Say 'girdle' one more time, I dare you
‘Girdle’ might be hands-down, one of the most unattractive words in the English language. It brings to mind images of older, heftier ladies, well past their prime, attempting to reign in the years through manipulative garments. However, every woman has what is called a pelvic girdle, which is a collection of bones that support the pelvic organs. Unfortunately, for many women during pregnancy, girdles become no laughing matter, as nearly three-quarters of women experience pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.
Relaxin isn't as relaxin' as it sounds
During the early stages of pregnancy, your body releases a hormone known as Relaxin. It serves an important purpose in preparing your body for delivery. This hormone assists the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments in relaxing, to loosen the joints involved in labour and delivery, and allow space for the baby to move through the birth canal. This can lead to muscles losing a significant amount of the support, and can cause instability in the joints when moving, sitting or lying down. Ouch!
PGP symptoms can be scary...
Pelvic girdle pain can develop at any point during pregnancy. A small percentage of women experience it as early as the first trimester, but it appears most common at later stages due to additional weight on the joints. Pain most often begins in the pubic area, though it is common to feel it in the hips, lower back, tailbone and thighs as well. Many women describe an aching or burning pain that increases when moving. Walking and climbing stairs tends to aggravate symptoms the most, and some women find simply turning over in bed impossible. A clicking noise or feeling may come from the pelvic area and can be extremely alarming, especially when accompanied by shooting pains.
... and it has side effects you normally wouldn't think about
Any weight bearing activity can cause an increase in pain and soreness and most women complain of difficulty sleeping. Sleep disturbances are often the most frustrating symptom, as women in their third trimesters tend to experience exhaustion and vivid, disturbing dreams that can interfere with sleep. Women experiencing pelvic girdle pain are more likely to use sick days at work, and often need to take maternity leave at an earlier point than their counterparts who are pain-free. Pelvic girdle pain sufferers can also have increased risk of post-partum depression, lack of self-esteem and more stressful relationships with their spouses.
What to do, what to do?!
Women experiencing pelvic girdle pain should notify their doctors. Mild pain relievers may be adequate for coping with the pain, but in severe cases, stronger medications may be needed. Many women experience relief by using a stomach supporting belt to lift the weight off the achy pelvic muscles. Application of ice or heat may help when sitting or lying down. Massage therapy and acupuncture might offer some assistance with pain relief, though you should always choose a practitioner who’s experienced with pregnancy. Severe cases may require physiotherapy or surgery postpartum to prevent permanent damage to the muscles and ligaments. Supportive devices such as walkers, canes, or crutches may be used to take some weight off the pelvis while walking.
Pelvic Girdle Pain postpartum
The good news for those who suffer from PGP, is that the vast majority of women experience relief from their symptoms after giving birth. Only about a quarter of women experience pain after childbirth due to Pelvic Girdle Pain, and the majority of them are pain-free within months without permanent disability. It can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in pain, but for most women it does go away and you´ll have a sweet little baby to distract you meanwhile. If you're still in pain months after giving birth, please contact your doctor, and be persistent! Have some x-rays and tests done and try to figure out if there's any permanent damage or some other underlying condition that's causing pain. Don't suffer in silence for years and years (I'm speaking from personal experience), and get yourself thoroughly checked out.