Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP) can affect your relationships with your partner, your children, family and friends. You may need to rely on others to help with daily tasks. You may not be able to do some of the things you normally do with people close to you. This can be frustrating and many women tell us they feel isolated and alone.
We know that when you are in pain it can have significant impacts on your relationships with your partner, family and friends as you try to manage your condition.
As well as affecting intimacy with your partner, being in pain can change the dynamic of your relationship as you may need more help from them. Equally, you may need to rely on family and friends for help at this time.
Women often tell us that they feel like a burden to family and friends when they need to ask for help. However, people who care about you often want to know how they can support you. This might be through practical help with everyday tasks, keeping you company or talking about how you feel.
Family and friends can also feel separated or isolated from you when they are not sure if it’s okay to talk about things. This can be disempowering for both you and those close to you.
Try to be upfront about your needs. Write a list of things that people could help with, for example, hanging up washing, playing with children, picking up shopping or helping you climb the stairs. If a friend visits, they may feel more comfortable to choose a task they can get on with.
Most people are not aware of how PGP can affect you during and after pregnancy. You may still be learning yourself. We’ve created a booklet to help family and friends understand what PGP is and how they can support you. You could also suggest they look at the information on our website.
Head to our resources page to download some free resources that may help you have these conversations.
Women often tell us they feel distressed or guilty that they can’t play with their children in the same way while they are experiencing PGP. It can be difficult to pick up your child, sit and play on the floor, or walk or run with them outside.
It is important for you and your child that you keep interacting with them. You might need to adapt playtime to find activities that you can do comfortably.
Children often cope better if they are given straightforward explanations about why mummy is not able to do things or why she seems sad. They may want to help.
If your child is at school or in childcare, tell the staff about how PGP is affecting you. They are usually good at noticing any changes in children’s behaviour. They may also be able to help with practical things, like bringing your child to your car at pick up time so you don’t have to walk far.
It can be helpful to have a plan for someone else to collect your child from school. Talk to your child about why this is happening and let them ask questions about the changes.
Sex is a very personal issue. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about sex or admitting that they are not enjoying it in the same way, especially after having children. Sex is important to many couples and should bring pleasure, fun and intimacy to your relationship.
If you’re experiencing PGP, sex can be painful. It can be difficult to move comfortably. You may feel more tired than usual and less interested in sex.
You may also experience pain during penetrative sex due to spasm of the pelvic floor muscles rather than painful joints. This is felt as pain and extreme tightness in the lower vagina on penetration (vaginismus). Manual pelvic floor physiotherapy can help to relieve the spasm.
If this pain persists it may also be helpful to see a psychosexual therapist (see below).
Some women avoid sex because they are afraid it will damage their pelvis or worsen their PGP. However, many women are still able to enjoy sex with good communication. You may need to build up to it gradually to reduce your anxiety about sex.
Talk to your partner about what positions are more comfortable for you. Explore positions where you don’t need to open your legs or take your partner’s weight. Some people find it helpful to try to reduce pain beforehand, for example, through having a bath or shower, a massage or using pain medication. Your partner might enjoy the opportunity to help you.
It’s up to you whether you have penetrative sex. You might find other forms of intimacy more comfortable, such as kissing, stroking, sensual massage or arousing each other through touch. These can be just as much fun and will enable you to maintain feelings of closeness and shared sensation.
It might be helpful to think about sexual behaviours as a ‘menu’; intercourse is only one item on the menu and variety can enhance your relationship.
Communication is important to help you and your partner share your feelings and fears. Talk to each other about them and don’t rely on assumptions about how your partner is feeling. Problem-solve together in a creative way.
Some women tell us they feel frustrated or worried that they are letting their partners down. They can feel that they are no longer attractive if their partner avoids initiating sex. Your partner may avoid initiating sex if they’re worried about hurting you or if you seem exhausted, but may similarly feel frustrated and rejected. If you can talk openly and honestly a lot of these difficulties can be resolved. You can still enjoy a healthy, pleasurable intimate relationship during PGP.
If you think sexual issues are affecting your relationship, you may wish to seek the advice of a professional relationship and psychosexual therapist.
You can get help and counselling if you’re worried about sex and your relationship, try these organisations:
We also talked about this at a recent Pelvic Partnership workshop with sex therapist, Maxine O’Brien. To find out more about this session, please check out our painful sex blog:
Domestic violence or abuse can begin or get worse during pregnancy. Domestic abuse or violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial.
If you are pregnant and being abused, you can get help. Your abusive partner is not only potentially endangering your life, but also the life of your unborn baby.
If you are in immediate danger please contact 999 (you can dial 55 if you are unable to speak). Refuge offers a Freephone 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Here are some other resources which may help: