This week’s post features… well, me.
I started this blog for many reasons; mainly to give people across Norwich who are doing amazing things to benefit others, a platform to speak on (not many people like to blow their own trumpet!) Also, to raise awareness and to share positive news stories across social media which may be of help to others.
So this week I’m going back to my personal pregnancy story about pelvic girdle pain and the problems it causes. There’s also a positive end to this – not just a healthy baby – but read on and if you have PGP, please don’t despair! There are many tips here and people you can contact for help.
Did you know *1 in 5 women suffer with PGP during pregnancy? I hadn’t even heard of it before my symptoms started. (*Source: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists).
This is my story.
What is PGP?
PGP stands for pelvic girdle pain, it used to be called SPD, Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. The symptoms in pregnancy start with general pain in the pelvic area which can spread to the groin, legs and back as other muscles compensate for a rubbish pelvis. As the baby grows, so does the pain.
PGP can affect your mobility and quality of life. Pain when you are walking, climbing stairs and turning over in bed are common symptoms.
With my pregnancy, I ended up in a wheelchair at 32 weeks, worrying and wondering if I would be able to get up and walk afterwards, let alone do all the things I had done previously. Physically, it’s exhausting but nothing prepares you for the mental shock of coming to terms with the fact your body is not doing what it is supposed to do!
You would think that judging by the statistics of 1in 5, more women should be informed about the potential of PGP in pregnancy.
What are the symptoms?
At first, you realise you can’t keep up with people, walking becomes slower and you may put this down to the general pregnancy. The pain in your pelvis gets worse. Bending down becomes too difficult and you start losing sleep because it’s so painful to lie on your side. Getting out of bed is painful, especially when you need that all important wee several times in the night. Climbing stairs becomes almost too much to contemplate.
How does it feel?
If severe, like mine, it can feel horrific. Sometimes my legs felt so utterly disconnected from my body that I had to lift them up with my hands and place them where I wanted them to go! I felt weighed down by pressure. My pelvis felt like it was constantly in a clamp – like the ones I used in CDT at school.
Oh and you can’t take painkillers during pregnancy….
Why does this happen?
I was originally told this was because of a hormone called ‘Relaxin’ which softens the ligaments in pregnancy to allow the birth of your baby. Apparently, I have too much of this hormone. I was also told ‘you will be fine once the baby has arrived’. This was true with my daughter. I went in to hospital in a wheelchair and walked out with a baby.
However, on the pelvic partnership website page it says this: https://pelvicpartnership.org.uk
The pelvis is made up of a ring of three bones. They join together at the sacroiliac joints (at the back) and the symphysis pubis joint (at the front). These joints normally move a little bit to allow you to walk, turn over in bed, climb stairs, etc. PGP can cause pain in any or all of the three pelvic joints, causing difficulty moving and doing your usual activities. With PGP, often one joint becomes stiff and stops moving normally and causes irritation and pain in the other joints and surrounding muscles which have to compensate for its lack of movement.
What can you do about it?
If you think you are suffering any of the symptoms, or have been thinking ‘this is just how I feel’ I can give you advice that helped me. If you want to look up official advice, you must speak to your midwife/GP and get them to recommend physiotherapy as soon as possible. I also tried Kinesiology taping, massage and yoga.
The oh so glamourous Kinesiology taping method
- put your legs together when getting out of bed/a car/off the sofa. DON’T stretch one out first.
- put a plastic bag on the car seat, it helps to turn you round so you don’t have to step out with one leg.
- Use a child’s grabber stick to pick things up so you don’t have to lean over!
- Take the stairs one at a time, don’t stretch to the next step. Put both feet on one step.
- Take up pilates or yoga asap. I found the most amazing yoga teacher – she is also a physiotherapist and tailors the exercises. More on her later…
- If you feel like it could be PGP, speak to your midwife immediately, the sooner you are referred to physio, the better your chance of coping with it.
- Accept all offers of help. “Billy, don’t be a hero”. That takes me on to mental prep…
As it was completely out of the blue for me 1st time round, I was mentally unprepared for the toll on your body and particularly your mind. I would think that my body was useless, that I couldn’t bond with my baby, I couldn’t look after my other child properly, the house was a mess, I couldn’t even climb stairs to get to the bathroom. I stopped going out because I couldn’t walk far. Don’t let this be you!
Second pregnancy with PGP
The doctors warned me it was likely to happen again with a subsequent pregnancy. I fully admit that I cried when I found out I was pregnant again as all the memories flooded back. But this time I realised that I had to be prepared and meet it head on, here are my top tips:
- Acknowledge it won’t be straightforward
- Accept all offers of help!
- Start prioritising schedule. The other children don’t HAVE to go to swimming/Rainbows etc.
- Say No to things! That doesn’t mean stop going out.
- Accept your limitations and adapt. You can’t bend down to get the shampoo. Put it higher up!
- Keep going out. The worst thing i did was give up and retreat. Hire mobility aids from the Red Cross and get people to push you in a wheelchair, but definitely GO OUT.
- Find a great ante-natal yoga class, this can help immensely. I found an amazing yoga teacher who specialises in making women feel great about pregnancy and birth! https://www.wellfitmumma.co.uk/
- Keep moving. Follow the exercises given by your physiotherapist, even when you feel like giving up. Resting is great and you need to do it, but resting also means you may stiffen up as well which is painful.
- Remember, the baby is fine and it will all be worth it, no matter how difficult it is at the moment.
You will need tools to help you.. my top tips are a robot arm… for when you can’t bend down and a gym/yoga ball which is a necessity as sitting in a chair becomes too difficult.
Labour with PGP
I was induced a week early, I had agreed with the consultant that I was just in too much physical pain to continue – even though it was only another week. I was checked over and thankfully Nathaniel was ready anyway so it was just a matter of time and a nurse *gently* shook me awake about 2am… of course…
You don’t need my entire labour story, so to cut it short, my contractions wavered on and off for a while. I had a couple of baths, I hobbled gallantly about with crutches and a ginormous belly when it suddenly kicked off and there was no time for an epidural. I opted for the birthing pool but didn’t make it off the bed. Three swift* pushes and he was out.
*(Well, three animal-noise-guttural-wrenching-stomach-churning pushes from the depths of the darkest point of your soul – but let’s call them swift for those who haven’t experienced the joys of labour yet).
So here he is! Nathaniel Henry Humphries. And my other PGP pregnancy baby, Madeleine.
Yes, and that hair. He was born with it and there could be an entire category dedicated to it.
Post natal, hospital:
Strange this time as unfortunately, I had to have an epidural anyway and surgery after the birth. It took several hours to get back any feeling in my legs and then it was difficult to know the impact of the PGP after an epidural.
The midwives taught me how to feed Nathaniel lying down on the bed which worked really well and meant I didn’t have to sit up every couple of hours. After three days in hospital, I was allowed to go home with a cocktail of drugs and a hairy baby.
Post natal, home:
I am writing this with the benefit of recovery time but when I think back to those 1st few weeks, I could cry with exhaustion. With Madeleine, I walked out of the hospital and recovered quickly, but with Nathaniel, it has been a lot harder – perhaps due to the surgery, or it could be because my body is older. I needed help walking up the stairs and I relied on my crutches to get out of bed still.
Post natal, exercise:
After 12 weeks, I started yoga classes with Rosie again. The best part is that mums can take their babies. I have found yoga to be so beneficial for me, I can stretch out the niggly parts, breathe deeply and learn to relax, even while feeding Nathaniel, or leering over him in a cat cow position as he plays on the yoga mat.
Post natal, physio:
I was relieved to continue with the hospital physio after the birth as I felt that I needed more help. However, by the time you have loaded a baby and car seat into the car and out again after a half hour drive, hoiked out the wheels and wrestled with the car seat once again… then walked (slowly) across a hospital, up 3 floors and sat stuck in a tiny airless waiting room with baby wanting a feed…. it hardly seems worth it. I appreciate the NHS and I am grateful for advice, but the tweaks and massage were ruined simply by lifting a car seat back out when home. Frustrating.
Post natal, now:
In the songwords of McAlmont and Butler: “yes I do feel better…. ”
However, the twinges come back in my pelvis when I have walked too far or I am particularly tired (unavoidable) and made even worse when I rock Nathaniel to sleep. I can’t lean over the cot as that position puts me in a lot of pain. I am hoping that eventually my pelvis will feel back to normal completely. I have come a long way in a year. Take heart anyone who suffers with PGP!
I have written this post to raise awareness of PGP. If you want to ask me any questions about pregnancy or birth with PGP, please do. I hope I can help.
DO NOT FEEL LIKE YOU ARE ALONE.
For more information:
Pelvic Partnership : https://pelvicpartnership.org.uk
Rosie Taylor: Physiotherapist, women’s health and wellbeing specialist, pregnancy yoga and massage. https://www.wellfitmumma.co.uk
Time Norfolk: A charity supporting anyone in distress as a result of pregnancy, birth, pregnancy loss, termination and infertility. https://timenorfolk.org.uk
NHS pregnancy and wellbeing service: please get your GP to refer you, or self-refer.