Huffpost Parents shared a link to this blog post today about the reality of pelvic pain in pregnancy. I wrote my own post when I was heavily pregnant with Grubbalo at the end of 2013 but never got round to posting it. I know many readers have suffered with this common ailment so it might be useful to read my story.
I’m so grateful that I’ve got this far in my pregnancy; that the baby seems to be okay, squirming around in there. But I can’t deny that it’s physically and emotionally demanding. I see lots of women whose bumps seems to be attached to them and other than that they look pretty much the same, can get around the same and it doesn’t seem to slow them down. It’s hard not to envy that when you have pregnancies like mine.
I wouldn’t say I have difficult pregnancies, far from it. I’m very lucky to not have months of sickness or problems which leave me on bed rest or in hospital. I know getting pelvic pain is simply ‘how I am’ when I’m pregnant.
I had this with each of my four pregnancies, getting worse with each one. And despite being physically fitter before this pregnancy than I was with my others, I’m six years older so perhaps that’s a factor?
This time, I have a number of pregnancy ailments which I accept for what they are. I consider myself to be a tough cookie, but, after another painful night, I wanted to share my experience of Pelvic Girdle Pain (or SPD as it’s also known).
I suffered with some bleeding between weeks 8-11 and was convinced I was going to miscarry (so much so I drank a large glass of wine in defeat). But the baby stuck in there and continued to thrive. The scans showed he was okay. But having had the scare, I was told to take things easy and I was put off even walking fast let alone doing any aerobic exercise. And then, having the all-clear baby-wise, my PGP began.
PGP is pain in the pelvis, which in the earlier months is triggered by hormones, but as the baby grows the weight exacerbates the condition. I’m certainly not alone in suffering this as it’s very common.
I researched yoga and there was a lot of conflicting advice about how beneficial it was for people with any back or pelvic problems, so that didn’t leave me with much option but to sit tight.
Sitting leads to lethargy, which leads to hunger, which leads to weight gain. I’ve not been depressed as such but I’ve been feeding a comfort that I felt I needed. I’m grieving which messes with your body rhythms anyway; I’m feeling exhausted through pregnancy and lack of sleep, in pain and low because I cannot move around much… I can empathise with people who are morbidly obese, living in a vicious cycle and with no energy to move. At least I know that one day I will get my body back so that I can move freely again and regain control.
I don’t feel like myself at the moment though. I look in the mirror and see someone else, a swollen version of me. I feel taken over by pregnancy, not empowered by it. They say pregnancy isn’t an illness, but I have to argue that, for some of us, it is. It can be disabling, even life threatening, and cause a list of ailments we would usually deal with individually not at the same time.
I’m self-conscious of my size – which unlike my emotions I can’t hide. But, as he wiggles and kicks, I feel the wonder too at how I’m growing another human inside me and I know, above all, that this is a remarkable privilege and achievement for any mother. I wouldn’t change a thing. I know all too well how difficult it is to create a healthy baby, and having got this far I just hope and pray we don’t fall at the last hurdle.
Anyway, back to my lovely pelvis! I wanted to share what this is like as it’s hard to understand until you’ve had it. I’ve never broken a bone in my body, but I liken the pain to a broken pelvis. Sore shooting pains run through my bones if I walk too quickly or open my legs too wide or put them too close together. It’s far worse in bed, ironically.
It is recommended to lie on your left side when pregnant as that helps the blood circulate and gets the baby in a good position. Thankfully, I usually sleep on my left side anyway. But for 34 long weeks I’ve slept on my left.
I put a maternity pillow between my knees so that my legs are in a parallel position. My left arm goes numb after a while from being unable to adjust much. After around three hours, my left hip begins to ache unbearably so I know I must turn over to my right side for a time.
Okay, so we can all appreciate that turning over when you’re pregnant isn’t as swift as when not; however, when you have PGP this is excruciatingly painful. I need to use my arms to lift my entire body weight (hmmm, getting harder!) and I gingerly shuffle my hips so that they are facing forwards, without moving my legs.
Now, as I had pillows between my knees, when I’ve turned forwards my legs are about 30cms apart. I cannot drag them together to turn over to the other side, it’s too painful and if I try, I cry!
So I have to shuffle my left foot across the mattress to meet my right. It’s as though my legs are paralysed. I can then lever my body weight over to the right, being careful of not pulling my bump, and then bring my legs round to the right. The bones in my pelvis grind and pop against each other as I do this. I feel so large and cumbersome – well, I am now, but I wasn’t always – and it’s a real struggle.
After all this, the downside is that I know I have one hour to sleep on my right before the hip pain kicks in again. I don’t know why but my right side doesn’t seem to like it (even though my left hip has always been the main problem). So I inevitably wake an hour later and have to go through the process again of slowly turning to the left.
If I drop my pillow on the floor I’m doomed, as to pick it up is not worth the pain. Getting up to use the loo is thankfully something I don’t have to do too frequently, but when I do, I have to shuffle my feet across the carpet until my hips have realised that they are in a mobile position. I have to cling to the walls and surfaces for support.
Once I’m up and about for a while, it seems to be okay. I joke now that this is just baby getting me ready for sleepless nights, and I don’t even have a bad case of this… many women find using tummy supports helps, but some end up on crutches or in a wheelchair during their pregnancy, so I have a lot to be grateful for!
I have softened my mattress with a spare duvet and a topper, but sometimes the bed just seems to push against my hips, so on very bad nights I’ve taken myself off to sleep on the sofa. Our sofa is fairly wide and soft, so while it’s not great for my back, it seems to cradle my hips and bump, and I get a better night’s sleep.
My main concern now is that, as I did with my son, I can give birth on all fours, as this helps to keep the pelvis aligned and minimises permanent damage (eek!). I recall the trauma of delivering my younger daughter (at 9lb 14oz) on a bed, flat on my back, and it wasn’t until I had my son that I realised why that was so difficult for me to cope with and recover from. It’s why I took more control over my subsequent pregnancies and births and am plumbing for another home birth this time around where I can deliver as I feel comfortable.
The only thing that has made any significant improvement has been my osteopath treatments. He works gently to reposition my hips and correct any kinks that have developed as a result of such awkward sleeping. I always feel better after going and I know it will be just as important to go as soon after the baby is born as possible, to put me back together again.
I know the fact I’ve piled on weight, have big babies and lots of water retention will not have helped my poor pelvis, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself about that as I know it’s something that’s happened as a result of numerous factors. I was designed to be pregnant this way, and hard as it is, I know that I will recover and the water retention will die down, the weight will gradually come off and I’ll feel better about myself again, and with a gorgeous baby too!