19 September 2016

Strategies for surviving SPD

If you haven't heard of SPD or PGP (same thing different names) you are one lucky mama!

It's basically the worst. Ever.*

(*please forgive exaggeration... I'm pregnant, tired and in the most pain I've ever experienced.)

SPD stands for Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction and PGP stands for Pelvic Girdle Pain. There's a really helpful website all about it here.

It means you have a painful pelvis in pregnancy (it can last longer but I'm choosing not to even consider that possibility right now thanks). It can hurt you in a number of different ways, like one really sore hip, or killer lower back pain but mine feels like my body is being ripped in half from the pubic bone. Maybe not ripped, maybe sawn in half with a rusty saw is a more accurate description.

There are a "few" things that make the pain REALLY bad. Just little things... like standing up, walking, sitting down, kneeling down, driving, turning over in bed, lifting up anything heavier than a teaspoon, using stairs, putting on shoes, getting dressed... you get the picture.

I thought I'd share with you some of the tips and tricks I've learnt for dealing with this agony.

Keep your legs together in bed. 

I don't mean in the biblical sense. Literally squeeze your leg together when you're rolling in bed. Some people even go so far as to suggest tying your legs together with a scarf. I don't know about you, but when I'm heavily pregnant and have my legs tied together like a fat mermaid, I find it a teensy bit tricky to maneuver myself around a bed full of cushions.

Keep a pillow between your legs in bed. 

Every pregnant woman knows that pillows are your new best friend. This rule confused me a bit to start with because I'm supposed to keep my legs together... but apart? Do I tie the scarf around and THEN try to wedge a pillow in, or tie the scarf around the pillow? Either way, what am I a bloody contortionist? I'm PREGNANT and IN PAIN, all this pillow origami is too much.

Get in and out of the car like the queen. Using a plastic bag.

This means: keep your legs together and spin them around before you stand up. Like you're wearing a very short skirt and there are paparazzi. When you're huge and immobile, spinning daintily is tricky, so you're advised to sit on a plastic bag at all times in cars to make swivelling easier. This is actually a useful tip, but have you ever sat on a plastic bag in a heatwave while pregnant?  #Iwassweatyalready

Sit on your bed to get dressed.

This takes some getting used to but is vital. If you stand on one leg then your whole body falls apart and you scream in agony for 5 minutes, so putting on a pair of maternity leggings standing up is simply too painful for words. My clothes are on the same side of the room as my husband's side of the bed though, so every single morning I get my clothes, say "budge over" to my husband and then sit on his feet when he inevitably doesn't. Also the bed is squishy so I still actually find getting dressed quite painful. I should probably get a hard chair to sit on. (Super top tip: sometimes I'm so pathetic I get him to literally put my legs in my trousers for me!)

Use heat and ice for pain relief.

Warm baths (I obviously want to say hot baths because mmm hot baths, but you're not supposed to with a human swimming inside your belly are you?) and ice packs are both very soothing.  Of course, baths are tricky because of the standing on one leg equals agony problem so unless you have a hoist installed in your home you're probably gonna need someone to help you in and out. I have yet to work out a way to make this seem at all elegant and feel like a hippo being pulled out of it's swamp every time. 

(Also note your GP can prescribe proper actual pain killers too!)

There are also a number of things you should avoid:

Pushing things:    Pushing things, like a double buggy with 2 kids in it. Or a shopping trolley with food in it. Or a hoover. Or a broom. So, you know, basically all of the things you need to push every single day of your life. 

Lifting things:     Like shopping bags. Laundry baskets full of clothes. Children. 

Sitting on the floor:     Playing trains, or dinosaurs, or doing puzzles. 

Crouching, kneeling, bending down, twisting:     Putting on small people's shoes. Getting small people dressed. Tidying up after small people. 

Essentially, if you could list the 20 most common actions you do as a Mum every day, which are necessary to the smooth running of your life... It would match up EXACTLY with the list of things you're supposed to avoid if you have SPD.  

Despite seeing a physio at the first sign of pain during this pregnancy, following the exercises, trying my very best to avoid aggravating the condition and even seeing a chiropractor, I'm now using crutches to walk further than the length of my lounge. I haven't been able to look after my boys without help for weeks. 

If you get to the "entirely useless excuse for a human being stage" like I have, there is just one more tip you need:

It's a two-parter... Part 1: ASK FOR HELP. Part 2: ACCEPT THE HELP.

This is no mean feat. I have a stupendously supportive husband who is running the house like some kind of stepford wife and keeping down a full time job and still acts like he actually enjoys spending time with me even though I'm a moaning, groaning beached whale. I also have parents who have devoted hours and hours of their week to driving me and the boys around and taking care of us all at their home (which I now refer to as my daycare centre!). I've also found out that I have the most amazing friends who are bringing me dinners, picking up the kids for me, baking me cookies and generally going totally overboard looking after me.

I've got it made in terms of support and help. But it is very hard to accept all that help. It's hard to always be the passenger in the car (I can't drive because pressing on the clutch is too painful) and to watch someone else run and pick up your baby when they fall over and to see everyone you love doing so much for you without being able to give anything back. [There is a good page here about the emotional impact of SPD and how you shouldn't bottle it up. I do this by sobbing all over my husband on a regular basis and then demanding he makes me a light evening snack of spaghetti bolognese.]

I feel like I owe everyone I know about 700 favours and I'm going to spend my life trying to pay them back. Maybe I'll win the lottery and be able to buy them diamond watches to say thank you. But getting help to do all the things I need to do means I can still (sort of) be a Mum to the boys. Without accepting everyone's help I am sure I would have ended up in bed for several weeks missing out on EVERYTHING.

Also, looking on the bright side: I've done the newborn thing twice, it's bloody hard and exhausting, I spent the first half of my pregnancy dreading those early weeks with a newborn... Now I can't wait for it! In comparison to this, having a newborn will be a doddle!*

*Watch this space for my post moaning about how I preferred being on crutches and in agony to the endless sleepless nights of feeding a hungry baby. 


  1. I had PGP in my last pregnancy (I believe technically SPD is just the problem at the front where as PGP is when the whole lot is messed up. It really really really sucked. As soon as I gave birth it was so much better, but nearly 8 months later it still isn't completely gone. I fully except this is my fault. If I actually did my pelvic floors and other exercises to strengthen my core I would be fine, but once I could stand up without it feeling like my insides were falling out and I could sneeze without padding in my pants I got lazy.
    A tip not mentioned above: it's more uncomfortable if you sit in positions where your knees are higher than your bum e.g. Car seats or squishy sofa's. I found sitting on hard seats or a birth ball more comfortable and I had a wedge pillow I used in the car to help correct the angle and be in slightly less pain

    1. Oh yes! You're right, I forgot that one. I love my birth ball!

  2. Oh sending huge hugs! I've had this in both pregnancies and can totally relate to every word you just wrote. I was on crutches with the first but second avoided it only due to my amazing NHS physio who I saw every few weeks and my husband who learned how to do the same things (basically jabbing my muscles with his elbows repreatedly) almost every night. That was painful in itself but at least prevented crutches that time. Looking after a child at the same time is a nightmare and one reason we aren't having any more so I hugely feel for you! Xxx

  3. Hello I wish you all the best and that you are able to take all the rest that you need! Thank you for giving information about this condition called SPD or Pelvid Girdle Pain that too many pregnant women suffers from. Information is so important! Reading about your problems in bed, I thought I could give you this information. How to use an inflatable pillow called the Mumanu: http://www.mumanu.com/ Turn easier in bed using a turningsheet called The Snoozle https://www.thesnoozle.com/ Take care. Have a rest - very often!
    Best Regards,
    Anne in Norway

  4. Oh my goodness this sounds horrific. The things women have to go through. You poor thing. I really hope this helps others #MaternityMondays

  5. O my, my ... I haven't heard of this before. My pelvis has been painful sometimes after getting up from bed, but nothing to the extent you described. I can't wait for the SPD / PGP to over for you. Dear oh dear, what pregnant women sometimes go through to keep people on the planet! Sending virtual hugs. #MaternityMondays