What is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction?

Symphysis pubis dysfunction

What is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction?

During pregnancy the joint at the front of your pelvis, the symphysis pubis joint, can become very unstable and cause pain with every step you take. This is known both as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and pelvic girdle pain (PGP).

The symphysis pubis joint is a hinge type joint which connects the two sides of the pelvis together. Each time you take a step, your weight is transferred from your trunk to your lower limbs through this joint. Like the sacro-iliac joints it is stabilised by strong ligaments, which during pregnancy slacken due to the increase of relaxin hormone. It has abdominal, pelvic floor and lower limb muscles attached to it. As your body changes and baby grows these muscles come under a lot of strain, which can place further stress on the pelvic joints. Indeed – this little joint plays a big role in the comfort of your everyday life, especially during pregnancy! Problems with it can be very painful and even debilitating.

What does Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction feel like?

If there is a problem with the symphysis pubis joint it will be most noticeable when you stand up, go to take a step, when you walk and when you roll over in bed. It can start out as a bit of discomfort but quickly escalate if care isn’t taken to support the joint. So the sooner you recognise the signs of symphysis pubis dysfunction the better.

Pain from a dull ache to a shooting pain is felt low down at the front of your pelvis, and it may also radiate across your low belly area and down the inside of your thighs when you…

  • take the first few steps after you’ve been sitting down
  • roll over or move around in bed
  • take weight on one foot
  • sit cross-legged or any movement which moves your legs apart
  • are at the end of exercise, a walk or run.

As soon as it becomes evident you have this problem, find a pregnancy support belt to suit you. Unfortunately it does not tend to recover spontaneously. As you become more pregnant the increasing strain can result in needing crutches to move around or complete bed rest to reduce inflammation. Absolutely no fun. But don’t worry – with support and lifestyle management you can minimise the pain and stay active.

Lifestyle Management and Pain Relief for Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

When a Smileybelt is wrapped around your pelvis at the level of the pubic joint it will gently assist in stabilising this joint. Because the Smileybelt is flexible your body can move naturally and with fluidity, and your muscles continue to work, without being overstressed.

It must be worn low around your pelvis with firm support felt at either side of your hips. Try wearing it for 3-4 days as much as possible, including at night. This will give your joint and soft tissues a chance to ‘settle down’.  Then wear it when you are active and at night if moving around in bed is a problem for you.

Symphysis pubis dysfunction
Smileybelt for pelvic joint support

Once the pain has eased, think about what activities or habits might be triggering the pain. Could it be your work style, prolonged walking or standing? Lots of up and down stairs? Looking after a toddler and moving toys with the side of your foot? Vacuuming? Whatever it is, see how you can minimise these activities (delegate as much as you can to your partner!) and make sure you wear your pregnancy support belt if you need to engage in any activities that aggravate it.

If your SPD is easily re-injured, you will need to wear your support belt most of the day and night. This may be because the cause is a previous pelvic or back injury, an underlying asymmetrical pelvis or the amount of relaxin hormone you release. A physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor can check for anatomical issues that might also be contributing to the stress load on your pelvic joints and offer advise and treatment to help you through your pregnancy. 

Will Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction continue after giving birth?

I don’t like to be the one to tell you this but SPD is unlikely to resolve right after childbirth. It also often reoccurs in subsequent pregnancies. As long as the (much needed) hormones are charging around your body, they are keeping everything lax. As great as this is for childbirth, some of us need more stability than is offered by the ligaments during this time. If you still have pelvic joint pain after you give birth it is very important (and feels great!) to keep wearing your support belt around your low pelvis until your ligaments regain their pre-pregnant status.

Find out more about Smileybelt for pregnancy and postnatal pelvic joint support.