You’ll hear women start many a sentence like this when they’re pregnant: “No one tells you that….”
Could be the fact you will snore. You will get fat fingers. You will go up a shoe size and may never come back down. You will enjoy far better treatment at airports. You will get small skin tags on your neck.
But what I didn’t realise was that your body might buckle a bit. Seems obvious now, but as a rookie, I had no idea. I probably didn’t help things much by being a wild woman on book tours and doing events and launching a skin care line just as things (my belly) were getting super big. But life doesn’t stop just cos you are up duff. In fact, quite the opposite. I felt compelled to finish EVERYTHING before my teeny dancer arrived.
HOW I ENDED UP ON CRUTCHES WHEN HEAVILY PREGGO
I now know many pregnant women have pelvis or pubic symphysis issues (such as SPD) but I didn’t know what my these things were or did before I fell pregnant. My own dang sister had these issues and I had no idea! But the weight of a baby plus special pregnancy hormones can mess shit up, so I wanted to write about my experience in the hope that others need not go down the same path. I think once we women have the baby we kind of forget about our pregnancy issues and don’t tell our pregnant lady friends to be aware that it can get bad and to keep an eye on it.
I won’t bore you with the details, except for this whole post, where I will bore you with the details. (I LOVED reading big long stories like this when I was researching my injury, I would voraciously inhale every detail in the hope it would help or relate to me. So, feel absolutely free not to read on if this topic has absolutely nothing to do with you. Bye babe. Love you!)
So… It began back in the summer of 2014, when the melodious strains of Avicii’s Wake Me Up had domination on the wireless and ice cream was popular. I was in my second trimester and started to feel:
- A niggling ache in my left hip region
- Worsening pain when I walked
- Sore pelvis/groin something-in-that-area
- Pain when sitting
- Like some more chocolate, actually
For the most part, I just tropped on like a fool, assuming the baby weight was making stuff sore, but that was standard. As it got worse I had some physio and did some clinical pilates, and I did my pelvic floor exercises, wore support shorts, and even switched physios, but opposing opinions and, I think, a general ambivalence about the enormous array of issues under the umbrella term, ‘pelvic instability’ and the expectation of loosey-goosey joints that stem from all the relaxin shuffling through your body during pregnancy led to nothing much being done, except being told to stop lifting stuff, no walking for longer than necessary and no more exercising.
I get the sense a lot of preggos get these sort of pains and they are told the same thing, but I urge you to keep getting treatment and consider a new health professional if you’re not getting any relief or it gets worse or spreads. I left it too long and paid the price. (Approx $4.95.)
The pain got far worse as the weeks went on, it was now in my groin and back, and once I realised I was limping non-stop (around 34 weeks) I saw a third physio, who immediately put me on crutches for the last five weeks of my pregnancy, which sucked a doz. (Some women are given wheelchairs, so I got off lightly.) (Also: Imagine being on crutches plus pregnancy plus having other children! Christ on a cracker!)
Me on crutches. Thankfully the filthy paps were there to document it. Phew!
(Hair looks shit cos it was in the setting phase of keratin smoothing. Beanie worn to hide it. Beanie ride up and become gnome hat. No hands free to tug it down. Good fun.)
I assumed once my baby was out the issue would rack off, (like my gestational diabetes did – magic! ) but it didn’t, it became inflamed again within a couple of weeks. I noticed I was limping again after something as nothingy as a walk around the block to get some fresh air, I got very shirty indeed, and my husband and I asked everyone in the world we knew who could help. Professional athletes and personal trainers especially. (Bakers and hairdressers not so much.) I dearly wished to roam the streets with Sonny for sanity and exercise and to buy more cake.
NO TO PHYSIO, YO TO OSTEO
I had a bad taste in my mouth from physios so I decided to try an Osteo by the name of Daniela Distefano in Bulleen (Melbourne). I’d been recommended her as she specialises in pregnancy and paediatric Osteo. Long story short, Daniela is absolutely phenomenal and I pretty much attribute my recovery to her. Dan and I have become friends, we gossip about Survivor endlessly, and we both know all the words to every TLC song. See her if you live in Melbourne and have these kind of issues, whether pregnant or post-partum or whatever. She’ll kill me for that cos she is already booked solid until 2089 but I love recommending good things and people.
From having never tried osteopathy, I am now evangelical. Dan quickly got me getting X-rays and MRIs etc and as she suspected, it was chicken pox. No, wait. It was Osteitis Pubis, a chronic pubic condition caused by inflammation of the pubic symphysis (the joint between the left and right pubic bones), erosion of the joints, and calcification of the muscles joined to it. Also had fracture of the left pubis and tendinitis of the adductors and glutes blah blah blah. Osteitis pubis is a common overuse injury in runners and AFL footballers, which figures since I kicked heaps of footballs ’round while preggo. It’s complicated to treat though, the pelvic girdle and surrounds is so brilliant and complex and so much of the body’s movement stems from it.
Using soft tissue, myofascial release, muscle energy techniques and articulation, Dan has helped me get movement back in the pubic symphysis and greatly improve the biomechanics of my pelvis and lower back. I began complementing this with weekly Myotherapy sessions (very strong, uncomfortable sports massage), with Rick Saunders in Richmond. This helped with the crazy tightness, and the strengthening exercises he gave me to do each day (to open the hips and strengthen the glutes) have helped loads. His philosophy: it’s an instability issue. What’s the opposite of unstable? Strong. So make it strong, woman!
People with OP get very, very down about it, because it can take a very, very long time to heal, and may never heal, in fact. I was in a bit of a dark place one day, suffering cabin fever and unable to walk without pain even upstairs to put Sonny down for his naps, (holding his delicious, pudgy frame was “unadvisable” in general because it inflamed things … I’m all like, yo, have you seen him? He’s impossible not to hold and squish) so I went into Nuclear Google Mode, which is like normal Googling, but with desperation, caffeine and no set time limit on finding what you want.
THE MAGIC MAN
After hours on far too many AFL and running forums I discovered Garry Miritis, who is known for “curing” OP. He was Cathy Freeman’s masseuse her entire career and is very OP-focused. People have flown from all over the world to have him treat / fix their OP. I’d read he was no longer practicing because he’d had surgery on his hands and back, but piffed him an email all the same. He called me and offered me a massage that weekend. I was SO, EXCITED. Fixed? Really? In one massage? Shut your big gorgeous mouth.
I went to his home in suburban Melbourne and had the most painful ‘sports massage’ one can probably have and it still be legally called a massage and not ‘torture’. Garry is a lovely, kindhearted, generous, wise, inspiring man who should not still be doing treatments due to ongoing hand and back surgeries, and does very few of them in fact (he took pity on me being in so much pain with a new baby, for which I am very grateful) which is a crying shame, because he has a very, very special gift. He spent 12 years perfecting his osteitis pubis treatment, nay, fix in which he manipulates and pushes the pubic symphysis back into alignment. This has resulted in professional athletes getting back on the field after being told their career was over, and mums going on to have three or four kids with no further pubis issues. I must have asked him at least 10 times, “You ARE training someone in this, right?” but he would just laugh. Oh, Garry.
In the days following Garry’s work, I felt incredible. I dared to believe I was healed, (the mind is a big player in chronic injury, something Garry is very adamant about) but when the pain snuck back in, I requested one more treatment. Gaz obliged and the same thing happened again, after a few PAIN FREE!!!!!! days, a niggle came back, but in a new area, up higher, on the iliac crest. Two weeks later I saw Dan The Osteo, and while Garry had done incredible things for my PS and pelvic floor and adductors, because of the very rapid, strong change to the biomechanics of my pelvis and hips, the surrounding joints and ligaments had decompensated, because they were so used to holding the fort while my pubic symphysis was out of whack, that when it went so rapidly back into whack, they toppled over in exhaustion. It was pain, but it was progress pain. Huzzah!
Obviously it’s shitty of me to talk up Garry because as I mentioned, he is not taking new clients (especially since he has just undergone more surgery) but there are others around with OP specialisation, and they are the ones you need if you have OP. Not others, them. Because OP is highly specialised.
WHERE IT’S ALL AT NOW
That was three months ago and despite a much better sacroiliac joint (lower back) and stronger glutes I still have pain each day around my iliac crest, hips and groin, and the inflammation worsens with bad weather (really!) period pain (unfair!) and overuse (IKEA visits!) but it is much, much better. I have some hip bone stuff I’ll need to keep an eye on but with strength I should be able avoid that worsening.
I now only see Dan every 2-3 weeks, and Rick every now and then. I get acupuncture and massage when possible. I can walk for about an hour without pain. No running yet. I do my strengthening exercises and stretches and all that boring stuff every second day, but it’s that boring stuff that is working.
Soon, SOON, I will be back to the dang gym! A year after farewelling its sweet, sweaty walls.
THESE THINGS HELPED
- Theraband exercises and stretches given to me by Osteo
- Wearing Solidea compression shorts during pregnancy, and their recovery shorts for six weeks after birth.
- Heat packs.
- Pelvic floor exercises. You know the ones.
- Regular Sports massage by a gun massage therapist.
- Putting shoes on while seated.
- One at a time up stairs.
- Not aggravating things by walking around Baby Bunting to try and finish the nursery.
THESE THINGS DIDN’T
- Bubble blowing
Apologies for the essay. I guess the headline is that you mustn’t tough it out assuming it’s “normal” to feel incredible pain when you’re preggo or post-partum, or be afraid to try a new specialist or a new kind of specialist if you have pain that isn’t getting any better. I highly recommend that whoever you see specialises in pregnancy issues, too. Don’t just suck it up. I did. Silly. And don’t assume it will rack off once you’re post-partum: your body is still behaving like it’s pregnant for quite some time after giving birth.
Fun fact: My OB-GYN told me that while you still have the dark line going down your tummy, your body is still very much in ‘pregnancy mode’ and the relaxin is still flowing.
Unfun fact: The dishes need doing.
What did you wish you’d known about pregnancy? Or, more importantly, what would you like to warn other preggos about?
Aside: Hypoxi has been my saving grace while I have not been able to exercise. I signed on as ambassador while still pregnant and could have had no idea how much I would rely on it once Sonny was out and I was cleared to get on the machines. (I had to wait until Dan was happy with the inflammation levels of my pubis – around 12 weeks post-partum.) Even just that 30 mins light pedalling felt fantastic. PLUS I get toned without doing a zillion lunges. PLUS it firmed me up and I lost weight. PLUS, it means I know it works, cos I got results without any complementary exercise. Win win winnnn!