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Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

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What is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction?

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (or SPD) is also often referred to as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP). The condition is most common in pregnant women and occurs when one or more of the joints in the pelvic area become stiff and irritate each other causing discomfort or pain. As symptoms usually worsen when the person is active, SPD can make it difficult to go about everyday life.

What causes SPD?

Pregnancy hormones can affect the movements of the pelvic girdle, allowing joints to move differently to normal. Essentially these changes in the pelvic ligaments help your baby to pass through your pelvis during the birth. However, they can have an adverse effect. Changes in muscles associated with pregnancy and your joints moving at different times can result in discomfort. The position the baby is in can also play a part.

Symptoms of SPD

The main symptoms of SPD are discomfort in the pelvic area and pain around the pubic bone. This often becomes worse as you walk, climb stairs or move around. The level of discomfort varies from person to person and can be anywhere from a mild ache to severe pain. SPD can occur suddenly or come on gradually.

Who gets SPD?

While SPD can also be a result of sporting or other injuries, the majority of cases appear in pregnant women. Up to one in five women will experience SPD to some degree during their pregnancy. If you have had SPD in a previous pregnancy then unfortunately you are likely to suffer from it again with your next baby. Women with a history of lower back pain or a previous injury to the pelvis are more likely to suffer from SPD while pregnant.

What treatment is available?

symphysis pubis dysfunctionThe sooner you seek help for pelvic pain, the more manageable the condition will be. Following diagnosis of SPD your midwife or doctor will refer you to a physiotherapist who will show you exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area. You may be given a support belt to reduce the strain your baby bump puts on the pelvis. The physiotherapist may also press and move your pelvic joints to ease symptoms and help them work well again. If you are in pain then speak with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist about which painkillers are safe to take during pregnancy.

Things to avoid

The pain from SPD is usually worst when you are a little off balance. It may sound easy to stay balanced but when you think about things like getting dressed in the morning, carrying a bag around all day and getting in and out the car you realise it might be a little more difficult. Avoid standing on one leg (sit down to get dressed), high-heeled shoes, carrying children around on one hip and crossing your legs. Try to avoid anything strenuous like vacuuming or shopping trips and only go up and down the stairs when you really need to. The most important thing to avoid doing is trying to push through the pain. Listen to your body and if it’s telling you not to do something then stop.

Will SPD affect my birth plan?

Many women who have suffered from pelvic pain in pregnancy are able to have a vaginal birth. Make sure your midwives and doctors are aware you have the condition and write down in your birth plan the positions you think you’ll be most comfortable in. It’s particularly important that the people delivering your baby know you’re comfort zone if you’re having an epidural as you won’t be able to feel any pain indicating you’re stretching too far.

Water can help to alleviate symptoms so you might want to consider a water birth or at least labouring in a birthing pool. If you are in severe pain then you may be offered a Caesarean section but only as a last resort.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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