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.

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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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