Category: Emotional symptoms of PGP

The emotional impact of PGP

By Madeleine Speed

Any physical difficulties that an individual has to manage every day often have an emotional impact too. Women experiencing PGP symptoms often also experience psychological and emotional aspects. This article also includes some signposting to further information and services that you might find helpful if any part of the article seems particularly relevant to your experiences.

PGP can be physically and emotionally demanding

Coping with the pain and immobility of PGP can be very difficult. As you may be aware, pregnancy-related PGP is common and affects all kinds of women to a lesser or greater extent. For example, it is not confined to a particular ethnic group, it can happen to women in their early 20s, older mums in their 40s, women on a low income, those on a higher income, women who are very sporty, those who are quite sedentary, women with a background of ill health, those who were previously very fit and healthy. Pregnancy-related PGP can come at any time and when you haven’t heard of it before and it is a complete surprise it can be particularly difficult to manage.

Pain and a difficulty with walking or doing common tasks is hard enough when you pregnant or have a young family to look after. Yet we hear from so many women who have found that the physical symptoms can be accompanied by strong emotions that can further undermine their confidence and ability to cope. For example, it becomes even harder to manage the physical symptoms of PGP if your midwife and GP dismiss them as the “normal aches and pains of pregnancy” and you find it difficult to explain the extent of your pain and your difficulties with walking to your family.

Another difficulty with PGP is that there is nothing to ‘see’ because you haven’t got a physical ‘cue’ that other people can grasp easily; i.e. you aren’t wearing a plaster cast or a sling to show that there is ‘something wrong’. There’s also the emotional shock of having PGP if it has come out of the blue and you hadn’t heard of it before the symptoms became apparent. PGP can completely change the relaxed and happy pregnancy and the enjoyable beginning of family life you had anticipated. So suddenly you feel robbed of all your pleasant expectations, which can make you feel resentful and worried about how you will cope.

Some women also find that they no longer trust their own bodies and feel let down that they have PGP and can’t function as they did before and particularly when many of their pregnant friends seem to be happily sailing through pregnancy. It can also result in misplaced feelings of guilt that you are letting down your partner and family because you no longer seem able to just take everything in your stride as you may have done before.

You are not alone if you are feeling or have felt any of the following emotions:

  • Frustrated with not being able to look after yourself or your family in the way you used to
  • Inadequate and a burden to your family and friends
  • Angry about your loss of independence and finding it difficult to ask for help
  • Disconnected from your partner
  • Guilty about having PGP, that it is somehow your fault
  • Hopeless, wondering if you will ever get better
  • Isolated, not knowing anyone else with the same condition
  • Sad or cheated out of the joy usually felt about pregnancy
  • Ambivalent about your baby and questioning whether you should have become pregnant in the first place.

It is normal for you to experience any or all of these emotions. However, you should not feel guilty for having PGP; it is not your fault. You are not the only one with PGP, it is a common condition which affects 1 in 5 women. There is hope as there is specific and successful treatment, as mentioned in our first article which outlines the benefits of having manual therapy from an experienced physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor. There is more information about treating PGP on our website.

Sometimes it helps to talk about these feelings with your partner, family or friends rather than bottling them up. Alternatively, some women find it easier to talk to someone outside of the family such as a counsellor. It may be helpful for you and your partner to talk to a relationship counsellor if you are finding that PGP is having a negative impact on your relationship.

How to find a counsellor:

NHS:

  • Speak to your GP or health visitor for a referral to a counsellor.
  • Some hospitals offer a Birth Afterthoughts Service where you can talk through your experiences in detail with a midwife. Speak to your midwife or health visitor for more information.

Private healthcare:

There is more information about the value of seeing a counsellor on our website (see our Counselling web page). You may also find it useful to read our ‘You and Your Relationships’ web page.

How PGP made me feel

By Sylvie Pearson

I had relatively minor PGP symptoms in my first pregnancy when I had Jonathan. My midwife had said that the slight pain and clicking noise my pelvis sometimes made when I moved were probably because I had PGP. She arranged for me to see a physiotherapist and, after one session, I walked out feeling fine with a greater range of movement and didn’t think I needed any follow-ups. I enjoyed getting ready for our baby. I wasn’t in a hurry to rush back to my job of playing violin in an orchestra and remember spending a very happy period getting the house ready and starting to buy bits and pieces for the baby.

Unfortunately, the PGP symptoms got much worse after a difficult birth. Labour started normally but when I was admitted to the hospital, things started to happen quickly and it all seemed messy because there wasn’t a labour room free and the young midwife seemed out of her depth. To cut a long story short, I had a difficult birth and even though a very experienced midwife supported the one who seemed so inexperienced, my pelvis was compromised. I think this was because the team were very keen to get my baby out and the reality of my PGP was forgotten. I think that in helping me deliver Jonathan, the midwives over extended my ‘pain-free-gap’ by opening my legs too wide. I was so excited about my son’s arrival and that night all seemed well as I dozed with him in bed. However, when my husband left and I settled down for the night at the hospital, I found that I couldn’t get up to go to the toilet. My legs didn’t seem to function, my pelvis was very sore and I couldn’t walk at all.

When we brought baby Jonathan home, the first month went OK because my mum stayed with us and frankly, she ran the house and did practically everything for me and the family. I was hobbling about and while mum was staying, I found a private physiotherapist who seemed to be helping and we also got hold of a perching stool and various items of equipment so I could get about more easily at home. It was only after mum had gone that I started to feel guilty that I couldn’t function properly without her help. My husband was really patient but I felt guilty that the house was a tip and that he frequently had to finish cooking our evening meal because I was so behind and had to attend to the baby. I also started to feel miserable that I couldn’t get out and about like some of my friends who had babies and I was stuck at home.

After a while I realised that I wasn’t getting better as quickly as I had hoped. My physio was lovely but we didn’t seem to be making much progress. My sister came to stay to help out and she really didn’t understand what PGP was, and although she helped with Jonathan and cooked our meals, I felt she didn’t believe that I was in pain and couldn’t walk. She was very kind but I felt as though she couldn’t understand the PGP and thought I should be grateful that Jonathan was fit, healthy and such a gorgeous baby. She encouraged me to sleep in most mornings and I found I hadn’t the energy or the desire to get up, so I would sleep for longer and longer. Looking back, I think I was very low.

My health visitor realised I was sad and she went through some questions with me to assess whether I had postnatal depression. I started to cry and I think we both realised that I needed some help. After that (and some short term medication from the doctor), I felt less sad but it took several months before I could really see an improvement in my health. My physio asked her more experienced colleague to help with my manual therapy and I started to feel less pain and less stiff. My mobility started to improve and I was surprised that it took longer for me to feel less weepy and more like my old self. There was also a phase where I felt very angry at not being the kind of mother I wanted to be. Luckily, the whole episode didn’t drive a wedge between my husband and me and he was always there for me, as was my best friend.

My mum made frequent visits to help us and she also found me a counsellor. I had been on an NHS waiting list but mum and dad paid for me to have six sessions and that really helped. Although I was getting over the depression by then, it did help to talk to someone who was completely outside the situation and there just for me. We discussed little goals and treats that helped me keep going.

Writing all this down, I don’t think I realised how low I was until I started to recover. Now I would encourage any women with PGP to make sure their emotional needs are given as much attention as their physical symptoms. Having the Pelvic Partnership’s helpline was a real comfort because I knew I wasn’t alone and I felt real support from the email responses I got. I feel I have so much to appreciate in my own situation and I hope other women get good care and support too.

Thanks, Sylvie, for sharing the emotional aspects of having PGP.

  • 1
  • 2

Charity Registered in England: 1100373 

The Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on both research and the experience of other women with PGP. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice and the information we provide should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material on this site is provided for information and support purposes only.

   © Copyright Pelvic Partnership 2018. Website content reviewed and updated: 2016 - 2017

This website was built by Jigsaw Web Design Ltd

Malcare WordPress Security