Category: Work and PGP

Talking about PGP at work brought benefits

By Annie Phelps

I am sure I am not alone in having experienced PGP while at work. I feel very strongly that it helps to be really proactive with negotiating changes to your work role; I also think it helps to come up with lots of ideas or solutions to your employer about coping in your job and demonstrating that some simple changes will not only help you but benefit the company as well.

The unplanned pub conversation…

Despite my strong feelings about being proactive in discussing the consequences of PGP symptoms at work and suggesting changes, I didn’t take the lead when I was pregnant. To be fair, I was thinking about it as I had just started to use crutches to get around. I was probably about 14 weeks pregnant and finding I was becoming constrained by the PGP symptoms so that my walking was pretty limited. I had to use the lift all the time and couldn’t stay at my desk for long without having to get up and ‘jiggle around’ to try and free up my pelvis which would quickly stiffen and become uncomfortable if I sat in one position for long.

I was actually in the pub when a conversation started between my boss and myself. We were both in a large group of people at a leaving do for one of my colleagues. I had wobbled up to the bar on the crutches to buy some of the drinks and my boss had realised that I needed help to get the drinks over to our table so he offered to help me. When he brought the drinks over, he sat down next to me and asked how I’d injured myself to the extent that I needed crutches to get around. I thought I was beginning to look pregnant but, being tall and slim, I suppose the bump wasn’t too obvious as yet.

Over the drink, I explained that when I became pregnant I had also become an unwilling foster mother to some pretty grim PGP symptoms. I gave a very brief explanation of the biomechanical problem at the root of the condition (thanks to reading about this in the Pelvic Partnership’s literature) and how manual therapy from a physio was the best way to combat the symptoms. I think I was very upbeat about the whole thing (much more than I actually felt) having just spoken to Sarah on the Pelvic Partnership helpline. I think I was also worried that the company’s very results-driven business might find grounds for dismissal, even though getting rid of me as a pregnant worker would be against the law.

To be fair, my boss is really nice although he pushes us all hard. My role was as a demonstrator of software for accountants so you couldn’t get much more customer facing. I had been thinking about how I could retain my role or perhaps change to something that wouldn’t involve any travel or seeing customers, but would still be of value to the company. I just hadn’t got around to putting anything on paper and booking a session to discuss it formally with my manager.

A formal exchange of ideas

It was my boss who suggested that we meet up in the office on the Monday to discuss the way forward. He’d obviously done a lot of thinking over that weekend because he came armed with loads of ideas about seating arrangements in the office, adapting the car to being automatic and altering my role to a website editor at the same salary. I made sure I had done my homework too, in terms of what to expect during the pregnancy e.g. how the symptoms might be more pronounced as I approached the birth, the useful ways to adapt furniture and facilities at work (lumbar support for my chair, a lap top that I could carry anywhere, a perching stool when the office chair was uncomfortable, etc) and warning him about the trips I would need to see my physio regularly in addition to appointments with the midwife. I knew he had got the message when he bought me, unprompted, an enormous bean bag to put in the staff rest room so that I could make the short journey there to lie down when I needed a break – I loved that beanbag! HR were interested too, so I arranged for us to obtain some copies of ‘About PGP’ to be left in our rest room. The only annoying thing is that now when anyone is pregnant, they are encouraged to come and see me for a chat regardless of whether they have PGP or not!

The changes were phased in over time

Although my boss took the lead with the discussions, it was early enough in the pregnancy for us to have the time to phase in some changes and particularly those where I was training up someone to do my demonstrating work. I already had a desk in the main downstairs office which was sufficiently close to the canteen, the loos and the lift to be practical for getting around but the start of the new role as a website editor took me time to adapt to because I really missed being out and about seeing customers. Having said that, I replaced the ‘meeting and greeting’ with more meetings from different in-house departments which kept the role varied and I am still doing much of that website role (with a few additions) today.

Outcomes were successful all round

I was very lucky with the helpful attitude of my boss and my colleagues, but also with my physio who managed to get me off the crutches towards the end of the pregnancy and saw that I was really flexible and walking well ahead of the delivery. As a result, my symptoms seemed fairly easy to manage during labour and once I was on maternity leave with baby Ted. As with a lot that goes with PGP, I think that good organisation and thinking ahead about all of the practicalities of life at work and at home can really help you to get through relatively unscathed from day to day. I know that we would have struggled as a family if I had just given up with work and left without trying to adapt, plus I would have really missed having a working life with new challenges and goals. So I would urge any other women who have PGP in pregnancy to get information and support from the Pelvic Partnership(including a downloadable PDF from the website about  ‘PGP in the workplace: Information for employers) and to draw up a list of tasks at work that are going to be harder as the pregnancy and PGP progresses. Then have a really good look at the simple steps that can be taken to get the work done (but to keep you managing) so that both you and the company are not held to ransom by the effects of PGP.

Thanks, Annie, for writing this article and emphasising the benefits of reflecting on your life at work and how to adapt and adjust the role and furniture so you can still work effectively with PGP. The Pelvic Partnership has produced a leaflet about ‘Information for Employers’ which can be downloaded here – PP_employers_leaflet

How do you manage the symptoms of PGP at work?

By Madeleine Speed

We receive a number of calls and emails from our members about how to keep working when pregnant and dealing with PGP symptoms. These are women who want to continue working for as long as they can ahead of going on maternity leave but aren’t sure how to bring up the subject at work.

How is it for you?

PGP symptoms in pregnancy are usually caused by stiff or stuck pelvic joints and an associated asymmetry in the pelvis which can hamper efficient function. The symptoms can include pain and difficulty walking and performing other routine tasks and movements. With good manual therapy, you will be aiming to stop the symptoms getting worse, then start to improve them, and ultimately get rid of the pain completely. However, this does depend on finding a really good manual therapist, which may take some time. In the meantime, you may have to cope with the symptoms of PGP.

No two women are the same, so PGP symptoms can vary in severity and the associated level of pain and immobility can similarly differ from one woman to the next. As a result, some women find that they can continue working during their pregnancy until a week or so before their estimated due date without any difficulty. They may be tired and find it difficult to stand or walk for long periods whilst doing their job but, generally, they are fine and continue with the day-to-day tasks involved in their role. Other women may find that their PGP symptoms become more pronounced just a few weeks after falling pregnant so that as the pregnancy progresses, the symptoms make it very difficult to function as before either at home or at work. Again, the symptoms might be okay one day and then flare up the next. You may not know how you might feel with PGP as you continue in the pregnancy but you may already have a clear idea about whether or not you want to stay at work. Sometimes it isn’t really a practical option to stop working early as you need the income particularly as there’s a new baby on the way. Other women may plan to finish work with the birth of their baby and not return until they have completed the family and the youngest is ready to start school. Whatever your situation, if you want to stay at work but are worried about how you will manage, here are suggestions that may help you to bring up the subject with your employer so you can explore options together.

What can you do and what will you struggle to do?

It is worth having a chat at home with your partner about how you are managing at work. Whatever you decide to do about staying for as long as you can in your work role, it is important to have your partner on board so you feel that your family is behind you and backing your decision. Just as each woman will find PGP symptoms may affect them slightly differently, so too will the demands of a particular job. If you have a very demanding physical job your challenges with PGP are going to be different from someone whose role is fairly sedentary or involves no driving between sites. Have a look at aspects of the job that are going to prove hard for you as the pregnancy progresses and see if you can come up with some ideas for managing. It may be that the loos and meeting rooms require trips up or downstairs so it may be a good idea to think of ways you could move your desk to a higher or lower floor to avoid having to use the stairs all the time. You may have a colleague who would be happy to work more closely with you to fetch and carry without causing problems to either of you. Have a good list of the tasks that will be hard for you and some constructive ideas about how you could get around this. You might be nervous about suggesting that you work for some of your time from home but if you can show that it can be done in your role and that you are much more likely to keep managing the work, then you will probably find your request is looked upon favourably.

Approach your employer about PGP as soon as you can

It is worth talking to your employer about your situation as soon as you can so that there is some time to plan a transition in the way you work. In this way, preparations are more likely to go smoothly and your employer is less likely to feel they have to react quickly without proper thought and consideration for your situation.

  • Book some time to talk about the situation so your line manager has your full attention and you aren’t likely to be interrupted.
  • Set up a further meeting so you can let the information about PGP sink in before you suggest ways to alter the tasks or the way you do them.
  • Draw up a list of the tasks you find difficult and how you might get around them.
  • Explain that if you can work together to manage the PGP, you are much more likely to cope in the job without needing time off because you aren’t coping.
  • Try and come up with some positive ideas of how to manage your job so that your line manager recognises that you are positive and constructive.
  • Encourage your line manager to set up a meeting with your personnel or Human Resources department so you have their expertise and support to help you.
  • If you can show that your work can still be covered with help from colleagues, with some extra equipment and with some time spent working from home, your boss is much more likely to support your ideas.

Both you and your employer have an interest in how you are doing

We have all heard stories of unscrupulous employers who sack women as soon as they become pregnant. However, this is discrimination, and your employment rights protect you from such behaviour. Thankfully, we haven’t come across the kind of discrimination from our members.

Companies have invested time, money and resources to train you up and if you have been in your post for more than a few years, your line manager will value the experience and the skills you bring to the job. Replacing you will be costly and undesirable in many ways so it is usually to your boss’s advantage as well as yours to have you stay in post for as long as possible. If you are worried about how your boss will react, see if there is a senior colleague who is sympathetic to your situation who can join in any meetings to support you. If you have recently made changes to help you stay at work during your pregnancy, please get in touch to let us know how you got on.

“I was nervous about talking to my male manager about my problems with PGP during pregnancy. When I finally had the courage to arrange a meeting to discuss it, he had already noticed I was struggling and anticipated that there was a problem – he had lots of ideas for supporting me.” Sreela.

“My boss wasn’t very good about the situation and said he thought I was making a fuss about the pregnancy and shouldn’t be at work. However, his line manager is a woman whose sister had PGP so she was very helpful and intervened to smooth away the friction and come up with ways that were acceptable to my immediate boss and really helped me.” Jane.

“I found that we could delegate some of the more physical aspects of my role to a junior in our team who I then supervised and mentored and this worked really well for both of us. A bit of creativity and some goodwill on both sides can usually help to find a solution through some of the difficulties.” Liz.

“My immediate line manager thought that I would be ‘off sick’ for much of my pregnancy because of my PGP symptoms. As a result, initially she seemed very negative and unhelpful. However, when we set up a meeting with personnel to start planning, it was obvious that she suddenly ‘got’ that we just needed to make a few tweaks and practical changes to help me to keep working. Once the penny had dropped and she became supportive, the relatively minor changes we made helped me to continue working right up to the week before my baby was due.”Sandra.

“I drew up a list of the tasks that I might find increasingly difficult as my pregnancy with PGP progressed. For each bullet point, I came up with some suggestions about how we could manage without disrupting my projects. Our line manager was pleased that I had anticipated potential problems. It came down to moving down to the ground floor office, close to the loos and my colleague (and friend) moved to sit by me so she could help fetch and carry when it was necessary. Once we had made these changes, there was little else we needed to do for me to manage for the whole pregnancy – it was a great relief.” Beth.

More information: The topic of coping with PGP at work is the subject of a Pelvic Partnership leaflet PGP in the workplace: Information for employers“.

Thanks to all the members who have helped us with their comments and suggestions for this article. We found that most women had support and help within their workplace, particularly after the relevant line managers understood what PGP is and that the work could still be done after making relatively simple changes. Do get in touch to let us know about your experiences.

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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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