Background: Pregnancy related low back pain (PLBP) and pelvic girdle pain (PGP) are considered common complications of pregnancy. The long-term consequences for women with persistent PLBP/PGP postpartum are under-investigated. The main objective was to investigate the prevalence, pattern and degree of sick leave as well as healthcare utilisation and its perceived effect in women with persistent PLBP/PGP at 12 months postpartum.
Method: This is a follow-up study of a cohort involving of a sample of women, who delivered from January 1st 2002 to April 30th in 2002 at Umeå University Hospital and Sunderby Hospital, and who reported PLBP/PGP during pregnancy. A total of 639 women were followed-up by a second questionnaire (Q2) at approximately 6 months postpartum. Women with persistent PLBP/PGP at the second questionnaire (N = 200) were sent a third questionnaire (Q3) at approximately 12 months postpartum.
Results: The final study sample consisted of 176 women reporting PLBP/PGP postpartum where N = 34 (19.3 %) reported ‘no’ pain, N = 115 (65.3 %) ‘recurrent’ pain, and N = 27 (15.3 %) ‘continuous’ pain. The vast majority (92.4 %) of women reported that they had neither been on sick leave nor sought any healthcare services (64.1 %) during the past 6 months at Q3. Women with ‘continuous’ pain at Q3 reported a higher extent of sick leave and healthcare seeking behaviour compared to women with ‘recurrent’ pain at Q3. Most women with persistent PLBP/PGP had been on sick leave on a full-time basis. The most commonly sought healthcare was physiotherapy, followed by consultation with a medical doctor, acupuncture and chiropractic.
Conclusion: Most women did not report any sick leave or sought any healthcare due to PLBP/PGP the past 6 months at Q3. However, women with ‘continuous’ PLBP/PGP 14 months postpartum did report a higher prevalence and degree of sick leave and sought healthcare to a higher extent compared to women with ‘recurrent’ PLBP/PGP at Q3. Women with more pronounced symptoms might constitute a specific subgroup of patients with a less favourable long-term outcome, thus PLBP/PGP needs to be addressed early in pregnancy to reduce both individual suffering and the risk of transition into chronicity.
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