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 now7 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.

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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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