and inadvertently causing as miscarriage. During labor, relaxin plays a key role in triggering the rupture of the placental sac.
Relaxin and Pelvic Changes
The ligaments and joints of the pelvis relax because of the infusion of relaxin in the mother’s system. This allows the pelvis to expand prior to birth, especially in the symphysis pubis and sacroiliac joints.
The relaxing of the pelvic ligaments and joints cause a widening of the hips that may persist after pregnancy. Some women experience a greater degree of pelvic widening than other women which may have to do with the amount of relaxin in their system.
Unsteady Gait and Pain
During the second and third trimesters, relaxin causes the ligaments of the sacroiliac joints to loosen and weaken. This can cause an unsteady gait and pelvic pain.
Pain is also frequently felt in the lower back, upper legs, and hips as the weight of the uterus and baby push down into the pelvis cradle onto the loosened joints and ligaments. It is at this time that many women start to notice hip widening that persists even after pregnancy.
Each subsequent pregnancy that women experience tend to create greater pelvic loosening earlier in the trimesters, according to Sharon Phelan, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico
Widening of the Pelvis and Exercise
During pregnancy, many women opt to do a variety of exercises in an attempt to widen their pliable pelvis prior to childbirth. Exercises also help maintain flexibility and frequently reduce lower back and pelvic discomfort.
Reducing the Severity of Hip Changes With Hip Binding
Some women try to reduce the severity of hip changes by turning to hip binding. For centuries, women around the world have practiced the unique post-pregnancy binding in an effort to prevent hip widening.
It is believed that snuggly binding the hips right after pregnancy help the loosened pelvic joints stabilize and returns the hips to their pre-pregnancy width. Tightly binding the hips effectively reduces the circumference of the pelvic bones.
Postpartum Hip Binding to Reduce Pelvic Widening
The binding method must be done within 8 weeks after giving birth when the hormone relaxin is still circulating in high levels in the mother’s system. The hormone helps the joints and ligaments remain loose so that the binding the joints returns them to their pre-pregnancy size.
For best effects, the hips need to be bound the first week postpartum after a vaginal delivery and within 4 to 6 weeks postpartum after a cesarean section. The binding will continue for ten hours per day for at least 40 days, according to the Tulsa Family Doulas.
Compression Belts to Control Hip Widening
Nowadays, commercial compression belts are available that a woman can wear shortly after giving birth to successfully return their hip size to their pre-pregnancy state.
The belts come in a variety of sizes and focus on not only returning the hips to their pre-pregnancy size but also aids in stomach-flattening and helps reduce back pain.
What the Experts Say
“Some women will notice that their pelvis and way they walk might never be quite the same – especially with women who’ve had more than one baby,” says Dr. Shannon Clark, associate professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
“Due to the relaxin hormone, which helps our bodies expand for the growing baby, sometimes the ligaments and soft tissues are forever stretched and do not go back to their previous size, “ according to Alison M. Hanson, PT, MPT, OCS, CAPP-OB, a physical therapist and postnatal specialist.
“One of the things that many women don’t realize is that even if they get back to their pre-pregnancy body weight, it’ll be shaped differently,” said Tanouye, who said that most of the changes will be in the “boobs, bottom and hips. By the three month mark, I hear from a lot women that they’re feeling better physically and better about their bodies – and that they’re feeling softer overall,” according to Dr. Staci Tanouye, an OBGYN with the Mayo Clinic.
“The joints between the pelvic bones actually loosen and slightly separate during pregnancy and childbirth,” according to Katherine Gillogley, department chair of obstetrics and gynecology with Mercy Medical Group in Sacramento, California.
“But there is a list of things you need to be aware of,” warns Murphy. “Stay hydrated, don’t overheat, stop if you feel dizzy. Also, as you get the release of the hormone relaxin, your pelvis will start to move apart and your joints will loosen, so be careful of any impact exercise that will put strain on your hips, knees, and ankles. Don’t do anything that really puts you off balance, like skiing or horse riding,” says Joan Murphy, co-founder of pregnancy programme Mumhood at London gym Frame.
Dealing with Natural Body Changes
The reality of pregnancy is that not only will your life change after childbirth, but so will your body to one degree or another. Some women may experience noticeably wider hips after pregnancy, but others may be fortunate enough to retain their pre-pregnancy size.
However, the natural widening of a woman’s hips post-pregnancy should not be overly excessive. Most women forget about the subtle changes to their bodies that childbirth causes the minute they hold their newborn in their arms.