Time Out

I have posted previously about the importance of taking time and the impacts as well as benefits blogging can hold for mental health.

I did not intend to be absent for so long following my latest posts, but as a result of exploring such intimate trauma, the cathartic release was accompanied by a period of unpublished contemplation. Although such breaks in blog content are not recommended for successful blogging, it proved both sensible and necessary for self care and revealed an element of personal progress.

In the past, breaks in blogging have resulted in an acute sense of anxiety, that trying to ‘cut it’ as a blogger was going to be futile and that I had no voice. I am grateful to those of you who have diligently followed my blogging meanderings and gave me the confidence to share my story.

This was not done out of a notion of having a unique perspective or experience with mental health or rape culture, but from the belief that the narrative surrounding both needs to change and that dialogue is the only way to make that change. I felt I couldn’t shy away from partaking in that dialogue just because the story I had to share was my own and I feared comments, doubt and judgement. I hoped to empower and encourage others that they have a voice, that is not just entitled to be heard but also believed.

Writing the post felt like a counselling session with myself, an  opportunity to explore not only what had happened but also why, without assigning blame or chastising myself, just a chance to acknowledge the events in their entirety.

This is what I love about blogging, the ability to verbalise, reflect upon and then (through the act of hitting ‘publish’) to actively send thoughts, words and hurt away from yourself. I feel like I have expelled one of my strongest demons, one of the most potent predators for my mental health, the trauma now trailing as whispers of grey smoke behind me, not as a black smoggy shadow hovering at my shoulder.

This expulsion resulted in the acknowledged hiatus, but rather than being accompanied by anxiety, I have experienced a tranquility that has been absent for many years.

I am still surprised by feelings of contentment and happiness which reminds me that my healing is not yet complete, but the opportunity for expression that blogging has provided me has brought about positive changes.

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Understanding Your Triggers

Personally, I think it is really important to try and gain understanding of the underlying triggers of my mental health. Counselling and active listening support is geared towards searching experiences and triggers to try and tackle the root of what makes an individual react to stimulus the way they do. I’m not necessarily expecting to find any answers to ‘why’ certain things make me feel a certain way or experience flashbacks like those I described yesterday and often the trigger itself can be pretty illusive. For me it is about being proactive with my recovery and using these negative episodes towards positively exploring and improving my mental wellbeing.

I have shared several of my coping strategies with you before, especially relating to work and anxiety, and the importance of reflection to help you become aware of how certain stimuli make you feel so that you can understand and prepare for encountering that trigger. Recovery is hard, but finding the strength to keep on pushing and stretching the boundaries your mental illness is trying to inflict and delving into these painful and emotional episodes and experiences is a great step in regaining control when it feels that your mind is invading and imposing itself on your daily life.

Reflections from Yesterday

My latest post stemmed from a reoccurrence of physical and emotional reactions resulting from past trauma. Time had lapsed considerably since I last experienced these particular responses and it came as a surprise, which surprised me more because though I have never expected to not be conscious of this trauma, I had thought that it had stopped encroaching on my marriage and daily life.

Why with the time that has elapsed and with the slow yet steady progress in my recovery am I suddenly back to flashbacks, recoiling and responding as if I were still in that negative situation?

As I said above, the triggers are often illusive, which makes delving into them rather difficult. What I have surmised at this stage it is most likely connected to the pregnancy. It is after all a particularly significant change; physical, emotional and mental.

I hope that unpacking pregnancy as I explore my personal trigger  (for this particular instance at least) will help demonstrate how you can gain understanding, and hopefully begin to feel in control, of  your triggers.

Assessing Triggers

1.Hormones: Menstration, Pregnancy and Otherwise

Mentally during pregnancy there are a whole host of hormones flying around which in turn generate a lot of intense and varied emotions. Beyond pregnancy it is very common to have hormones impact upon mental health. For women especially (although men experience fluctuations of hormones as well) mental health can be strongly affected by their menstrual cycle. Certain contraceptive methods have been frequently discussed in relation to menstruation and mental health, but I have not researched this enough to feel confident to comment on this area yet. My own personal experiences would however lean in favour of this and I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.

2. Intimacy

Regarding my personal experience, intimacy plays a big part. Mental illness to one side, it has been a significant part of my recovery  from that trauma to be confidently intimate with my husband. If I can react so strongly to the man who I married, the first I had encountered to put my needs above his, and who I trust most in the world… it’s not surprising that intimacy can be such a strong trigger.

Again let’s look at this from within and without the context of pregnancy.

For me, pregnancy is the current trigger for recent expressions of trauma and intimacy is a factor in this. I am fortunate not to have a partner who bemoans the decline and physical barriers to intercourse. In fact as someone who experienced coercion and assault for this reason in the past, I don’t even want to contemplate the impact that situation would have on my mental health.

Of course, there are many ways to be intimate during pregnancy that do not involve sex. In fact, intimacy doesn’t need to be physical at all although it is snuggling, cuddling, kissing and so forth that we associate with the term most. These physical displays of intimacy can also be affected by pregnancy as there are many scenarios when being touched and having contact can be uncomfortable.

Insomnia, vivid dreams, restricted sleeping positions reduce snuggling and by extension not being able to sit comfortably on the sofa, let alone cuddle up watching a film. Then there’s the hot flushes and hot summer days (like this one!), finding your own skin oppressive without the addition of the loving hands of your partner.

Then there’s other people’s hands. I don’t get it… I had people touching my stomach before I even had a bump (not that having a developing human inside you warrants any uninvited anything at anytime).

Short story, someone tried to touch my bump recently, missed and hit my breast instead…

People touching you without cause or consent is not just a pregnancy problem. There are many individuals who are very tactile and there are many who are not and we all need to do better at being aware of other people’s boundaries and respecting them.

3. Consent

Touching of bumps, accidental breast taps and being hugged when you don’t like hugs are just examples that can be swapped for any of an entire plethora of interactions. The topic of consent could provide content for entire blog sites, here I’m going to frame it in the context of control.

I find that control is one of my biggest triggers, in fact it can usually be found a few layers beneath the surface of triggering situations and events that I identify.

Feeling in control is a driver for lots of behaviours, and is particularly relevant to mental illness, especially anxiety. I certainly find that my anxiety is fed by scenarios that I cannot plan for, surprise or sudden events or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of potential outcomes, variables and so on.

In the course of writing this post I have concluded that the factor of control is the trigger for my present experience. At the beginning I mentioned an awareness that the pregnancy was likely influencing my flashbacks. But pregnancy is a very broad subject and whilst for some the physiology of being pregnant can be a trigger for various reasons, I knew for me that it wasn’t the pregnancy itself that was triggering the flashbacks but something associated with it.

Behavioural responses to the flashbacks (and by extension the trigger) began about two weeks ago. So for five months of gestation this pregnancy was not impacting  my mental wellbeing.

What changed?

Over the past couple of weeks I have moved from researching pregnancy, nutrition, exercises and so forth, to focusing on birth. For the first time I am contemplating what my version of a birth plan is and what that entails and looking in depth at the dynamics of delivery.

That’s the key phrase right there: dynamics of delivery. That is not the biology of giving birth, but the interactions and interventions that the majority of birthing women contend with.

Most of these belong (and will feature) in another post, but there is an aspect I want to end with. Whilst there are a lot of women who are content with their birthing experience there are a growing number who are not and from where I am looking, it seems in many instances to boil down to consent and, thereby, control.

As a first time mum labour is a completely unknown entity, and even for women expecting their second, third or fourteen child, the labour and birth experience come with no guarantees. Every woman,  pregnancy and birth is unique which is what makes it beautiful and daunting at the same time, with potential to impact (positively or negatively) upon mental wellbeing.

There are certain interventions in a medicated delivery that are now so routine they have become automatic, challenging notions of choice, consent and control.

Just as I am aware that I have an increased likelihood of postpartum depression because of my mental health history, I am aware that physical examinations may pose as a trigger for me because of past trauma.

I intend to explore both of these aspects more fully over the final months of this pregnancy in preparation for myself and as part of an investigation into mental health during pregnancy.

 

How It Didn’t End

Trigger Warning: This post contains references to rape, assault, and suicidal thoughts.
This is a personal story being shared as part of personal recovery.

Two and a Half Years Ago

In moments of particular emotional stress I seem to regress back to the time of a previous abusive relationship. I hate that it happens and it actually hadn’t occurred for months until last week. During these moments I seem to get very disorientated as to where I am and who I am with. I start confusing facts and memories and muddle Samuel with aspects of my abusive ex. It’s stupid little things, mainly revolving around food for some reason. Food seems to have been one of the greatest impacts that my ex had on me, until a few weeks ago I actually hadn’t cooked anything for over two years. Whilst he hated everything that I made, I am still not sure why the relationship had such a drastic and lasting impact on this aspect of my life.

In the general I start muddling likes and dislikes, subconsciously remembering things about my ex and projecting them on to Samuel. This is not the only way that the past invades our marriage. In more severe instances I will actually flinch when Samuel approaches and recoil if he touches me.

None of this is conscious. I am not afraid of Samuel. He is the one man that I feel safe around and the one person that I trust completely. I wasn’t even aware of the flinching until recently when he observed that I had started doing it again. I can’t even imagine how it must feel for him when this happens and I hate the fact that my ex still lurks in my subconscious and even now infiltrates my marriage. Especially when, I at least, am certain that if it wasn’t for Samuel, I wouldn’t actually be here at all.

From Anxiety to Suicide

As I have become increasingly aware of my mental health over the past few years, I realised that anxiety and suicidal thoughts have been constant shadows. I  developed anxiety in childhood and contemplated suicide on a number of occasions throughout my teens. Creative writing seemed to maintain an equilibrium and although I  experienced panic attacks which at times culminated in suicidal thoughts, overall I my mental health was stable.

The stresses and pressures of starting university had no qualitive impact, but when I entered into a relationship during my third year, the panic attacks started becoming more frequent  and started to interfere not only with my studies but my daily life. I would struggle to leave the flat, attend lectures and had no concentration for studying. My grades started to fall.

There is still so much of that relationship that I just don’t understand. To ourselves and, to my knowledge, to others we seemed a perfectly happy couple but when we disagreed it could become very vicious. Lots of couples argue, some even fight, and there were wrong-doings on both sides. But (I realise with the power of hindsight), as the relationship developed, he began to get subtly manipulative. What really should have been an alarm bell for me was when we’d had a discussion about what would happen if I became pregnant and he told me that he would feed me abortion cookies if I was adamant about keeping the child. I have no idea what he planned to put in these, or why I didn’t recognise this as a severe lack of compassion and respect for my body or my rights, but a few months down the line I was going to learn exactly how little right he considered I had over my body.

I paid for missing that warning. It is an example of what can be very difficult for many listeners or observers to understand, that individuals experiencing any form of abuse do not always recognise it as such, especially if it is not physical and escalates very gradually. I don’t know why I stayed with him or how I missed these earlier signs, but eventually it evolved into stalking, coercion and, eventually, rape.

At that point, I finally packed a bag and walked away, ending up homeless for a few months and fortunate to have friends who were able to let me stay for a couple of weeks at a time.

When I found a new flat, I thought that everything was behind me. Although my grades and university attendance had suffered, I was entering my final year with a recoverable average. But then I was sexually assaulted on my way home from work on Halloween and harassed by two individuals for the following six months.

These events had an accumulative effect and my anxiety reached a point were I was relying on adrenaline to function. As I mentioned above, my panic attacks are frequently accompanied by suicidal thoughts and these were growing increasingly invasive.

Deciding Not to Die

I was fortunate to have not developed a plan and that my encounters with suicide remained contemplative and not active. I believe this is due to the timing of meeting Samuel.

Samuel and I first met in the last few months of my degree, just as my dissertation was falling due. My coping mechanism is avoidance, which is very far from ideal when you have 12,000 words to produce and are rapidly running out of time. I had not been taking care of myself at all over the past semester, I wasn’t eating proper meals and my flat had no heating throughout Edinburgh’s experience of February. Samuel and I had just started dating and he suggested that I stay with him and his brother so that he could make sure I ate whilst I spent the last two weeks before my deadline finishing my dissertation.

I have very little recollection of what occurred over those final two weeks. All I know is that despite what felt and appeared like focused hard work, I did not have a dissertation at the end of them.

After a final weekend of very little sleep and a 12 hour long panic attack, I was at crisis point. Alone in the living room of the flat Samuel rented with his brother, I was hysterical and exhausted, feeling that I had let everybody down, feeling unable to face my family and feeling that I had no way out of the situation. The fear and desperation in what felt like a frozen moment was agonising.

Perhaps my subconscious intervened.

Through a renewed panic attack with my chest tightening and feeling unable to breathe, I stumbled to Samuel’s room.  It was still early in the morning and he was asleep, but suddenly, for the first time since I was 13, death no longer felt like an option.

Samuel didn’t physically say or do anything that changed my mind, he simply represented a future beyond that moment of immense despair. As far as I am concerned, he saved my life.

‘my suffering reached a critical mass of desperation: either I was going to kill myself or a completely different way was going to be revealed’
(
Women Food and God, G. Roth, 2011, p.24) 

Because of the pause that seeing Samuel, the person who had provided me with a safe space, had created, and with suicide not being an option in that moment, I suddenly had to do something else. I finally reached out to the mental health support services at the university and the medical profession and together they opened up an alternative future.

I didn’t submit a dissertation in 2016, and I almost had a complete relapse when I finally submitted something and graduated in 2017. But by that time I was married and now am expecting a baby, and living a life that following my experiences of 2015, I had given up all hope of ever having.

If you are seeking mental health support, the Samaritans are free to call from any phone, any time, on 116 123. You do not have to be suicidal to call them. 

 

Medical Update

Friday 13th is perhaps not the most reassuring date for a hospital visit.

I am so grateful for the NHS and medical teams in Scotland. At all my many hospital trips over the past few months the nurses and doctors have been attentive, listened and smiled.

This year celebrates 70 years of the NHS, providing free healthcare to the entire UK. There are funding, staffing and overtime issues, but we are better off with it than without and it is so important to remember all the medical staff who work so hard and such long hours to keep it going. I felt I had to give them a heartfelt mention.

Today’s Update

If there ever was a kidney stone, there certainly isn’t one now.

Thankfully I have had no flank pain for almost a month, and the ultrasound scan two weeks ago showed no swelling and all blood and urine tests have been clear of infection.

The suggestion currently is that baby is lying on a nerve or some other vessel which is what causes the sporadic cramping when I urinate.

Whether baby is responsible for the constant abdominal pain that was perplexing doctors 4 weeks ago is something I am still doubtful about. He would have had to have been lying on the same place for an awfully long time to generate such continual severe pain. (I know he doesn’t stay in the same place for long as, since I have started to feel his movements, I can feel him wriggle around in accordance to the flares up of cramping I am experiencing).

A nurse did scan my bladder and found a little retained fluid, but the doctor explained that the machine can pick up amniotic fluid by mistake. So essentially there is fluid in my abdomen which may or may not be meant to be there…

Fun Facts

As ever though, with each appointment a little more knowledge and understanding is gleaned.

Although you won’t find much information out there about kidney stones in pregnancy (I hope to post up something shortly to rectify this) there is a trend between pregnancy and kidney stones because:

1: your body produces more blood so you kidneys are filtering a higher quantity than usual.

2: more calcium is passing through your kidneys, increasing the possibility of it crystallising and forming a stone.

3: in addition to your kidneys working extra for you they are also working for baby for the first 10 weeks as the fetus has no kidneys of its own at that time.

We all know how important hydration is, especially in pregnancy but it really is the most effective prevention against developing kidney stones.

I also learned a fun fact about kidney ultrasounds today (you can see I have had too many appointments as I am now describing this information as ‘fun’).

I mentioned in a previous post about that ultrasound is considered less effective but of course considerably safer during pregnancy than x-rays. Today the doctor inform me that the ultrasound scan is 90% effective and that what the sonographer is aiming to identify is any swelling or puffiness of the kidney itself, or any signs of blockage within the tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder.

As long as there is no blockage, kidney stones will be left to pass by themselves (I have a whole post on pain management during pregnancy which you can find here) which is usual treatment for kidney stones in non-pregnant patients as well (although they have more options for pain management). It is soley down to pain management that leads to the hospalisation of pregnant women with kidney stones.

If stones are particularly large, there is swelling or a potential blockage, urologists will consider treatment. Ultrasound may be used to break up the stone or surgery may be considered.

The doctor today mentioned (to my surprise) that had swelling been detected at the ultrasound the temple would have considered an x-ray and that the risk to my unborn child is negligible… bearing in mind that I am a completely untrained with no medical background whatsoever… I’m not convinced by that, especially given the information from other doctors I have seen. But I do imagine that there may be extreme circumstances where the risk to mum not having the procedure may be more than the risk the procedure holds for baby.

Conclusions

The matter seems to be put to bed for the time being. We can move forward with the confidence and reassurance that both baby and I are healthy and that everything is functioning as it should.

Now I can relax, hope baby stops elbowing my bladder or whatever he’s doing to cause this periodic cramping and just enjoy the rest of my pregnancy (despite the unabating nausea…).

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am just relaying personal experience and the information that has been given to me by doctors, nurses and that I have uncovered through my own research. As I could find very little online when I first started this unpleasant process I hope that by creating these posts I might be able to assist somebody else. 

 

Prognosis, Prognosis, Will We Get a Diagnosis?

Since my last post, there have been no more surprise hospital visits, but a lot has been going on.

In addition to having an anatomy scan, with everything that has been happening we decided we wanted to know if there had been any effect on the pregnancy. Although we would have gone to term regardless, it gave us peace of mind, and just as the baby kicks had done, it made the pain of the past few weeks, disappear from my memory.

It is often banded about that you forget the pain of labour and discomfort of pregnancy once you have delivered your beautiful baby, and clearly that can happen during the pregnancy as well.

Upon feeling my baby kick for the first time, I couldn’t remember the intensity of the pain I had been feeling for weeks before.

At this time, I have been off sick from work for a month. I had a kidney scan last week, an ultrasound is the only safe way to view the kidneys during pregnancy, as I detailed in my posts on pain and medication in pregnancy.

Good news! There was nothing visibly concerning about my kidneys, so despite being in hospital with severe pain within my renal system a month ago, the cause (whether it was a kidney stone or not) seems to have passed and left no impact on these vital organs.

Where Does This Leave Us?

On Friday, I have another hospital appointment, this time at the urology unit.

The pain has thankfully decreased in frequency and intensity, but I still have seemingly random flare ups.

In addition to the obvious relief that two of my vital organs are functioning as they should and have come through unscathed, the results of the kidney scan mean that I can know park that suggested cause at the hospital door.

The aspect that has caused most confusion (and thus distress for this mum-to-be) is that with a kidney stone (as was first assumed) there is the intense pain that I experienced during my first hospital trip and then the pain decreases and passes along with the stone. What it does not do, is sit, constantly in the centre of your lower abdomen.

This is what was happening for the first 2 weeks, between our two midnight visits to hospital. As I mentioned, it has lessoned since then, from being constant to arising every few days.

This past week especially, it appears to have been most intense when urinating, as an acute cramping sensation. This has not been accompanied by any of the usual symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), a burning or stinging sensation whilst passing urine.

So, whilst UTIs are really common in pregnancy, I think you can sense the scepticism I am feeling towards that prognosis.

We’ll see if we can get a more concrete idea of what is occurring on Friday…

Medication in Pregnancy

I thought it was about time I put all these hospital visits to good use. I have now been prescribed pretty much everything you can be prescribed for pain during pregnancy (in the UK), and had numerous doctors explain to me what medications I can and cannot take.

I hope that this post will help you gain a little more information about medications during your pregnancy experience and reduce the amount of scrolling through the world-wide web.

This post covers Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Codeine and Co-codamol.

Where This Post Began

For those of you who have been following my pregnancy journey, you will know that 3 weeks ago I was in the Out of Hours clinic at the hospital, and then the maternity unit in the next town. This resulted in a diagnosis of renal colic, likely resulting from a kidney stone.

I discussed how pregnant women can become more susceptible to kidney stones (although there is no increased risk associaed with pregnancy) because of the extra pressure all your organs undergo during gestation.

Kidney stones can take a while to pass by themselves and treatment, both of the stone and of the accompanying pain, are limited during pregnancy. X-rays are the most reliable screening test (although ultrasound can be used with mixed results), but of course radiation would never be used anywhere near a developing fetus.

Pain Relief: Paracetamol, Codeine and Co-codamol

Due to the extreme agony of renal colic and the limited options for pain relief in pregnancy (under usual circumstances Paracetamol is the maximum and then recommended to be used as little as possible), it is very common for women to be admitted to hospital if they develop stones during pregnancy.

Medications containing Codeine should only be used under  prescription during pregnancy because it contains opiates, and should not be taken at all during the first and third trimesters as it is during these developmental stages that baby will be most effected by its use.

I was prescribed Co-codamol (which combines Codeine and Paracetamol) because if you have ever had renal colic you will be aware that regular painkillers just don’t touch it.

Unfortunately, I did not react well to these tablets (and to be perfectly  honest was not keen on taking even prescribed medication with opiates in it). They made me dizzy, disoriented and extremely nauseous. They numbed the pain beautifully, but made me completely disfunctional.

When you react negatively to Co-codamol, you just plain react badly to it. Attempts to reduce the dosage and prescriptions of straight Codeine, are unlikely to have any different results.

What are Your Alternatives? 

Whilst the tablets reduced the pain  enough for me to deliver walking tours, the side effects would have made me a health and safety nightmare. With my additional reluctance over what the tablets contained, I stopped taking them and headed off to the doctor.

She prescribed just straight Paracetamol and told me that to make it effective, I would need to keep on taking it every 4 to 6 hour. As you will note from the link above, this is not ideal.

Ibuprofen should also always be taken with care, not for prolonged periods, and is ideally completely avoided during pregnancy.

So in answer to the initial question, there are very few alternative options.

When (as in this instance) screening tests make you certain that the pain is not related to baby (always a relief to any expecting parent) it is the case that the pain is not a complication of the pregnancy, but that treatment of the cause is complicated because of the pregnancy.

Personal Update and Notes on Buscopan

This was my final alternative for the pain I was experiencing. For two weeks following the initial hospital visit, the pain became gradually less severe and to my relief I was able to manage it without going near Codeine.

But last week, suddenly the pain spiked once again and rather than occurring centrally, moved around to my back, concerning me that it was kidney related. Once again, we ended up with a midnight trip to hospital, numerous blood tests and multiple medical opinions.

There seemed to be some surprise that I had received the diagnosis of kidney stones without any screening tests (as I mentioned above, you won’t be x-rayed during pregnancy due to radiation, but ultrasounds can be used, although they are less effective in this area).  Currently, I have been re-diagnosed with constant, considerable abdominal pain of unknown cause.

After a lengthy but pleasant discussion with the doctor, there was one final painkiller we could try, Buscopan. This was because of the new conclusion that the pain wasn’t renal and the guess was that perhaps it could be bowel related.

Buscopan is usually used to treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), menstrual cramping and other forms of cramps and internal spasms. For the majority, it has no side effects making it a suitable alternative for those who react negatively to Codeine. There is, however, a very long list of instances in which you should not take Buscopan, and like Ibuprofen it is not a solution for long term pain relief.

Where We Are at Present

Ultimately, it is feasible that 3 weeks ago when the first round of hospital trips and tests began, I did have something (the professional jury still seems to be out as to whether it was a stone or not) irritating my kidneys, but although I am still experiencing considerable abdominal discomfort, it is now unlikely to be kidney related.

I am relieved, kidneys are vital organs and no one wants there to be something wrong with them. Whilst it is daunting to be experiencing unexplained abdominal pain, it is reassuring to know that all the blood tests have come back clear, showing that the kidneys are functioning properly. These blood tests also indicate that there is not infection or inflammation, which suggests that if there was a kidney stone, it is not the cause of this current pain and that it isn’t a urinary tract infection (UTI) or anything else too be overly worried about.

This is good news because it is when these (otherwise unrelated conditions) result in infections or fevers that they can start to impact the developing fetus.

I can gain comfort from a referral to get an ultrasound scan on my kidneys next week. 

As ever, if you are experiencing any medical concerns, always seek professional assistance. 

 

Pain in Pregnancy: It Isn’t Always Wind!

Late Friday night I was admitted to the maternity ward with severe abdominal pain.

It had begun on Thursday, and I assumed that it was the usual pregnancy fun; bloating, trapped wind and the general nausea trend. During the second trimester you can also experience the gradual reduction of your stomach capacity as your uterus increases with size.

So discomfort after eating was not a huge surprise or of noted concern.

‘It’s Just Wind’

I woke up on Friday morning with the same discomfort, still assuming that it was attributed to ‘normal’ (we discussed how inappropriate that term is in my last post) pregnancy effects.

I went to work as usual, guiding tourists around the city. This appeared to escalate the discomfort to intense pain, shooting up my left side from my lower abdomen to under my ribs. After almost vomiting from pain, I finally limbed my way back to the tour office.

Almost in tears, I entered the staff room and was met by concern from some of my colleagues enjoying a cup of tea. As I told them what was wrong, I started to cry. They lovingly reassured me that ‘it’ll just be wind’.

Trapped wind is very common in pregnancy and really can HURT! But I still felt embarrassed and silly for making a fuss about something so typical and that I had experienced on many occasions.

This sense of shame worsened as the pain failed to abate, even with peppermints, ginger tea, and reduced movement. I was observing trainees on tours in the afternoon, but even though this is considerably less effort than delivering a tour, the pain continued to worsen, accompanied by severe nausea.

I had assumed that once I got home, I would be able to relax and finally get some relief. However, the pain continued to increase until I was finally in tears. This is not a usual response from me, it alarmed my husband and made us wonder if it really was ‘just wind’.

A Midnight Trip to Hospital

After a call to NHS 24, we were given an appointment at the Out of Hours clinic, were two lovely doctors examined me and concluded that it defiantly wasn’t bloating or wind, but an infection of some kind.

They considered it best that I get seen by an obstetrician to be on the safe side, and get confirmation that baby was absolutely fine. To be honest, I was reasonably confident that this pain was occurring around the baby, and not actually related to it, as I had no cramping pains or spotting.

We were at the Maternity Unit for almost 4 hours, with a series of urine and blood tests. It was concluded that it was likely that rather than an infection, I had a kidney stone and the immense pain I was experiencing was the resulting symptom. The official term for this pain is renal colic, which sounds about as pleasant as it is.

Kidney Stones in Pregnancy

The risk of developing a kidney stone is apparently increased during pregnancy. Given the increased workload for the kidneys during gestation, due to the mother’s increased blood volume and the fact that the baby has no kidneys of its own until about 10 weeks. The amount of fluid you need to intake is increased as well, which makes hydration increasingly important to ensure that the kidneys are filtering your blood effectively.

You can get more information about kidney stones here and of course on the NHS website.

A New Lesson

To be honest this post is a little more personal than I was envisioning when I started blogging. I never intended to be sharing hospital trips on the internet. However, I felt that it was important to share this particular experience because although my colleagues are right and a lot of the time the discomfort you are feeling is part of a ‘normal pregnancy’ experience, sometimes it isn’t.

A lot of the time pregnant women will be told that how they are feeling is just part of being pregnant, to grin and bear it, and it can feel that your experience is minor to someone else’s. But as I stated in my last post, Samuel’s aunt gave me great advice: not to diminish how you feel because someone else is feeling something else.

It is great to share experiences, they can be reassuring and beneficial, but never take someone else’s opinion or advice over your own instincts.

The other thing that pregnancy women are told, usually in preparation of birth, its to know and trust your body.

I have experienced bloating and wind A LOT during this pregnancy, and deep down I could tell the difference. Although my colleague had originally reassured me that it was ‘just wind’, she also could see that by the end of the working day, my condition was not improving and suggested that I seek medical advice.

I delayed in doing this because I was worried about being embarrassed again, of calling out of hours and being told it was ‘just wind’. No one likes to feel that they are making a fuss over nothing, or that they are overreacting. My colleague had not given any impression that she thought this, as I say her reassurance was very lovingly given, but it didn’t change how I felt about myself.

So that’s my lesson, especially to first-time mums. Know your body, trust your body, and have the confidence in your conviction that your body is reacting differently, or more intensely, because it is reacting to something new.

You can follow my medical adventures here.