Most women experience heaviness or pressure around the vagina during pregnancy. This occurrence is normal, it can happen in the first, second, or third trimester. The uterus of a pregnant woman will expand from the size of an orange to the size of a watermelon or even larger. Her body will need to provide space and nutrients for the growing baby.
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In all three trimesters of pregnancy, it is normal to experience vaginal, pelvic, or lower abdomen pressure is common in all three trimesters of pregnancy.
Causes of vaginal and pelvic pressure during pregnancy
Women will have different experiences of vaginal pressure during the three trimesters of pregnancy. Some may feel an intense pressure in the vagina, while others will have a dull ache throughout the pelvis, or feel like a weight is bearing down on their entire lower body.
Let’s look at the different causes of vaginal pressure according to the trimester:
The first trimester is too early in pregnancy for weight gain to cause vaginal pressure. Instead, the hormone relaxin, helps relax the muscles, making it easier for the baby to pass through the pelvic area during birth. However, relaxin levels are at their highest in early pregnancy. High levels of this hormone may help the fertilized egg to implant in the lining of the uterus. Relaxin can cause muscle pain or tension in or around the vagina for most women.
According to studies in animal models, relaxin may also weaken the ligaments that support the pelvis. This can lead to a feeling of pressure, as though something is pushing down on the vagina.
Second and third trimesters
The combination of a weakening pelvic floor and increased weight mounting pressure on the pelvis can cause vaginal pressure in the second and third trimesters.
The pelvic floor resembles a sling made of muscle. It supports the organs of the pelvis, including the urethra, uterus, vagina, and bladder. Pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor. Women who have given birth earlier may have damage to their pelvic floor, which could cause it to further weaken, with a following pregnancy.
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The extra weight of pregnancy often becomes more evident in the second trimester. As pregnancy progresses, the uterus mounts more pressure on the lower body. This pressure can cause a feeling of fullness in the vagina as the pelvic floor weakens.
A pressure in the pelvis may be an early sign of labor for some women in the later stages of pregnancy. If cramping in the stomach also occurs or they feel a sensation of something pressing down on the uterus, it could mean that they are about to give birth.
Common problems in all trimesters
Some factors can cause a feeling of vaginal or pelvic pressure in all stages of pregnancy. These include:
Many women struggle with constipation all through their pregnancy. Constipation can cause a feeling of fullness or pressure in the vagina, especially when the stool is hard or several days have passed since a bowel movement. Constipation can be relieved by drinking lots of water and eating fruit and other high-fiber foods.
Pressure or pain can signify a bladder infection for some women. Women are more prone to develop a bladder infection during pregnancy. It is vital to see a doctor if the pressure occurs alongside trouble going to the bathroom, painful urination, or fever.
Bladder infections are easy to treat. If left untreatment, they can worsen and increase the risk of health issues during pregnancy.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP)
When vaginal pressure is extreme, it could be a sign of POP. This condition occurs when organs in or near the pelvis move down, sometimes into the vagina or rectum. POP is treatable but can cause intense pain, incontinence, and severe complications.
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Women who suddenly feel intense pressure, have difficulty controlling their bowel or bladder, or notice that something seems to be pushing down into their vagina, should immediately see a doctor.
A weak cervix
Some women have a weak cervix, which is sometimes called cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency. Some women with this condition may have a miscarriage or go into premature labor because the cervix is not strong enough to support the uterus. If detected early, a weak cervix is treatable.
How to relieve vaginal pain and pressure
Gentle stretches may help since vaginal pressure is often due to weak muscles and pressure on the pelvis. Try stretching the back and hips to relieve pain and pressure.
A pregnancy yoga can help with finding comfortable and safe stretches.
Using a foam roller can help loosen tense muscles. Apply a heating pad to the sore area if the pain is intense. Keep the heat low, and remove the pad after a maximum of 10 minutes.
Other strategies may not offer immediate relief, but can reduce the risk of certain conditions that cause vaginal pressure. These strategies include:
- Doing Kegel pelvic floor exercises. Tense the pelvic floor muscles as though trying to avoid urinating, hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times at least twice a day. This can also strengthen the muscles that the body uses to push out the baby.
- Remaining active during pregnancy. Even low-intensity exercises such as walking can help strengthen the muscles and promote good posture. This may relieve pain and pressure and keep the pelvic muscles strong.
- Drinking plenty of water. Stay hydrated, especially after exercising and in hot weather. This can help prevent constipation, which could otherwise lead to pressure.
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A more severe cause of vaginal pressure will require treating so that it does not harm the woman and baby. Very weak pelvic muscles can lead to POP. This painful condition can cause incontinence, pain during sex, and changes in the appearance of the genitals.
Some women experience muscle injuries during pregnancy or when giving birth. The hormone relaxin may increase the risk of muscle injuries. So it is essential to remain physically active to keep the muscles strong. Always lift with the legs rather than the back. Consult a doctor for unexplained muscle pain.