Post-partum joint pain and other pregnancy pleasures

I’ve been feeling like an old woman these last few weeks. My ankles, knees, elbows and, particularly, wrists and knuckles ache. I’m very bad in the mornings, when it’s hard to hobble downstairs. I sometimes find it hard to grip and lift things, especially with my left arm. My concept of time is a bit rubbish at the moment, so I can’t remember what the pain was like before I stopped expressing, but it’s definitely at its worst now.

I’ve been avoiding looking this up, wondering if the steroids have caused osteoporosis (which does happen to some women post-fertility treatment due to long-term use of steroids and other meds). I had a test for this 13 or 14 years ago and was told I was at risk of osteoporosis in later life. I’ve also been wondering if it was rheumatoid arthritis or similar or some immune thing caused by the fertility drugs/pregnancy/my crazy immune system. Last night, my mind was concocting scenarios in which I was no longer able to type and make a living.

So, this morning I googled “joint pain after pregnancy” and it turns out it’s a thing, thank the universe. It may be down to pregnancy hormones depleting or relaxin doing its job, and many of the ladies who posted on various pregnancy sites seemed to notice it around the four-month mark. Lots of GPs don’t seem to recognise what’s going on and girls are sent off for blood tests for arthritis and auto-immune disorders.

I’m going to assume that post-partum arthralgia, as it’s called, is what I’ve got and just wait for it to subside. Another thing they don’t tell you about pregnancy.

I’ve also had a headache for the last couple of weeks, pretty much constantly, but I think that’s down to something else. The blood pressure saga has reared its ugly head again. When I was discharged from the BP clinic at the maternity hospital, the doctor told me to get a full check done in a month’s time, including bloods and a 24-hour BP monitoring. I had the monitoring done last month and, to my surprise, the bottom number (as in the 80 of 120/80, the diastolic measure) was high. The drama previously has been about the upper number, the systolic reading.

So, my GP wants me to go on ACE inhibitors. I was pretty taken aback by this. I’m only 43 and taking drugs for the next 40-odd years wasn’t in my plan. The GP explained that this was probably more about genetics than lifestyle and that her family was the same; her sister had to go on BP meds after a pregnancy.

My Dad’s had a few strokes, so I don’t want to be irresponsible, especially as I’m now the single mother of a new baby. Yet, I’m still a bit reluctant to go on meds for the rest of my life on the basis of one 24-hour analysis (one that missed a few readings for whatever reason). The GP argued that the analysis was done when I was at home, with little activity and stress, and that taking a small pill with very limited side effects was preferable to the damage that might be done.

I suggested making lifestyle changes (which are really more about exercise for me, as my diet is quite good; I don’t smoke and hardly drink now; and I don’t have weight on) and coming back to her in six months to see if there was an improvement. She said no, and no again to three months. We agreed on a month, which would have started around 1 August. But, of course, I’ve been lazy/busy and have done little. I was to get bloods taken at the hospital at the same time as the monitoring but haven’t done that yet either. Plans to go back spinning in the evening have been dashed by my boy’s recent refusal to sleep during the day, meaning I’m having to work at night. Mainly, it’s down to a lack of enthusiasm and organisation, though. The pain in my old joints is not motivating me to get out and exercise, though I see some of the ladies on the forums found exercise helped.

It may not sound like it but I am taking this seriously and suspect the writing is on the wall: meds it’s probably going to be. The only thing up for grabs is whether I humour myself for a month and try to make a difference before caving to the inevitable and getting the drugs.

I have been ticking things off a post-pregnancy to-do list (baby’s passport, child benefit, a new will and so on). This has been a slightly unexpected addition to the list for sure.

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