Guest post: “I looked forward to the pain of labour as I couldn’t believe it would be worse than PGP.”
Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) can be a very painful and debilitating condition, both during and after pregnancy. The Pelvic Partnership’s Stickmum campaign is aiming to raise awareness that PGP is treatable with manual therapy. One of their volunteers, Laura, shares her story of how manual therapy helped her to walk again after a struggle to get a proper diagnosis.
Posted on: Mon 18-Feb-19 11:09:44
(69 comments )
Before I had my first baby, I was cycling or jogging to work every day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this up throughout my pregnancy, but I had a vision of walking to and from work, then practicing prenatal yoga every day, to keep myself strong and supple as my baby grew.
I managed this for about 16 weeks, and then the pain started. A jarring, aching pain throughout my pelvis and groin, which then spread into my sacroiliac joint (the big bony bit at the bottom of your back). Within a few weeks, I found it difficult to walk. I remember asking my mum to slow down as she walked ahead of me one day, as I couldn’t keep up. Before I’d always be the one who was rushing ahead, and now I could only take baby steps, very slowly.
Thanks to my sister, who had had similar pain in her pregnancies, I discovered I had pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP). It’s hard to describe the pain of PGP, but if you imagine someone taking your pelvis and pushing one half up and one half down, then banging on your sacroiliac joint repeatedly with a large hammer, you’ll get an idea. PGP affects 1 in 5 pregnant women, and makes it hard to do everyday tasks, like sitting, standing, climbing stairs, turning over in bed or walking. My pregnancy turned into a vision of months of pain, having to carefully plan every trip to minimise walking or sitting on hard chairs, and feeling constantly exhausted after the smallest activity.
My midwife was sympathetic but did not offer a physio referral until I asked for it, instead suggesting it was just one of those things we have to put up with in pregnancy. It was the same story in my second pregnancy, when I was a different part of the country. In both pregnancies, I ended up on crutches, in constant pain, and utterly miserable. I looked forward to the pain of labour as I couldn’t believe it would be worse than PGP.
In both pregnancies, I ended up on crutches, in constant pain, and utterly miserable. I looked forward to the pain of labour as I couldn't believe it would be worse than PGP.
We had always wanted three children, but we had to consider how a third pregnancy would affect our lives and my mental health. PGP can be incredibly isolating – I have many friends who’ve struggled to conceive, and I felt I couldn’t complain about my pregnancy, as it was something I had chosen and was lucky to be able to do at all. It was hard to play with my son during my second pregnancy (I couldn’t sit on the floor, run after him or pick him up), and I worried that he would blame his unborn sibling for spoiling our fun. We’d also need to pay for extra childcare, and account for my husband taking extra time off – he’d had to help me get dressed in the morning and sometimes to pick me up off the toilet.
If I hadn’t found the Pelvic Partnership, I don’t think we’d have had our beautiful daughter, Emme. They told me about manual therapy treatment, and explained what that involved. I found a great physio and immediately started to improve, so that my third pregnancy was a completely different, positive experience.
The Pelvic Partnership is a tiny UK charity with a simple, life-changing message: PGP is treatable. Through their Stickmum campaign, they provide women and healthcare professionals with information about best practice for treatment and management of pregnancy-related PGP. Their website is packed with information and real stories from
women who have experienced PGP. They work with health professionals to improve the understanding of PGP so that more women can get an early diagnosis and referral for treatment, reducing long-term costs to the NHS.
Their new Stickmum video ‘What to expect from treatment’, follows one mum, Becky, as she receives manual therapy from her physio. In a recent study, the Pelvic Partnership found that, although manual therapy is available on the NHS, more than half of women surveyed were never offered a referral for physio, and 43% of women felt their symptoms were never taken seriously. Two thirds reported mental health problems as a result of PGP. Other studies have shown that 10-19% of those with PGP in pregnancy still have significant symptoms 11 and 12 years later.
I was so determined that other women shouldn’t go through what I’d been through that I asked the Pelvic Partnership if I could volunteer to help with their Stickmum campaign. We want to create a chain of women supporting each other. You can help by sharing our campaign page and videos, or following us on Twitter and sharing our campaign tweets and hashtags #pgpistreatable #getamummoving.
If you need help with pelvic pain, please don’t wait - visit our website or our Facebook page. You are not alone.
Laura will be back to answer any questions you may have at 8pm on 20/02/2019
By Laura Smith
Thanks for this. I’m currently experiencing symptoms 16 weeks after birth. I know I need to see a physio and I’ve identified one, it’s just finding the time with a baby and toddler to look after. I’d been hoping it would go away, but this has prompted me as I don’t want to still be suffering in a few years time!
I had this with both pregnancies but worse with my first. The physio referral wasn’t put through as urgent so I ended up with one of the tubi grip style things which did sweet fa to help by the time I was seen. I ended up barely able to walk by the end. Couldn’t wait to go into labour. It stuck around for 3 months after though until I saw an osteopath who sorted me out in three sessions.
Second pregnancy I saw a osteo as soon as the pain started so it didn’t get so bad. But if you can’t afford to pay osteo prices what do you do?
Oh it's horrible.
With my daughter I was on crutches from 14 weeks.
My husband had to tie my thighs and hips together at night so I could sleep. It was really awful.
I had a terrible pain from about 20 weeks, but it was in the back joint where my thigh went into my hip if that makes sense. It was so severe I could hardly walk and I couldn't drive as I couldn't lift my foot to do the pedals. I had to go upstairs sideways very slowly. My husband had to swivel me in and out of bed, I couldn't part my legs or lie flat at all.
My midwife refused to refer me for physio as she said by the time the referral came through I would've had the baby. Labour ward advised constant paracetamol, which I wasn't happy to do for months on end, and warm baths which was impossible as I couldn't get in or out of the bath. I was just left housebound in agony, baby was also measuring very large too, and they left me to go 10 days overdue unable to move. I never understood why others got crutches and help which I was refused.
Years on I still struggle with that hip, I still can't lay flat on my back and it hurts if I exercise. My knee on that side is also painful which I think is connected.
I remember sobbing down the phone to a physio at the hospital, begging them to fit me in. They couldn't. They were a specialist team but they were so oversubscribed I only saw someone once throughout my pregnancy - ironically I saw much more of them afterwards! It's a definite factor in my decision to stop at one child. My midwife was sympathetic but also said that she'd always thought women with PGP were making an unnecessary fuss until she had it herself in her third pregnancy - it's appalling that this is seemingly not covered in training.
I saw an osteopath once but she worked on horses as well as people and was quite, erm, firm - put me right off. I saw a different, much gentler osteopath afterwards but I couldn't afford more than a couple of sessions.
I've realised I haven't put a question here because I don't know if Laura will be able to answer but I do think that healthcare staff need better training - and more resources are needed as well for specialist physios and other treatment. Physio made a massive difference to me, but I needed far more than I got!
Absolute agony. With all 3 pregnancies. Was pretty much housebound unless I wanted to walk about with crutches. If I did want to get out, the pain that followed that night was horrendous. So I stayed indoors. Isolating. No one understands. Pregnancy isn't an illness after all
Pelvic Partnership is an amazing organisation. As they say, the key is manual therapy! Waiting lists are so long on the NHS though, and it is a problem that needs immediate attention. I'd strongly urge women who can afford to do so to go to an osteo or chiro in private practice. I got so much relief from chiropractic treatment.
I've never heard of this organisation but wish I had throughout my pregnancies. The pain of labour I have almost completely forgotten about, but pgp is still fresh. My youngest child is three this year and I still have pelvic pain ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain depending on how much I have done that day.
I had a number of appointments with NHS physios during my first pregnancy for PGP, all they did was give me a few leaflets and some advice about how to get in and out of bed etc. I could have had that from my midwife. How about the NHS pays its physios to do some, you know, physio?
I had this from about 22 weeks. Towards the end of my pregnancy I had to use a wheelchair. Told my midwife but she said there was nothing that could be done and it would clear up after the birth. She was right it did clear up but spending 4 months in real pain with no support was really difficult.
10+5 with dc #5 and already suffering with spd/pgp
SPD is awful. Heavily pregnant and on crutches, only able to get to work in a taxi, barely able to walk to the loo, I cried every time I turned over in bed it was that sore, and I couldn’t get up from a horizontal position without being in utter agony. And I was one of the luckier ones. It came on late in my first pregnancy, had all but disappeared within 6 weeks of birth, and I didn’t have it at all second time around. Grateful to organisations like the Pelvic Partnership for all the good work they do. And commiserations to other ladies who go through this multiple times and from far earlier a stage than I had it.
Physio is amazing. That is all I have to say <limps>
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With hindsight, I was affected from around 18wks in my first pregnancy. I ended up pretty much housebound unless someone could ferry me door to door. At 34 weeks I went to the GP after my final trip to the supermarket where I could no longer stand the pain without crying and it was dismissed as pregnancy aches and pains. Being sedentary lead to Carpal Tunnel too and I woke hourly in agony from numb limbs and reactivating them through pins and needles before painfully heaving my body over. Having a newborn baby that indulged me with 2 hour blocks of sleep was bliss!
Second time was better. I'd found out a lot more so had much better self care strategies. It set in a few weeks later and I remember walking around town feeling my hips tightening up and seizing until I couldn't move. I borrowed some crutches in the last couple of months and they kept me moving. I did get some NHS help but it was too little, too late to be real use.
It carried on postnatally, exacerbated by a nasty tear. I was housebound for a month between the SPD and birth injury and some days had to crawl upstairs. I ended up going to an osteopath after 3 months when I still physically couldn't walk uphill as there wasn't enough mobility in one hip. The osteopath made a massive difference. Years later and I still can't do much digging in the garden as I get aches and shooting pains as I push my foot into the spade.
It is a vile condition, so restrictive, relentlessly painful, misunderstood and under-identified.
I had this. Nasty condition. Not comparable in any way to labour though. OP is ridiculous to suggest labour is preferable unless they have it easy!
I developed PGP at about 9 weeks, and was on crutches from 16. DS is now 1 and I still suffer with sore back and hips if I do too much.
I tore badly during labour and was repaired in theatre, and I'd still rather go through labour again than pregnancy!
I had this with my last 2 pregnancies. The babies are now 7 and 10. I still walk with a stick and cannot walk far without having to stop and do internal stretches to ‘unwind’ my hip.
I had an emergency csection with my youngest and the next day I was up and trotting round the ward telling everybody how fantastic it was not to be in pain anymore.
SPD/PGP is a horrendous condition, which unfortunately it not taken seriously by the NHS. I was on crutches from 34 weeks, the physio just gave me a bump band and print offs of some exercises (I had 3 sessions, no examination, no manual therapy). Labour pains were nothing compared to it. My pain relief for birth was just water. Pain relief for SPD- TENs machine, codeine, naproxen, plus private Physio/ osteopath at £400 month. Which hardly touches it. I've had to send my eldest to nursery, as I couldn't cope with baby and toddler while in this pain. I had a scan last month and have another due next month- this is after a year of constant nagging the doctors. I wish giving birth got rid of the pain!
My youngest is 18 months and I still get pain. I still have to sleep with my maternity pillow on my side, can't lie on my back comfortably. My physio referral in my first pregnancy took over 12 weeks. I had to go on leave much earlier than planned as I couldn't handle the journey. In my second (new area) I was told they didn't refer to physio.