The Severity and Impact of Pelvic Girdle Pain and Low-Back Pain in Pregnancy: A Multinational Study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018 Apr;27(4):510-517. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6342. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


Background: Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and low-back pain (LBP) are the most common musculoskeletal disorders experienced during pregnancy, yet they are not familiar to healthcare providers in some countries. The objective was to compare prevalence, severity, and impact of PGP and LBP among pregnant women in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden. Women's desires for, access to, and experience of treatment were also examined.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional self-reported questionnaire study of pregnant women, recruited at maternity care units in gestational weeks 30-38. Main outcome measures were presence and impact of PGP and/or LBP.

Results: A total of 869 pregnant women from the United States (n = 214), the United Kingdom (n = 220), Norway (n = 220), and Sweden (n = 215) were included. PGP and/or LBP were reported by 70%-86%, with lowest prevalence in Scandinavia. Severity and impact differed significantly across countries (p < 0.001), with U.K. women reporting the highest pain intensity (Numeric Rating Scale [NRS] 7/10) and highest mean total score on the Pelvic Girdle Questionnaire (PGQ) (46/100). U.S. women were significantly less afflicted, with mean PGQ total score 35/100 (p ≤ 0.001). The countries differed regarding concern about PGP and/or LBP (p < 0.001), with U.K. women being most affected (NRS 5/10). Norwegian women were most likely to receive treatment (53%) and U.S. women least likely (24%) (p < 0.001). Among women receiving treatment, 68%-87% reported a positive effect.

Conclusions: PGP and/or LBP during pregnancy are common in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden. Severity, concern, and treatment experiences differed across countries. The majority of women who received treatment reported a positive effect.

Keywords: function; international cross-sectional questionnaire study; pelvic girdle pain; pregnancy; severity and impact.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / complications
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology