Pregnancy brings with it lots of exciting and joyful experiences. Unfortunately it can also bring some less that fabulous ones. One such ailment is SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction). So what exactly is symphysis pubis dysfunction and what can you do about it?
SPD stands for symphysis pubis dysfunction and is a type of pelvic pain experienced by many pregnant women.
The join connecting the two sides of your pelvis is called the symphysis pubis and is held together by a collection of ligaments. During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called relaxin which allows your ligaments to loosen. While this is great for helping your baby pass through your pelvis, it isn’t so great for keeping everything together and stable.
The loosening of these ligaments can make your pelvis slightly inflamed and unstable and this can lead to SPD.
A related condition is diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP) which is similar in presentation to SPD and is caused when the gap in the pelvic joint is widened too far. It is much less common that SPD and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist, usually via X-ray.
SPD is believed to be caused by a combination of the hormones released during pregnancy and also the way you move your body. You may be at higher risk of SPD if you are already quite hypermobile, have a history of pelvic or back pain or have had SPD in previous pregnancies.
SPD can occur at any time throughout pregnancy and unfortunately if you have had SPD in a previous pregnancy you are likely to experience it again, often earlier and more severely than before.
Symptoms of SPD include back, pelvis and pubic pain, particularly pain that worsens when separating your legs (e.g getting out of a car or putting trousers on and off). It can also present with clicking or grinding feelings in the pelvic area, pain down the inside of the thighs and is generally worse at night.
SPD is usually diagnosed by a physiotherapist using a combination of physical examination and a thorough case history. It’s important to get a correct diagnosis so you can get the right treatment as early as possible.
Treating SPD can be difficult, and even with treatment it’s likely you will still experience some discomfort until your baby is born.
A physiotherapist is the first step in treating SPD, many people also find chiropractors or osteopaths helpful. A pelvic support belt can make a huge difference and it’s worth investing in one early. The support belt in the image above is from Cantaloop Maternity Wear.
Lifestyle modifications can be helpful, including reducing the amount of walking you do, being careful to keep legs together when turning in bed or getting out of a car and using a pillow between your legs at night for support of the pelvis area.
Pelvic floor exercises are also crucial to building core strength which can help with SPD. Many women also find exercising in water is a huge relief from the pain. Just be careful with “frog legs” or any other movements that separate your legs/pelvis.
In almost all cases you’ll be back to full function soon after your baby is born. Continue to see your physiotherapist or doctor for guidance and remember to take it slowly for the first few weeks.
You can find lots of helpful ideas on post birth exercise in The Healthy Mummy post birth exercise DVD.