Most women complain about shoulder pain during pregnancy. Almost 40%! Yup, it’s true. Sometimes for some women, it gets so severe that they need medical attention. So what causes this? Let’s find out.
To begin, shoulder pain during pregnancy could be a sign of a bad night’s sleep. Other times, it’s a bit more serious.
During pregnancy, the woman’s body produces chemicals to relax the ligaments in the body and prepare for childbirth. As the ligaments of the knees, hips, back, neck and shoulders loosen there is an increased risk of injury through ligament strain and sprain. Rapid weight gain and bad posture can also lead to pressure and strain in the shoulders. Women should be aware of this and work to maintain correct posture. When exercising, it is important to stick to low impact activities or train with a qualified prenatal instructor.
Sleep position can lead to shoulder pain. During the second and third trimester, women are often encouraged to sleep on their left side to improve blood flow to the placenta. This position also help kidney efficiency and avoid putting pressure on the spine. Spending all night on one side can lead to pain in the shoulder. Pregnant women can try sleeping on their back with a pillow propped under their right side as an alternative sleep position.
Digestion issues and gallstones can cause shoulder pain. During pregnancy digestion slows down and the gallbladder can fail to empty. This can result in the formation of gallstones, which cause sharp abdominal pain and pain in the right shoulder. Constipation, gas and stomach ulcers can also lead to similar pains. Pregnant women are advised to avoid eating spicy or fatty foods.
One of the more serious causes of shoulder pain during pregnancy is pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a disorder, which can affect 5-8% of pregnancies. It is thought pre-eclampsia is caused by the placenta producing substances, which enter the mother’s blood stream and lead to health complications. High blood pressure is the most significant symptom of pre-eclampsia. If you have shoulder pain be sure to request your doctor check your blood pressure at every visit. Other symptoms include swelling in your face or hands, sudden weight gain, nausea, lower back pain, changes to vision, anxiety, racing pulse and mental confusion.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo is located outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes or cervix. This results in sharp abdominal pain, which often radiates to the back and shoulder. Other symptoms are nausea, light-headedness and vaginal bleeding. Ectopic pregnancies require immediate medical attention and can be life threatening.