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How to Cope with Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Ten weeks ago, my doctor signed me off work with pelvic girdle pain (PGP. Also known as SPD. Also known as "my hips really hurt"). Ten weeks. I can't believe it's been that long.

My sick note ran out yesterday but, alas, that's not because I've made a miraculous recovery - it's because I'm using up my year's holiday allowance before my maternity leave starts. Holiday pay beats statutory sick pay hands down.

Pelvic girdle pain does not clear up until the baby's born. It just doesn't. The heavier the little human inside you gets, the more strain is put on the joints and the muscles carrying it around - the discomfort is not going anywhere.

But there are ways to minimise the pain.

I've had some really bad days along the way. The week before I was signed off, I couldn't stand up without Steve's help. There have been times when the small step up into our shower seemed insurmountable. My two hour antenatal classes were usually followed by a day of naps and tears. The location and intensity of the pain changes as the baby moves so I never know quite what to expect from one day to the next.

But, over all, I feel like I've got this under control (for now).

For anyone who is pregnant and starting to feel the hip pain, I recommend talking to your midwife and/or GP - I am not a medical professional; your pain may be different from mine; speak to an expert.

That said, here are some things which have helped me:


Take it Easy

This is the big one. This is the one you will want to fight against. Nobody wants to look like a slacker or a skiver or a moaner. But the more you push yourself, the worse the pain is going to get. If you don't have to walk somewhere, don't. If you don't have to sit on a hard chair for several hours, don't. Have friends round to your house instead of going out. Cancel energetic plans. Work from home or cut down your hours. If it gets really bad, please, please stop making excuses and get yourself signed off work.

I know how unappealing this all sounds but I fought against it for much longer than I should have. The week when I couldn't move around without help was the wake up call I needed. I was terrified that I had crippled myself for the rest of my pregnancy and, honestly, a couple more weeks of going to work and I have absolutely no doubt that I would have done. Some women continue to have hip problems after the birth - it's not worth taking any risks.


See a Physiotherapist (and do what they tell you)

NHS Grampian does a physiotherapy class for pregnant women which I found very useful; in other areas, you may need to request a referral. Either way, see a professional before things get too bad.

My physiotherapist showed me a number of exercises which helped to minimise the pain - I do them every morning, every night and any time I feel myself seizing up. She also taught me how to roll in and out of bed (rather than climbing in and out as I used to) and how to get in and out of cars without doing myself any damage - the trick to both is keeping your knees together.

How to cope with pelvic girdle pain - maternity support band


I was also given a horrible tubigrip which sheds all over the place and a glaringly medical support belt - I hate having to wear either of these things but, my goodness, do they make a difference when I have to walk around! They are not the same as the "support bump bands" some fashion stores stock so make sure you get the real thing!


Consider Your Position

Good posture helps me a lot. Not just with the pelvic girdle pain - I also find that sitting upright does a lot to ease that infamous pregnancy heartburn. If you're used to slouching at your desk or slobbing on the sofa, sitting up straight all the damn time takes some getting used to but it's worth it. Get yourself a little pile of cushions so you can wedge them into the small of your back and anywhere else you need support; you may also find having a pillow to sit on is useful.

As I got further into my pregnancy, I found a yoga ball a huge help. Sitting on it took some of the pressure off my pelvis, allowed me to gently move my hips around (gotta keep them mobile for labour!) and encouraged me to sit up straighter; as I get larger, I'm finding that leaning over it when I'm reading my Kindle or watching a DVD makes a huge difference to my level of comfort. At 5'7", I found a 65cm ball about the right size.

Shiny blue yoga ball

I also find having a rolled up towel in the bathroom helpful. If I know I'm going to be in there a while (and let's face it: during pregnancy, that's unavoidable now and then), I  use it to prop up my bump and to rest my elbows on - it holds me in a more comfortable, more upright position.

Finally, I invested in a Theraline body pillow. It was painful parting with £40-odd but it turned out to be a worthwhile investment. For many pregnant women, sleeping with a normal pillow between their knees is enough to minimise pain but, for me, the extra length and bulk of a body pillow is invaluable for steadying my pelvis while I sleep.


Give up on Old Sleep Patterns

My hips are at their worst in bed - lying on my side for any length of time is extremely painful. I can manage about an hour on each side and then I have to, at the very least, sit up at the side of the bed for a while or, more usually, get up and walk around. I remind myself that it's good practice for middle of the night feeds!

During the day, I lie down for roughly one hour out of every three. I know that's unlikely to be an option at work but UK employers are required to give you time and space to rest during your shifts so push for as much support as you can or, again, consider working from home or changing your hours. At the very least, lie down for a while when you get home from work.


Adapt Your Home and Your Partner's Habits

Nothing major. But, for example, from about week 30 onwards I struggled to pick things up from floor level. Hanging storage in the shower is essential. Steve is also now in the habit of leaving any crockery I will need throughout the day on the kitchen counter so I don't have to bend down to reach it - it sounds like a tiny thing but is actually a huge help.

Squatting in front of the washing machine is impossible so I stored a folding chair next to it. What a revelation - I'm never going back to standing while I hang or fold laundry again!

As weird as it seemed at first, I also need Steve to put my tights, jeans and/or socks on me every morning (as well as doing any cleaning, drying, moisturising or trimming required below waist level). Awkward... But your partner's most likely going to watch you giving birth so you may as well get used to being vulnerable in front of him or her now. Believe me: it's better than trying to lasso your own foot with your pants.

On the subject of clothing: I have found maternity tights wonderfully supportive! I'm always more comfortable on the days when I wear dresses.


Ask for Help

On the subject of your partner, I'm afraid they're going to have to take on the bulk of the housework. The medical professionals I spoke to were all adamant that I was not to wash dishes, iron, hoover, scrub things or stand around cooking - anything which involves standing, kneeling or repetitive movements has fallen to Steve. Good man.

Your partner's not the only one who can help you out, though. Ask friends and family for lifts. Ask them to help prepare the baby's room. Ask them to carry heavy objects for you. It's time to swallow your pride and accept that your friends are there for you.


Go Online

We planned to get a lot of our baby stuff second hand but, because I couldn't get out and about to collect it, we resorted to Plan B: buying everything half price in the January sales. Over the internet. Now is not the time to go wandering around the shops or carrying home bags of stuff. Make the most of home deliveries. The same goes for your groceries.


Apply Heat

It takes me a little while to get going in the mornings - when I first get up, I'm in a lot of pain and the thought of standing in the shower for five minutes is completely unappealing. The stream of hot water does help, though - it seems to loosen things up a bit.

Likewise, I sit with a hot water bottle either against my hips or between my thighs for the first couple of hours of every day. Stick on heat pads are a no-no during pregnancy, though.


Acceptance

Pelvic girdle pain is rubbish luck. Mine set in around week ten so, at this point, I've been in some degree of pain for a solid twenty-four weeks. If you're going through this, you absolutely have my sympathy.

You will cry sometimes. Sometimes the pain overwhelms you; sometimes the feelings of helplessness overwhelm you; sometimes all those weeks still to come overwhelm you. Don't fight the tears. Get them out of your system. You'll feel better for it.

But the sad fact is: all you can do is get through it. Don't ignore your symptoms; speak to the professionals; do everything you can to minimise your pain and stop things from getting too much worse. But, ultimately, it's a matter of taking it one day - and sometimes one hour - at a time.

There are bad days but if you look after yourself there can also be fairly good days. The trick is to tip the balance to the easier times. I wish you all the best.

2 comments

  1. An invaluable read for anyone suffering with this I am sure. Like you say I imagine many women push themselves for too long, it's not worth your health. On a personal note, the pillow is tempting me because I get hip pain from our bed as well (though I think we just need a new bed). On a frivolous note your floral dress is very pretty :-)

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  2. If your mattress is more than ten years old, replace that first! Changing our mattress made a huge difference to all my old aches and pains. The pillow's great right now but it's a big barrier between you and your other half!.

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