Under pressure

For the past couple of months or so I’ve felt odd twinges in my pelvic area, mainly around the upper thighs. These were exacerbated if I’d sat down or stood up for too long (the only solution? Lying on the sofa!) I didn’t give it much thought – it wasn’t pain exactly, more like a discomfort.

A couple of weeks ago though, it all took a turn for the worse and I was suddenly experiencing an overwhelming feeling of pressure down there, coupled with intensified pains over the whole area. It was particularly uncomfortable to stand on one leg and roll over in bed. Although gentle walking seemed to help, shopping doesn’t count. At one point I was returning from Sainsbury’s with two bags, one containing four pints of milk and the other a six-pack of Becks Blue. I didn’t think they were that heavy but every step was agony! I seriously considered abandoning one bag. And we’re only five minutes away from the shop… Lesson learned: Mr Cath to pick up essential supplies from now on!

Literally the first day it was starting to bother me, my NHS weekly email was astonishingly telepathic: “Growing pains: find out how to relieve pelvic girdle pain.” I had never heard of this condition before but immediately clicked on the link, which took me through to an NCT page – hey presto, the symptoms were mine:

“Mild, moderate or severe pain in the pubic bone area as well as pain in the hips, groin, lower abdomen, buttocks, lower back or inner thighs… standing and walking, turning over in bed and any movement that involves separating the legs, such as walking up stairs, getting in and out of the bath or car, can be very painful. Sometimes a clicking sensation can be felt or heard.” For me personally, the turning over in bed thing was far and away the worst symptom – I couldn’t lie on one side for more than what felt like ten minutes which meant some very wakeful nights!


The pelvis

So why does pelvic girdle pain happen?

Three guesses… yes, hormones (relaxin in this case) seem to be why the ligaments become softer and your pelvis opens up, creating discomfort. I was worried that swimming or something else I’d done had put stress on my body, but it just seems to be “one of those things”. The good news is that birth shouldn’t be affected. In extreme cases, women cannot open their legs at all, meaning a caesarean is necessary. However, this is quite rare. PGP can strike at any point during pregnancy but it appears to be most common in the third trimester (hence the timely NHS email!)

So what can you do about it?

When I asked for advice at my 34-week midwife appointment, she replied that she would refer me to a physiotherapist, who I can expect to hear from soon. In the meantime I have been following the advice on the internet – mainly on the NCT and NHS websites – and have felt a huge improvement already. I’m only waking up once or twice per night now, and sitting on my yoga ball seems to help a lot as well. The suggestions include:

  • Rest when you can.
  • Get help with household chores from your partner, family and friends.
  • Wear flat, supportive shoes.
  • Sit down to get dressed – for example don’t stand on one leg when putting on jeans.
  • Keep your knees together when getting in and out of the car – a plastic bag on the seat can help you swivel.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position, for example on your side with a pillow between your legs.
  • Try different ways of turning over in bed, for example turning over with your knees together and squeezing your buttocks.

The Association for Chartered Physiotherapists in Women’s Health suggests that you avoid:

  • standing on one leg
  • crossing your legs
  • sitting on the floor, or sitting twisted
  • sitting or standing for long periods
  • lifting heavy weights, such as shopping bags, wet washing or a toddler
  • vacuuming
  • pushing heavy objects, such as a supermarket trolley
  • carrying anything in only one hand (try using a small backpack)

The good news

Interestingly, my onset of pelvic pain has coincided with the baby “dropping” down into my pelvis, which suggests that perhaps what I’m experiencing is merely pelvic discomfort and pressure as described in What to Expect rather than the full-blown condition of pelvic girdle pain. At 32 weeks, the doctor told me our baby was lying across my tummy in a transverse or oblique position. My pelvis then started acting up in earnest at around 33 weeks. At my 34-week appointment, the midwife informed me the baby was head down, and even asked another midwife to provide a second opinion in the light of what the doctor had said. Neither of them could find a head, which means that the head must be buried deep down… in my pelvic area of course. They assured me that not being able to feel a head was actually a GOOD sign!

So looking on the bright side, it’s surely worth a bit of discomfort knowing that our baby is finally in the correct position!

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