For most mums, the majority of the pain associated with pregnancy comes in the final stages during labour.
But for a small number of women, that pain is constant and difficult to manage.
This is known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). It’s a condition that involves a stiff joint connecting the two halves of a woman’s pelvis, called the symphysis pubis.
What Causes SPD?
Doctors believe that SPD is caused by the mix of hormones that your body produces when you’re pregnant, combined with the way you move. If you happen to be someone who moves one side of the pelvis more than the other side when you walk or are otherwise active, the area around your symphysis pubis can get tender.
What are the Symptoms of SPD?
The most common symptom of SPD is pain in the groin and the pubic area, and this is the sign that generally results in someone seeing a diagnosis. However, SPD sufferers might also experience back pain, hip pain or pain in the pelvic girdle. They may also notice a grinding or clicking sensation around the pubic area, along with pain between the legs and down the inside of the thighs. This leg pain is often worse at night or when the legs are parted, such as when walking, travelling up and down stairs, and so on.
When Does SPD Happen?
SPD can happen at any point during your pregnancy, as well as after you give birth. Most women notice it initially around the middle of their pregnancy, and if they get it during one pregnancy, it’s likely to recur in other pregnancies. In fact, in future pregnancies, the symptoms of SPD might come on earlier and faster, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your condition before you have another baby.
How is it Treated?
Unfortunately, there’s no single pill that will treat SPD. Instead, there are a range of different treatment options both to manage the pain associated with the condition and also to improve it. These treatments include:
1. Pelvic Belt
A pelvic support belt will likely be recommended to SPD sufferers to help them with support. These belts can be easily purchased online and help to push the pelvic bones back into place when women are pregnant.
2. Advice from a Doctor
Getting some advice from a health professional is a very integral part of treating SPD. A doctor can tell you how to make day-to-day activities less uncomfortable, and also advise on how to make the birth of your baby easier. Midwives can help to write a birth plan that accounts for SPD.
Very gentle exercises, generally focused on the stomach and pelvic muscles. These exercises help to improve the stability of your back and pelvis. Sufferers might benefit from some hands-on treatment on their pelvis, hip or back to assist with balance and stiffness.
4. Professional Assistance
SPD sufferers have found relief with acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment. Remember, pregnant women should always find practitioners with experience in treating women during pregnancy, and should check with their GP before they start a new treatment.
SPD and Pain Management
One of the most difficult things about SPD is the amount of pain that it causes, and there are a number of misconceptions about managing that pain. While it can feel overwhelming, there are many ways that mums-to-be can effectively manage pain from SPD. These include:
- Wearing a pelvic support belt
- Doing kegels and pelvic ties
- Taking care when getting in and out of the bed, car or bath
- Moving gently and regularly
- Resting regularly and taking the weight of the baby off your pelvis
- Avoiding heavy lifting and pushing
- Taking stairs one at a time
- Getting dressed sitting down
If you’re suffering from SPD, you’ll find you grow to understand your own triggers and how to alleviate the pain from these. Remember, SPD pain should not be pushed through or ignored. If something hurts, stop and take a break before starting again.
What About After Birth?
Women are quite likely to recover from SPD after their baby is born, but it’s a good idea to continue with physiotherapy after birth. This helps to ensure that you aren’t experiencing SPD when you aren’t pregnant, although some women do feel painful twinges before their period is due, which is normal.