Pelvic pressure

■ 3rd trimester

In the last weeks of pregnancy, you may feel a sense of pressure, heaviness, soreness or tenderness in your pelvic area. This is caused by the baby pushing into the pelvis and compressing the bladder and rectum. In addition, the baby is likely to compress some veins and cause blood to pool. Finally, the bones of the pelvis are being pushed outward a bit, causing further discomfort.

A feeling of pelvic pressure before the 37th week of pregnancy, however, may be a sign of preterm labor, particularly if the pressure in your pelvis or vagina seems to radiate toward your thighs, or you feel as if the baby is pushing down.

■ Prevention and self-care for pelvic pressure

If you experience pelvic pressure in the last weeks of pregnancy, you may find some relief by resting with your feet up. Kegel exercises also may help with pelvic soreness: Squeeze the muscles around your vagina tightly, as if you were stopping the flow of urine, for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

■ When to seek medical help for pelvic pressure

Call your health care provider or go to the hospital if you think you may be experiencing preterm labor. In addition to pelvic pressure, other signs and symptoms of preterm labor include:

• Cramping in the lower abdomen. The cramps may be similar to menstrual cramps and may be continuous or come and go.

• A low, dull backache that radiates to the side or front of your body and isn't relieved by any change in position

• Contractions every 10 minutes or more often

• Clear, pink or brownish fluid leaking from your vagina

You don't have to have all of these symptoms to be in preterm labor. Take action even if you have only one. Your health care provider may ask you to come into the office or go to the hospital, or you may be advised to rest on your left side for an hour. If the symptoms get worse or don't go away after an hour, call your health care provider again or go to the hospital.

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