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).
About six weeks after Douglas was born, I fractured two vertebrae. I was rendered immobile and in
crippling pain. 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 first floor London flat. I couldn’t look after my newborn. I
also couldn’t believe that was what becoming a mum was all about and that no one had told me
how physically debilitating it was. I felt like a terrible mum because I wasn’t able to properly look
after my child and, unlike every other mum on the planet, I wasn’t able to endure this with a smile
on my face. My husband started a new job shortly after Douglas was born and was out of the house
about 13 hours a day. So eventually, about eight weeks after birth, my parents, who live in the north
west of England, took me back to their home. I stayed for a month.
As is often the case before PAO is diagnosed, everyone around me put my symptoms down to
postnatal depression. But about three months after Douglas was born and the pain was slightly
better, I found the strength to realise that something really wasn’t right and I went to see my GP.
After a long journey of MRIs, bone density scans, blood tests, X-Rays and seeing various consultants,
I was told in July 2018 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 at the
same time I was being diagnosed with osteoporosis at the age of 40 and I felt let down it had taken
so long to get a diagnosis.
Unlike many other women I know with PAO, who have fractured eight, 12, 14 vertebrae, after about
two years I felt almost completely normal and completed the running plan Couch to 5K. I made great
gains in my bone density and pain levels with no medical intervention. Following various
conversations with specialists, I was able to go on and have a second child. Chloe was born. During
my pregnancy I was under an obstetrician and I was monitored very closely. However, I don’t think
anyone really expected me to fracture again. But about six weeks after Chloe was born, I fractured
two more vertebrae.
My husband Mike has been brilliant through Covid. When physically I couldn’t go on, he’d look after
the children so I could rest. But he also had to crack on with a job that became busier than ever
during the first lockdown. Looking after a three month old and a three and a half years, with a
fractured spine, and no support from family or friends was really hard physically and emotionally.
Aside from experiencing daily pain in my back, I’ve also lost three inches in height. The impact of
PAO on mental health is also very real. There are big things like how it affects mum guilt and small
things like not wanting to leave my house with the recent ice.
It’s still very unclear what impact PAO will have on me in the future and what the best course of
treatment is. There is no standard treatment protocol. I’m hopeful that post-Covid, everything will
become much clearer.