Your Pregnancy Your Way

Dealing with SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction)

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I was first diagnosed with SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) six weeks after the birth of my daughter. I didn’t have the classic case, where it develops in pregnancy and often dissolves very soon after childbirth. For me, it developed due to childbirth.

The pain also wasn’t typical: I just couldn’t seem to walk a full leg length. I would walk, and the movement of bring my leg behind me was too painful. I went to see my GP and he diagnosed me with SPD or pubic pain, and told me to rest and go see a specialized physical therapist. I did, and although she was very knowledgeable, she didn’t “cure” me.

I told her I wanted to run again, and explained my plan on how to slowly start to build up to it. She said it sounded like a good plan, and to remember to always give my body two days evaluation period after each exercise interval. Apparently it is common to not feel pain during exercise, but that it often comes two days later.

A year and a half later, I ran a very emotional 15K race. It was so emotionally intense because after everything I had read about SPD, I hadn’t really believed I would ever be able to run for any length of time again.

Despite that victory, my hips remained a weak spot in my body. I found out the hard way that you can do either plyometric workouts or run, but you can’t combine two of such very high impact exercise regimes without getting injured.

When I became pregnant again, I knew SPD would very likely resurface. Sure enough, I am now 24 weeks in and my back and hips are killing me by the end of the day. Pain really makes for a crotchety pregnant lady, and I was feeling extremely discouraged at my lack of mobility so early on in pregnancy. I cycled and walked regularly up until the day I had Amber, so not being able to do either is really cramping my style.

Still, I do have some tips to share with you that I have learned along the way.

1. Don’t lift anything heavier than 15 lbs. I know this is hard if you have another little one running around, but I find being conscious about this guideline helps me say no or ask for help for all those “Oh let me just clean this up/take out the trash/pick up my kid” moments.

2. Keep your legs together. Try to keep your legs symmetrical in movement and when sitting. When rolling over in bed, lock the knees together first. Be conscious of taking the stairs slowly, and don’t skip steps. 

3. Keep an eye on your posture. I am really bad at this, as I work behind a desk and love to chill out on the couch. But every little helps, so try keeping both feet on the ground, back relaxed but straight, etc. 

4. Get a diagnosis. Google is not a doctor. I had heard of SPD but still had no clue that is what I had until I went to my doctor. A diagnosis will often give you access to specialized physical therapists, chiropractors, or aids such as a support belt or even – if need be – crutches. And don’t wait forever! There are things you can do to help keep the pain as tolerable as possible.

5. Find a chiropractor who is schooled in treating pregnant women. Chiropractic care can help keep your pubic area symmetrical, which isn’t just important for pain relief. Baby’s position can be influenced by crooked alignment, and make birth far more difficult or even impossible. I personally don’t recommend getting your neck corrected (also not the problem area), but other than that: get thee to the (reliable, well-trained) chiro!

6. Educate yourself about birthing positions and the options available to you. This final one got me really excited. I’m a bit of a birth junkie, so when I read that a water birth can help ease pressure on your pubic bone and prevent further damage, I was immediately enthused! If a water birth isn’t possible, at least know that the WORST position is giving birth on your back, with your legs pushed back behind your ears. This can cause more damage, so if you can, try different birth positions: on your side, on hands and knees, hanging from the bed, on a birthing stool. If you have to be on your back, see if you can be propped up a little, and keep your legs lower down. Resist the urge to pull vigorously on your legs.

About Ruby Marshall

Ruby works for a group of Dutch publishers whilst also working on attaining her master's degree in Sociology. Together with her husband she has one daughter, Amber (2010) and is currently expecting her second child in the summer of 2013. Combining work, studies and family life, whilst budgetting for another baby is not always easy, but Ruby's type A personality means she usually manages to find some kind of balance. Even if it does involve a large bag of peanut m&m's!

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Cass says:

What was it like starting running again? I am 14 months pp still not running as yet. But I want too… When did things strt to completely resolve?