Tanya is pregnant with her fourth child. Her husband complains to everyone that she is “lazy”. Since it’s her fourth pregnancy, he expects her to “be used to it”. According to him, she doesn’t cook or clean anymore, and she “claims” that she is in severe pain. She is an African wife after all, and like his mum did, she is expected to cater for the family. She was “strong” in her other pregnancies, so she is expected to be the same now. His main gripe is that her gait has changed. He’s ashamed to go out in public with her. People stare at them he said, and she struggles to get out of the car. To worsen the situation, Tanya’s sister inlaw is pregnant as well, and she verbalises to all who listen, that unlike Tanya, she still cooks and cleans. She is “strong” and doesn’t understand Tanya’s “laziness”. Sadly, what Tanya’s husband and his sister don’t understand, is the excruciating pain Tanya is going through. Tanya’s has been diagnosed with Symphyis Pelvic Dysfunction (SPD); aka Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PPGP).
Truth be told, Tanya’s case is not unique. Anecdotes off the streets show the same sentiments…
“Mrs Simpson is pregnant and she can walk everywhere. Why can’t you?”
“My mum was pregnant 6 times, and she cared for us throughout. Why can’t you?
“You are pregnant not ill! Why can’t you get up and cook?
“She is only pregnant, so why did she ring in sick?”
“You are just being lazy, right?”.
“I’m pregnant and I can run. Why can’t you?!”
The simple answer is, every pregnancy is different. The only commonalities in pregnancies are; the ovum, the sperm and the baby factors. Every other aspect is different. No two experiences are the same, from conception to birth. Besides, some women have pregnancy related Symphis Pelvic Dysfunction; and some don’t!
A relaxed aspect…and science
SPD is a term used to describe symptoms caused by the misalignment or stiffness of the pelvic joints during pregnancy. It’s not race specific and can affect anyone. It is real, and has been in existence for ages. To put it into perspective, Socrates is credited with its first diagnosis.
Our amazing bodies are designed in such a way that in pregnancy, the ovaries and placenta produce a hormone called relaxin. It helps a woman’s body become suitably loose enough to adjust to pregnancy. In preparation for birth, it relaxes ligaments in the pelvis, as well as widen and soften the cervix. In some pregnant women, like Tanya, the degree of this “relaxation” of the ligaments around the pelvic area, may cause an excessive movement of the pubic symphysis, and a misalignment of the pelvis. The position of the baby can also be a contributory factor. This can cause mild or ‘severe’ pain, depending on the degree of misalignment. Symptoms vary from one woman to the other. They usually include pain in the one or two sides of the back, the thighs, over the pubic bone, and around the vagina and anus.
Like Tanya, women with SPD may experience difficulties in things like; doing household chores, walking, having sex, and standing on one leg (eg to dress up). They may also find it hard getting out of cars, due to pain associated with putting legs apart in SPD. Some women report hearing or feeling clicky or grating sounds in the pelvis. The good news about SPD is that it does not affect babies, and women can still have vaginal births with it. In most women it disappears after birth. For others, more treatment may be required. Sadly, PPGP has been linked to postnatal depression in some women. Some are emotionally traumatised by others, like in Tanya’s case.
Treatments ‘include’ physiotherapy and possible use of crutches or support belts. Some doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines. Hydrotherapy, and other forms of exercises are also lines of treatment. Some recommended coping strategies ‘include’: getting help with house chores from partners, family or friends, wearing flat shoes, keep legs together when getting out of cars. When possible, try changing positions during sex (kneeling on all four). Sitting down when dressing up, and resting, are also recommended. More info can be found here.
The plea for empathy…
Most women set out to enjoy their pregnancies. Unfortunately, not all women do. Therefore, it is unkind for people to expect pregnant women to have similar experiences. SPD is not “laziness”. It can be Severely Painful, trust me. I feel sorry for my friend because I had PPGP in two pregnancies, and I was surprised at how little people knew about the condition. I was in that much pain around my pelvic area that I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t climb stairs without crying. People made comments about my “laziness”, and used other pregnant women as examples of how “pregnancy is not a disability.” Never compare any two pregnancies. The fact that mama Kim can cook and clean during pregnancy, doesn’t mean that mama Liz can. They are two different women, with different experiences. Empathy is the key factor in such situations. Please seek help if think you have SPD. Educate your partners on it. Knowing much can lead to joint actions in easing the pain of PPGP.
Image: Clipartsheep website