An aching pelvis, long commute and motherly guilt – hard times at 16 weeks
Week 16 of pregnancy will probably bring you a nice, emerging baby bump. Now that your uterus is well over the pelvic bone, this is all baby and not bloating anymore. Shopping for maternity clothes is right around the corner. However, even though your baby is still tiny, she has ways of making herself felt. By week 16 you may be experiencing some pelvic pain – one mother below tells us how this pain began to affect her in day-to-day life.
Pregnancy and the pelvic pain – One mum’s perspective
With this being my second baby, I think in lots of ways I was lulled into a false sense of security. My eldest daughter is five now and my pregnancy with her had been a dream. I didn’t put on too much weight, I continued swimming most days and I didn’t feel that I needed to start my maternity leave before 37 weeks, which obviously meant maximising the amount of time I had at home with her after the birth. At that point we lived in London’s zone 1, so my commute was nice and easy; in fact the whole pregnancy seemed to be a breeze.
So when my partner suggested that we try for our second baby, I agreed. The time felt right to expand our fledgling family.
However, almost straight away, the differences to my first pregnancy started to be felt.
The big one was my now-longer commute. When our eldest was three we’d moved out of London to a village on the edge of Reading, chosen specifically for the Reading to Paddington train service. For my second pregnancy I was back at work full time and felt sure that following my great, first-time pregnancy, this one would also be a breeze.
But I really suffered with morning sickness, so when on the train I tried to stand by an open window for most of the journey to avoid vomiting in front of hundreds of commuters. And by the time that had worn off a bit, I began experiencing some really horrible pelvic pain. It radiated from my hips down to my pubic bone and made walking around, or standing for long periods of time, very difficult. I went to see my GP who seemed unconcerned and said that it was probably pregnancy-related sciatica. She offered to sign me off work for a couple of weeks to give my body a chance to rest, but I was coming under pressure from my line manager to keep up my hours.
A lot of my colleagues had been doing overtime as well and I got the feeling that my manager was trying to guilt trip me into doing some too – but I honestly didn’t feel up to it. I hadn’t told work I was pregnant and now it seemed really awkward. I was in increasing amounts of pain from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep, and I frequently slept badly as well, which didn’t help matters.
My commute became a nightmare because I couldn’t be certain of getting a seat for the hour long journey. People are supposed to give up seats to pregnant women, aren’t they? But I guess I didn’t really look pregnant, just a bit fat. My partner helped out as much as he could, but with me pretty much suffering 24-hour pain by sixteen weeks of pregnancy, he began feeling the stress too. Plus, my daughter was missing the mummy that she was used to.
Pressurised by work, guilty about my lack of participation at home, I began to feel really down. I was only sixteen weeks and I was terrified that things would get worse and worse as the pregnancy progressed. After all, I was only going to get heavier. In desperation, I went back to see a different doctor and to my shame, I burst into tears during my appointment. I didn’t need to be embarrassed though. The GP was excellent and far more understanding than the one I’d before. She produced tissues, talked gently through my daily routine to understand where the problem was being magnified, and offered some solutions.
She thought it was unlikely to be sciatica. She said, “The pain is too localised and too bad for that. I think you have what’s called pelvic girdle pain, and quite possibly symphysis pubis dysfunction.”
She wanted to wait a few weeks before diagnosing me fully because she felt it was quite early for me to be showing these signs. However, she wanted to do something right away to help me feel better. The first thing she did was prescribe me some painkillers.
“They’re a bit more heavy duty than we’d normally go for with pregnant ladies,” she said. “But with the pain as you describe it, I think it’s a good idea.” I was worried, but also relieved that someone was finally going to help.
“Secondly,” she continued, “I’m going to refer you to physiotherapy. They’re experienced with PGP and they’ll show you exercises and little tricks to help when you’re on your feet. They’ll assess you throughout your pregnancy, unless the pain clears up completely, and they may decide that a pelvic support belt is a good idea. I also think crutches would be appropriate. And finally,” she smiled at me, “I’m going to sign you off work for a minimum of two weeks.”
“I can’t miss two weeks!” I said, anxiety rising at the very thought.
“Yes you can,” she said calmly.
She explained that my employers were obliged to carry out a workplace pregnancy risk assessment, so that when I returned I would feel supported and have it made as easy and safe as possible to actually do my job. She also warned me that lots of women are signed off for the duration of their pregnancy, if the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain and symphysis pubis dysfunction get too bad.”
Despite the added layer of complication to my life, I left the surgery feeling a lot brighter and happier. I think pregnant women, especially those with older children, can sometimes feel pulled in too many directions, and it takes an outsider to say “Stop, slow down, things don’t have to be like this.”