Painful pelvis in pregnancy? It could be Symphysis Pubis Disorder

If your pregnancy has become a pain in the... pelvis, you might be suffering from Symphis Pubis Disorder. What is it and what can you do to make it better? Here's our how to guide to life with SPD

Symphysis Pubis Disorder can be a really debilitating condition during what should be one of the happiest times of your life.

It is thought to affect up to 1 in every 5 women and it can really make your pregnancy a misery. Here we explain what causes SPD and what you can do to help relieve it...

What is Symphysis Pubis Disorder (SPD)?

SPD can be a real pain in the backside, well, more specifically a pain in the pelvis. It happens because during pregnancy your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes ligaments in your pelvic area. When it comes to giving birth you need flexibility in your pelvis to allow your baby to pass through. Unfortunately the downside to this new, flexible pelvis of yours can be that you suffer sharp pains when doing the simple things in life like walking or climbing stairs.

This is SPD and it can be really sore before and after birth. It can come on at any time during pregnancy or after you've had your baby, but many women get the symptoms for the first time about midway through.

And unfortunately if you've had SPD in one pregnancy then you're more than likely to have it in your next one too. This is probably not the news you wanted to hear, however take comfort in the fact that if you've had SPD before you'll quickly recognise if you have it again, so you can seek help as quickly as possible.

Once you've suffered SPD it tends to come on earlier and progress more swiftly the next time around. It can help to let the symptoms of SPD from one pregnancy stop completely before getting pregnant again.You may also be more susceptible to SPD if you have a history of pain in your lower back or pelvis, or even if you have physically demanding job.

Celebrities such as Maria Fowler have shared their struggle with SPD's 'very painful' symptoms

The signs that you have SPD are:

  • Pain in the pubic area or groin

  • Back pain

  • Pelvic Girdle Pain

  • Hip pain

  • A grinding or clicking sensation in your pubic area

  • Pain down your inner legs

What will make my SPD worse?

The pain of SPD can come on simply from walking, climbing up or down stairs or getting comfortable in bed. The pain can feel worse when trying to sleep at night and helpfully those many night-time trips to the toilet seem to bring it on for many women.

What do I do if I think I've got SPD?

First-time sufferer or second-time around SPD veteran, whichever, there are lots of ways to make life OK again. Thankfully, SPD is better understood by health professionals than it was a few years ago and it's very manageable once you know you have it. Your doctor and midwife will want to avoid giving you painkillers any stronger than Paracetamol so might suggest you go to see a physiotherapist who will give strengthening exercises for your stomach and pelvic floor muscles. Some women consult acupuncturists, osteopaths and chiropractors but if you choose this route make sure the practitioner is trained and experienced in treating pregnant women.

A pelvic support or girdle may also alleviate the pain. A SPD girdle is not attractive but it could be your new favourite item in your pregnancy wardrobe. It's a loop of firm fabric that you strap on to sit below your bump so that it supports the weight of your tummy as you get on with your day. You could also try a pregnancy pillow or even a normal pillow between your knees in bed at night to take away some of the aches in your pelvis as you try to sleep.

The midwife says:

'Some women really suffer from a lot of pain above the pubic area to the point that they are prevented from walking. This is SPD. The things that we can suggest to help are a corset to lift the stomach up, a pregnancy physio to help manage posture and movement or simply Paracetamol. SPD tends to happen in smaller women when their uterus gets heavy as there is only so much weight that small hips can bear.'

Mums like you say:'I was told to rest with my feet up when I could and was offered to be signed off work but couldn't take that up. Instead I saw an osteopath who creaked, cracked and manipulated my hips and pubic bone back into position but I had to go regularly because it wasn't a permanent solution. I took Paracetamol but it was rubbish. However, I didn't want to take anything stronger. The pain gradually eased 10 days after Henry was born.' - Anne O


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