11 Sep When Pregnancy Disables
Anna Bourozikas was shocked when pregnancy temporarily disabled her.
I was 34 weeks into my first pregnancy, standing at the kitchen sink washing the dishes when I felt a sharp pain rush through my right leg and groin. My leg buckled and I collapsed to the floor.
…aqua aerobics would have to wait.
My doctor said the chronic back pain I was feeling and the dodgy leg was sciatica, common in pregnancy and easily alleviated with some aqua aerobics. A nice idea, but with lots to do, aqua aerobics would have to wait.
A few days later I was pushing a heavily laden supermarket trolley down the ramp towards my car when I collapsed. I used the trolley to pull myself upright, before collapsing again. I tried again, but it wasn’t until the third attempt that I managed to get to my car and make it home.
I was also told I would probably be unable to walk for the first six months of my baby’s life
I rang the hospital and arranged to see a maternal-health physiotherapist. She put a girdle-support bandage around my pelvis and provided crutches. I could no longer stand unaided and was told to lie in bed as much as possible for the remainder of the pregnancy. I was also told I would probably be unable to walk for the first six months of my baby’s life and might need a wheelchair.
I had a rare form of pelvic instability about which I knew nothing. There was no mention of it in any of my pregnancy magazines or books, and there were no support groups. It was a scary and bewildering time. How could I look after a baby if I couldn’t walk?
With a crutch under each arm, every activity and action – whether making a sandwich or having a shower (sitting down) – required forethought and planning.
My pregnancy disabled me.
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is an umbrella term covering conditions such as pelvic instability, pubic symphysis instability, sacroiliac joint syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. It is used to describe pain in the front and back of your pelvis, pubic bone, tummy, groin or legs. A pregnant woman’s body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens the joints and ligaments to accommodate the growing foetus. In some women, the joints and ligaments soften too much and loosen, occasionally dislocating, causing chronic pain and mobility problems. My pregnancy disabled me.
With a crutch under each arm, every activity and action – whether making a sandwich or having a shower (sitting down) – required forethought and planning. I learned to cook sitting down, using an electric frying pan on the kitchen table. Friends and family appeared out of nowhere and cleaned my house, and the hospital arranged for a cleaner to come after my baby was born.
Fortunately, within a week of my son’s birth, I could walk small distances in the house without crutches. At 11 days, I could walk unaided around the block. By three weeks, I could walk four minutes to the shops and sit and have a coffee – a momentous occasion.
Before I left the hospital, the physiotherapist warned I could suffer PGP again in subsequent pregnancies, but earlier and more severely.
It took 12 months to fully recover from my first pregnancy. I began doing Pilates and waited three years before planning another pregnancy. I started seeing a physiotherapist by the end of my first trimester and was wearing a support bandage by 18 weeks. With her help, I walked every day of my second pregnancy, unaided.
Illustration by Penny Lovelock
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