I have been suffering with PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain) since I was about 16 weeks pregnant and over the weeks it has slowly got worse. Aches and pains are all too common during pregnancy and something which we accept as part of the deal, but sometimes it can be a real struggle and affect your daily life.
What is PGP?
According to the NHS, “PGP is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms caused by a misalignment or stiffness of your pelvic joints at either the back or front of your pelvis. PPGP is not harmful to your baby, but it can cause severe pain around your pelvic area and make it difficult for you to get around. Different women have different symptoms, and PPGP is worse for some women than others.”
For me I started to feel PGP in my lower back, if I stayed in the same position for too long, such as sitting in the evening or driving the car, it would feel really stiff and painful when I tried to mobilise again. It has slowly spread to affecting my hips and my pubic bone to where I feel really uncomfortable most of the day. It is a very common ailment during pregnancy, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you have a toddler to look after and want to be as mobile and active as possible. My midwife referred me to the local hospital for physio but I later discovered it was a group session. I will be honest – I thought it was going to be really unhelpful and a pointless exercise, but after attending today I am really pleasantly surprised by how informative it was and definitely got a lot out of it. The physiotherapist who ran the two hour session was really knowledgeable, sympathetic without being patronising, and gave really sound advice. She broke the session down into ‘Four P’s’ which I would love to share with you now:
It does sound obvious but I personally had definitely not given much thought to what is happening to my body and how I compensate for it when I stand and sit. The tendency is to push the bump forward, creating an arch in your lower back and distribute your ever increasing weight unevenly. It was suggested we use a rolled up towel at the small of your back when sitting for a long time to give us that additional support – I was lucky enough to be the guinea pig for this demonstration and I couldn’t believe how much of a difference this simple technique created. We were advised to be more aware of how we are standing and try to tuck our pelvis under as often as we can. We also talked about sleeping positions and lots of women said they used a pillow in between their knees when laying on their side at night – it was reinforced we should also put a pillow between our ankles to keep the whole leg aligned.
The physiotherapist only wanted to touch briefly on the use of pain relief, and she didn’t want to give advice in this area as it should come from a GP. She stated the fact that during pregnancy the guidelines say it is safe to take paracetamol, and that if we felt we needed stronger medication it would need to be prescribed. I think this is a very personal choice and down to the individual. We also talked about other types of pain relief, such as massage, heat application and stretches. It was interesting to hear what the other women do to cope and reinforced the fact that we need to keep mobile – not moving is only going to make it worse.
This is all about looking at your lifestyle and the activities you carry out on a day-to-day basis which make you experience pain, and seeing what you can do to address that. For me, my activities involve chasing around a strong-willed and very physical toddler! I have already made some changes – for example I normally would carry him up the stairs as it is simply so much quicker, but now I let him climb to the top himself with me following closely behind. We have also decided on an evening to get Ted involved with tidying up his toys before he goes up to bed, to save me scrabbling around on the floor picking up blocks and jigsaw pieces. He will happily put things away into his toy box and pick up his mega blocks and tidy them away. So simple yet I hadn’t even thought about it. It really is a case of looking at the things you do, however simple and basic it sounds, and adjusting things to help out a little.
The final part of the session was spent showing us some exercises we could do to to help strengthen our core muscles and cope with PGP. We looked at pelvic floor exercises, back stretches and pelvis tilts. We also talked about the kind of gentle exercise we could be doing in our own time. During my last pregnancy I did aqua-natal classes which I absolutely loved, the weightlessness you feel when you step into the pool is such a relief! I would like to try and get to my local pool to help with the PGP and swimming is highly recommended during pregnancy. We were also encouraged to take regular, gentle walks even though we may not feel like it.
I have just started an online pregnancy programme devised by Dr. Joanna Helcke which is a series of week by week pregnancy pilates work outs. I will be sharing more about this soon! I really want to try to be active and hope that it will help with the discomfort of PGP. I really was impressed by the session today and if your maternity trust offer such a thing I would really recommend it.
*Obviously I am not a medical professional and as such this is for information only and NOT medical advice. The physiotherapist I saw had one-on-one time with me and while this may be appropriate for me to undertake it may not be so for you – best to check with your midwife, physio or GP!*
Do you suffer from PGP or SPD? If you have any tips on how to cope, please comment below – I would love to hear them! Xx