Category: ‘My Story’ – stories from women who have experienced PGP

My story: PGP, sink or swim

by Jane Davies

It must be a good three years since my PGP symptoms disappeared. I still get the odd twinge if I overdo any bending and twisting but generally I am really over the discomfort. I feel so grateful for getting a normal life back again because before that, I felt really out of my depth and really depressed. Just over seven years ago, I made real strides with my recovery from PGP and began to see things in colour again when before everything seemed to be in a very gloomy black and white. It’s something I feel I can talk about now and really want to pass on to other women in case it helps them. My family was very important to my recovery, my wonderful and supportive partner, Len, and my amazing boys: Joe and Jamie who are now 7 and 8. The other thing that helped was rekindling my love of swimming, which was all down to my sister, Lily.

I didn’t have PGP when Jamie was born and oddly, it was just a twinge of discomfort for most of my pregnancy with Joe. In fact, I didn’t know I had a problem with PGP until the last month of pregnancy.

I wasn’t a very active mum and years of a desk job and being happily married had seen me piling on weight. I was very conscious of it and had managed to lose a couple of stones before we started trying for a family and giving birth to Jamie was long and hard (although this may not have been anything to do with my weight). I was always on a diet but still very large when I became pregnant again. The anxiety about being overweight for the birth started to grow just as the PGP symptoms kicked in and for a while, I thought the two were oddly connected. Luckily, when I saw my midwife by accident in Tesco’s, she saw that I was hobbling around, suspected PGP and quickly referred me for physiotherapy on the NHS with Sara.

I was very happy with Sara as she knew what she was doing and quickly diagnosed PGP before starting a programme of manual therapy. It did help and I could feel a difference straight away but I just couldn’t seem to keep my pelvis aligned and my pelvic joints working smoothly. Within a few days, the pain would get worse again and I would start to hobble again. I think it may have been my weight on a wonky pelvis which contributed to the pain I felt; I don’t know but it certainly didn’t help. I couldn’t walk and my sister came to stay to help me with Jamie and to manage at home. Although I was seeing Sara regularly, I needed crutches to get around and I became so self conscious about not coping with them that I preferred to stay at home as much as I could.

With my sister, Lily, keeping everything going, I just had more time to brood and worry about the birth. She and Len were always upbeat and encouraging but I seemed to be falling down a black hole as my due date loomed. I became convinced that I would be made to have a cesarean because of my weight coupled with the PGP and I knew I wanted to keep the birth natural if possible.

Despite my fears, the delivery was natural and straightforward. Everyone was kind and attentive and we did give them information about my PGP but Len remembers me screaming when the midwife opened my legs just a little too wide somewhere in the second stage. As a result, my PGP was dreadful afterwards and luckily my sister stayed on to help me with both Jamie and baby Joe. I was delighted with my new baby but looking back I was very depressed. Somehow I convinced myself that none of this would have happened had I got my weight down. It was crazy but that is what I believed. I didn’t bother to go back to see Sara for physio for a good three months and it was Lily who made the appointment eventually as she realised something had to change. She also took me to the GP and they both encouraged some short -term anti-depressants to help. They did but it took a while.

Once I seemed a little better, Lily me out on trips to keep me doing things. Then one day she took Jamie and me off to our local swimming pool while Len stayed home with little Joe. I knew it was time to introduce Jamie to water and agreed it was a good idea. All the way there she chatted about how I used to love swimming as a kid and had represented the school at galas. I stared out of the window and heard what she was saying but I wasn’t interested in going to the pool and really was doing it as a duty for Jamie’s sake.

Somehow Lily persuaded me that I needed to get in the pool as a ‘first’ with Jamie. So guilt kicked in and I stripped off and we got into the pool. In the water, I suddenly realised how warm and comforting it was and I was much more mobile with the water supporting me. We splashed about with Jamie and I could feel myself smiling. Then Lily took him out as he tired quickly and needed to get dressed. She encouraged me to linger in the water because she wanted to get herself and Jamie sorted out before she could really help me. I hadn’t been swimming for so many years but the smell of the chlorine and the buoyancy of the water took me back and I was excited about being there again. I swam on my back, staring at the ceiling. It felt good.

Lily encouraged me to go back for a swim the next day with Len in the evening. Sara advised me about the swimming and asked me to avoid breast stroke as she thought it would put too much strain on my pelvis trying to kick. I didn’t mind as I really wanted to do crawl again which didn’t cause me problems and felt very natural. Soon I was swimming regularly.

Over time, the pool has become one of the family’s main leisure pursuits and I also go regularly to do lengths. We call it ‘my therapy’ because I find I can switch off any worries or problems and just ‘be’. Swimming has helped me lose some weight and feel fit again. It’s taken time to get over PGP but with Sara’s help and watching not to overdo things, I have made a full recovery. I don’t know how much the swimming has contributed to my recovery but I do feel fitter and stronger and it provided a way to avoid sinking further into depression. It also helped me feel happy and to enjoy myself again. I’m looking into teaching swimming now and I’ve also joined a swimming club. I really would recommend swimming once good manual therapy has helped you through the worst of your PGP symptoms.

Thanks, Jane, for sharing your story. We know of many success stories where women have been struggling with severe PGP but after good manual therapy have returned to running, dancing, climbing and all sorts of sporting activities again even though, for some, it has been a long journey.

My story: a problem with the waterworks


This personal experience of pelvic floor problems is a really good starting point for the subsequent articles about the pelvic floor weakness. 

Having PGP is one thing but starting to leak is quite another and, to begin with, I had absolutely no problems! I managed to jig vigorously up and down with a full bladder before and after both my deliveries with no leakage problem, despite being on crutches because of my PGP symptoms. I smugly put it down to inheriting a cast-iron pelvic floor and doing a few squeezes now and again.

I remember practising the squeezes in my antenatal classes before I got PGP. Remember the ones? “Now, ladies, when you go the toilet, try stopping in mid-flow. Remember it’s very bad to stop yourself half-way through going to the toilet but it is OK to do it once, just to find the right place. Those are the muscles you need to use. Squeeze, release; squeeze, release; squeeze, release. Very good! Not only will it help you not to leak in later life, but your partners will all be very pleased too.” Snigger, snigger. (What? Who cares if he’s pleased or not? After those pregnancies and those deliveries, those inflated, lumpy breasts, those sore nipples, PGP and a crying baby, he’s fulfilled his purpose and doesn’t deserve ever to be pleased again…)

So I was quite surprised, when my PGP was finally resolved after numerous manual therapy sessions, to find that going to the gym and doing some harmless skipping caused a leak. It wasn’t a vast amount but it felt like I had started to slide down a slippery slope. I started to avoid drinking any water before I went but I quickly felt odd from becoming dehydrated and realised that wasn’t going to help.

Those of us who leak are not alone; we just don’t talk about it! One day I forgot the pad and had to go and get changed into different shorts half way through the class. Oh dear. It was beginning to get irritating. Then I was talking to a slightly older friend who has three children. I was very pleased that she did open up and talk about this problem or I may have been none the wiser about the fact that I am not alone and this is actually a very common problem for women and particularly those of us who have had children. My friend casually related a tale which chilled my blood, or rather, made me clench my buttocks. She had been late for a bus and decided to run to catch it. Breathlessly she legged it down the road and managed to get on the bus. She gasped her thanks to the driver and didn’t notice a thing until she sat down and found that her trousers were soaking…and the seat wasn’t even plastic. Apart from making me sit down a tad more gingerly on the Park and Ride upholstery, this tale also made me realise I was at the top of the slippery slope. I took this as a big warning: today, a mild leaking which you could stop if you weren’t silly enough to go the circuit classes; tomorrow, pints of fluid escape and you don’t even notice until you sit in it. The time had come to act so I went to see my GP and explained the problem to her and she referred me to the Incontinence Clinic (great title, eh?) within my local hospital.

When I got there I immediately engaged an elderly lady in hearty conversation for the entire time I was waiting so that everyone would think I was only there to support her. She didn’t even seem to mind when I called her Mum. But then, senility and incontinence do go hand in hand, don’t they?

Anyway I saw the Incontinence Nurse who briefly examined me. This meant she put her finger in my vagina and told me to squeeze. Then she frowned, withdrew her finger and said I seemed to have a prolapse (i.e. the vaginal wall was collapsing and part of the bladder was poking through). She gave my squeeze a rating of one out of ten and referred me to Simon Jackson, the consultant for this kind of thing. She chatted to me about pelvic floor exercises and I described the squeeze, release business and was reassured that this was exactly the right thing to be doing.

I staggered home with my knees together and visions of internal organs falling out unnoticed whilst I skipped manically round the gym. Not to mention visions of my husband skipping off with a younger, tighter, model… the trauma of the pregnancies and births had faded by now and he was turning out to be quite a good husband and father so I didn’t really want him to suffer too much anymore. Surely one out of ten was too low a rating for a satisfactory marriage to be maintained?

So I went to see Mr Jackson, who was very nice and very reassuring. Just the sort of bedside manner you’d like if it had to be a man you were seeing. Although I was reading recently that we’re all putting far too much emphasis on a good bedside manner when what we should be worrying about is how good they are at wielding the scalpel, I still appreciated seeing ‘a nice man’. Maybe I’ll write about my breast lump next time and you can compare and contrast consultants… but I digress.

Mr Jackson gave my squeeze a rating of four out of five (thank goodness, I’d had enough of being nice to my husband) and said I didn’t have a prolapse, I just had a slight weakening of the vaginal wall and wouldn’t need an operation, just pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor exercises? I’ve been performing them religiously for years, I protested. So he referred me to Georgina Evans for physiotherapy.

This is the woman we should all see (annoying that she has recently retired). She is friendly, patient and completely professional with the perfect bedside manner for the job she does. Somehow we both got through the following procedures with far less embarrassment than I’ve felt being measured for a bra or trying on a dress in a shop.

I had to lie down and once again watch while the health professional squeezed out the clear jelly and put on the latex gloves. Are there any procedures for which men have to watch that preparation? Probably prostate examinations and that kind of thing, but nothing that happens regularly every three years…. but I digress again.

We then proceeded to have a long discussion, all with her fingers inside my vagina, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And I wasn’t even at all embarrassed! Anyway, the upshot of it all, and the reason I am writing this article, is it turns out that I was doing my pelvic floor exercises wrong. I bet most of you don’t know this, but you can’t just do any old squeezing and hope for the best, you have to squeeze properly. You’ve got muscles at the front and at the back (i.e. towards your anus and towards your bladder) and you have to squeeze all of them. I was only using the ones at the back. It took me quite a few goes but I finally found the front ones and found I could squeeze them a little bit, but not very well.

So Ms Evans sent me away to practise, which I did religiously five times a day, and I gradually got better and better until I could squeeze hard for a much longer time. It also turned out that I’d been doing sit-ups incorrectly and that had weakened my pelvic floor, maybe even causing the problem in the first place.

Unfortunately I can’t say for definite whether I am fully cured, because I had a car accident (ironically on the way home from the physiotherapy) which meant I’ve had to stop going to the gym for the moment. However, experimental jumping up and down with a full bladder seems to indicate that I no longer need to buy shares in TENA Lady and I feel very optimistic about the whole thing.

I can’t really think of a way to find the correct muscles without having an expert physiotherapist to help you. The best way I can think of to describe it is to squeeze your vagina and anus as tightly as you can and then try to squeeze above the entrance to your vagina as well. But this is what I had to do; maybe if you are incontinent, there’s something else you need to be doing. As with PGP, I recommend asking for professional help and if the first person you see isn’t helpful, keep asking until you feel confident you’ve got a competent practitioner. Then you, too, can have a husband with a permanent smile on his face. (Good job this is anonymous, eh?)

This upbeat and amusing article also demonstrates that incontinence in women is quite common particularly during exercise but is not a subject that is often aired even amongst close friends.

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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.

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