Pregnancy as an Amputee
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now. It’s one of those posts that is so personal, it just doesn’t write itself in 15 minutes.
October was the month that marks 15 years of remission from osteosarcoma or bone cancer. That means I have now been an amputee for 16 years, over half my lifetime. When Anthony and I decided to head down this road of starting our family, I didn’t know quite what to expect being an amputee while pregnant. There are a few reasons for this:
- There are not a ton of female amputees.
- In that group, there are even fewer that are of the age to have children.
- Even fewer of those have my specific amputation.
In my search to find information on pregnancy and being an amputee, I looked at the library and online. The most I could find was that I could maybe expect some carpel tunnel. I guess this was from using crutches and the swelling that often happens during pregnancy. So I figured it would be good to write about my experience as an above-the-knee amputee. Now that I’m entering the last week (or so) I’ve learned some things along the way.
First, I want to start with my overall lifestyle. I’m fairly active and very mobile. Anyone who has spent time with me when my leg isn’t working or uncomfortable knows how much I hate giving up my hands while on crutches. I’m willing to live with quite a bit of pain before I’ll take off my leg and be stuck on my crutches.
So one of my first fears was that I would quickly grow out of my leg, and be stuck on crutches for most of the pregnancy. I feel really grateful that this was not the case. I did grow out of my leg, but not until the 6-month mark. I ended up getting a new socket (the part I fit into) and maintained both my mobility and the health of my back. When a leg is not fitting properly, I often compensate by using my back muscles more than what is good for them. It has been important to me not to put any additional strain on my back during the pregnancy and maintain the long-term health of such an important part of my body.
I also had a few problems with water retention. When I retain water, my leg is one of the first places it shows up. Of course, that affects the fit of my suction socket. For the first time since I first had my amputation I was forced to wear what is called a shrinker, a compression stocking for an amputated limb.
I’ve had to think a lot about contracture. This is when the front muscles of the limb contract because they are not getting stretched with the weight of a leg. I usually stretch these muscles while laying on my stomach. Since that is no longer an option, I’ve had to find some different ways to stretch the front of my limb.
In the last month of my pregnancy, I can feel my hips and joints relaxing. Since I bear my weight on my sitting bone, this has also started to create some discomfort. Mostly, my hip seems to get very sore, and feels like it’s been pulled out of joint during the day. My hip muscles also have gotten very sore and tight over the course of the day. Since I have a very sweet husband, he usually helps me work out the knots.
There are several things I’ve been very surprised I can still do. First, I’m very thankful I haven’t had to use my crutches more than usual. I am also surprised at how I can get up and down off the floor easily. I’m a lot slower than usual, but it isn’t a problem. This is especially great because I am often on the floor as I teach.
Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect, there were a few things I did to help it go smoothly. I was lucky enough to get monthly massages from a wonderful massage therapist. She often was able to help me know what was going on with my muscles so I could make sure to stretch or massage them in between appointments. I also worked closely with my prosthetist. She made a huge difference in this experience and definitely helped to make my life more comfortable.
Overall, I have had a very smooth pregnancy (hello: no morning sickness!) and sometimes feel I’ve cheated in some way to have it go so smoothly. Here’s to a smooth birth!