Many women tell us they feel guilty about not being able to interact with their children in the same way when they have pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and they worry that their children will be resentful of their pregnancy.
For example, if you have PGP you may find it hard to sit or play on the floor, pick up and care for your children or keep up with their activity. We also know that it can be frightening to go out with children if you are not able to run after them.
These are a few practical tips from women who have experienced PGP.
You can find more tips in our free ebook “PGP is treatable!”.
If your mobility is limited it can be difficult to go outside with your child, especially when you are not familiar with the environment. However, there are many things to do together inside.
Set up a small table near to where you can sit comfortably for your children to use. You could also try a lap-tray (a tray attached to a beanbag). Use this to play different age-appropriate board games, such as lotto and dominoes, or to do jigsaws, Lego and craft activities.
You could get a book from the library or look online for some craft ideas and set up a craft box with paper, glue, pens and so on. You could also use a nursery rhyme video with some instruments to have singing sessions.
It can be hard for children to understand your pain and you may not want to worry them. However, many children like to be able to help their mummy so you can make them a special helper. Talk to your child about how they can climb on your knee to hug you, or how they might need to wait for you to sit down before you can cuddle them. You could also turn you lying down into a game, like turning your body into a car race track.
Many children like to help pack a bag or find things that you need in the house, like nappies or spare clothes. Get your child to do small tasks for you, such as fetching something, by turning it into a game. For example, say, “I’m going to close my eyes and when I’ve counted to five I’m going to see if it’s in my hands.”
A good way to get your child to come to you if you cannot chase them is to teach them to understand they have to come to you by the time you’ve counted to three. They also learn that you are not going to play a chasing game, so tend not to run away.
If your child is not walking, they may want to explore by crawling or being carried.
If you do need to lift your baby, keep them close to your body. It may be easier to lift while you are sitting or kneeling, or wait until they can crawl, roll or bottom-shuffle to where you need them to be.
Stair gates or a playpen will confine your baby to one safe area, for example if you are cooking. It is fine to leave children in a play pen if you are talking to them and reassuring them that you are still there. You can rotate their toys and sing or play games like peekaboo while you carry on with your tasks. It can be useful to put your baby in a playpen before they start moving around so they get used to the space.
If you use a rocker chair or bed, avoid lifting this with the baby inside. Your baby could fall out and the weight or awkward shape could aggravate your pain. Either take your baby out and put them on the floor or in a cot while you move the rocker, or ask someone to help.
For toddlers, you can find toys that allow your child to sit in them while you push them around such as small bikes or trikes with long handles.
A baby bouncer on a doorway between rooms is a great way to keep your child entertained while you sit down. They can bounce safely and watch you while you talk to them. However, it can be difficult to get the child in and out of the bouncer without bending or kneeling, so you may need someone to help.
Teach your child to use the stairs on their tummy as early as possible, even before crawling or walking (going down backwards, feet first). This can help them to use stairs more independently as they grow up.
It is up to you how you choose to feed your baby. Each option presents different issues to consider when you have pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP).
PGP is a mechanical problem of your pelvic joints. Whether you are breastfeeding or using a bottle, make sure that you find a supported position in which to feed right from the beginning.
It is important that your pelvis is comfortable while you are feeding. It is better for your pelvis if you avoid sitting in bed with your legs straight out, so try to sit in a chair. A crescent-shaped pillow can be a great help with feeding and will take the new baby’s weight while cushioning your symphysis pubis so that you can hold your baby more easily in the early days.
If you need to get up in the night to feed your baby, place a chair near the cot so you can sit while feeding.
Women can enjoy breastfeeding for as long as they wish. The World Health Organisation recommends at least two years’ breastfeeding to give your baby the most benefit from breast milk and some research suggests it could also help in your recovery from PGP.
Many women have told us they’ve been advised to stop breastfeeding when they have PGP as health professionals think the hormones are causing the problem. There is no evidence to support the suggestion that breastfeeding will slow down recovery from PGP. Normally, women make a full recovery while breastfeeding if they are also having effective treatment.
Research from a large study in Norway (2014) found that women who breastfed recovered faster than those who did not.
Breastfeeding is one of the things you can do for your baby even if your mobility is very restricted. Many mothers find this is an important time to bond with their baby and enjoy spending time with them.
Breast milk is the best food for your baby and provides all the nutrients that are needed as well as helping to build immunity to a large number of childhood illnesses. It also protects you against osteoporosis (important with a condition like PGP) as well as some breast and gynaecological cancers (see the UNICEF website for more details of the benefits of breastfeeding).
Breastfeeding can be challenging even without PGP, but there are many places where you can get support and information, such as:
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) also offers a telephone breastfeeding support line on 0300 330 0700.
If you are formula feeding while experiencing PGP, remember to plan ahead as much as you can, following the guidance from healthcare professionals on how to prepare the formula.
Try to make sure you have a comfortable place to sit when bottle feeding so that you don’t put unnecessary pressure on your pelvis and you can be comfortable.
Night feeds can mean extra trips up and down stairs. You could consider different options to help, such as a bottle warmer upstairs or a night and day feeding system that enables you to store bottles in a cool box and heat up the bottles in a steam heater after adding formula powder, just before use.
You can also purchase sterilised bottles of ready-prepared feeds and can get teats for these bottles from pharmacies and larger supermarkets. These are more expensive than unmixed powder but could help reduce your need to move around the house.
Try to find a highchair that you can put your baby into whilst standing behind the chair, or alternatively one your baby can climb into.
Changing nappies can be difficult if you find it hard to bend down. Try to plan ahead, although it is not always possible when you are out and about. If you can, arrange for someone to be with you if you are away from home so they can help if nappy changing facilities are not available. Here are a few suggestions to make things easier:
Prepare everything you need beforehand so that you have towels, nappies, clean clothes or pyjamas nearby. This means you don’t need to get up and down and can get your child warm as soon as they come out of the bath.
While the baby is tiny, you can often use the sink or put a baby bath on the kitchen counter or table (a waist-high surface) so you don’t have to kneel down.
Ask someone else to lift the baby in and out of the bath. Ideally, put the plug end of the bath over the sink area so if the baby does unplug it, you don’t have the water going all over the kitchen floor! If possible, ask someone else to fill, empty and lift the bath for you.
You can use a washing-up bowl instead of a baby bath. It is smaller and so lighter when full.
As your baby grows, you could use a baby bath seat in the bath that will help to prevent you making sudden movements to try to catch a slippery baby. There are also support seats for newborns.
If you can get in and out of the bath, bathe with your child with your partner’s help. It is something you can do yourself but share with your partner.
If you have not yet chosen your cot, consider how easy it will be to get the baby in and out. Avoid cots with fixed sides! Make sure that the cot has a side that goes up and down. Old-fashioned cot sides often go down much further than those on modern ones, but always check that the cot’s bars meet current safety requirements for spacing (to stop the baby getting their head stuck). It’s also worth checking the height that the mattress can be adjusted to.
You may find it difficult to lift your baby. If you like having your baby in bed with you, you could choose a bedside or side-less bed-level cot. Follow safe-sleeping guidelines from the Lullaby Trust.
If you prefer to keep your baby in his/her own cot, you can get bed risers from an OT, or raise the cot on bricks so that you don’t have to bend down too far to get the baby out.
If you have the space, use another cot or carrycot downstairs so that you don’t have to carry your baby up and down stairs to sleep during the day.
You can also buy baby rockers or swings that can help rock the baby if that is uncomfortable. This also provides another place for your baby to sleep downstairs and gives you time to rest.