Image Credit: Rick Hawkins
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) is complication of pregnancy which occurs in about 1 in 5 pregnancies to some degree. It occurs in late pregnancy, during labour or after delivery.
The symptoms are mild to extreme pain in the pubic area, back, hips and thighs. It is caused by the hormone Relaxin. Relaxin's job is to open up the joint at the front of the pelvis enough to allow your baby to be born, however in some cases it allows it to open up too far and the result can be extremely painful.
Mother-of-three Alex Freeman believes that she suffered from SPD after her first pregnancy as a result of a long and extremely painful labour, because she had severe pain for about 2 months after the birth, but this was never diagnosed.
However with the second and third pregnancies it started about half way through the pregnancy.
The first symptoms were pain when walking and excruciating pain when doing anything requiring standing on one leg, such as climbing the stairs.
Fortunately this time it was diagnosed "by a very on-the-ball midwife, who immediately referred me to the physiotherapy department at my local hospital. They confirmed the diagnosis over the phone and came out to see me soon after."
"I was advised to get as much rest as possible, lying down to take the pressure off the pelvis. Also to avoid standing on one leg at all cost, for example to sit down to get dressed and to go up and down stairs on my bottom.
They also lent me some crutches, which helped, and gave me a huge elastic support belt ."
Alex's condition got steadily worse until the birth and so she decided to have a planned caesarean.
"I had to fight hard to get a caesarean - my consultant was against it, but I felt that as my SPD was so severe I would do myself a lot of damage by having another long labour. I had a lot of pain relief immediately after the c-section, and had to take immense care for the first few weeks not to lift anything."
Fortunately, the condition had mostly gone by 3 weeks after the delivery. Said Alex, "I had a lot of support from friends, especially those who brought hot meals round to me after the births. SPD made me feel very isolated during the pregnancies, especially as I couldn't drive so I valued very much those friends who came round to see me."
"One bonus is that I coped with Joshua, my oldest child, by reading him lots of books to keep him amused - the upside being that he is now a very good reader with a real love of books!"
If you think you may be suffering from SPD you should talk to your midwife or GP as soon as possible. While there is no treatment, a lot can be done to minimise any pain you may have.
The Pelvic Partnership is a support group for women with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and their families. They provide information to women with SPD, to their family and friends and is the only support group in the UK for SPD. They also provide information to and raise awareness of the condition with healthcare professionals.
Updated 17th February 2017
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