In July 2018, nearly two years after the birth of my first child, Douglas, I was diagnosed with a very rare condition called Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis (PAO).
Osteoporosis associated with pregnancy is a rare condition when bones break easily, usually in the spine, or occasionally the hip, around the time a woman is giving birth.
Experiencing a fracture
Douglas was born in October 2016 and about six weeks later I started to experience severe pain, which although I didn’t know at the time, was because I had fractured two vertebrae. I couldn’t bend over the crib, I couldn’t pick him up, I couldn’t change him, and I couldn’t get the buggy in and out of our flat. I also couldn’t believe that this was what becoming a Mum was all about and that no one had told me how physically debilitating it was.
Getting a diagnosis
As is often the case before Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis is diagnosed, everyone around me put my symptoms down to post-natal depression. But about three months after Douglas was born and the pain was slightly better, I found the strength to realise that something wasn’t right and I went to see my GP.
After a long journey of scans, tests, x-rays and seeing various consultants, I was told that I had fractured two vertebrae. It was a bittersweet moment – for the first time I realised I hadn’t made up my pain and that what I had experienced was not normal, yet I was also being diagnosed with osteoporosis at the age of 40. I felt let down that it had taken so long to get a diagnosis.
Life with Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis
Unlike many other women I know with this condition, after about two years I felt almost completely normal and was able to complete Couch to 5k. With no medical interventions, I had made great gains in my bone density and pain levels.
Following conversations with various specialists, I was then able to go on and have a second child and Chloe was born in 2019. During my pregnancy, I was monitored very closely and I don’t think anyone expected me to fracture again because it’s less usual for this to happen. However, about six weeks after Chloe was born in January 2020, I fractured two more vertebrae.
Life in lockdown
Looking after a three-month-old and a three-year-old, with a fractured spine and no support from family or friends during lockdown, was hard physically and emotionally. My husband Mike has been brilliant though – when I couldn’t look after the children, he would, so that I could rest – despite being in a job that became busier than ever during lockdown.
Aside from experiencing daily pain in my back, I’ve also lost three inches in height. The impact on mental health is also very real – there’s big things like feeling guilty about how it affects being a Mum, as well as small things like not wanting to leave my house in ice and snow.
It’s still very unclear what impact osteoporosis will have on me in the future and what the best course of treatment is because there is no standard treatment. I’m hopeful though, that after COVID, everything will become much clearer.
Find out more
It’s not clear why some women suddenly develop fragile skeletons at the time of pregnancy and research has so far failed to provide clear answers. Read about our priorities for research, which include underlying mechanisms such as Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis.
Find out more about Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis and talk to your healthcare professional if you have concerns. You can also call our Helpline on 0808 800 0035 to talk to one of our Specialist Nurses.