Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is a condition of pregnancy and birth that occurs when the ligaments surrounding the symphysis pubis joint in your pelvis soften due to the increase in the hormone relaxin during pregnancy. This results in the joint moving more than usual which can cause irritation and pain when you move.
Although the softening of ligaments occurs in all women who are pregnant only some will suffer from SPD. The reason for this is not known but it is believed to be related to the difference in how much each side of the pelvis moves, not the size of the gap between them. It can also occur with no obvious difference in movement so this is not used a tool to diagnose symphysis pubis dysfunction.
The most common symptoms are back pain, pain across the pelvic bone area, grinding or clicking in the pelvic area and pain in your thighs. It is often worse at night. Usually if SPD is suspected you will be referred to a physiotherapist who will diagnose it and help you to manage it. They will usually tailor an exercise plan to help alleviate the pain, give you some advice on modifying your movements to minimise discomfort and may suggest you wear a pelvic support belt to give you some relief. Some women seek the advice of acupuncturists, chiropractors, osteopaths and other alternative health practitioners. If you decide to do this it is important to find one that is registered and experienced with pregnancy.
In most cases symphysis pubis dysfunction will clear up on it’s own some time after you give birth. This could be as quickly as within a week or two or as long as a year. Every woman is different and you should continue seeing the physiotherapist as long as you need to.