Babe is nearly 18 months old and I’m reflecting on the most difficult part of my pregnancy.
SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) is when the pubic symphysis stretches. The PS is the cartilage in the center of the front of your pubic bones. Cartilage, just like what’s in your nose and ears and it stretches! It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 pregnant women may have the condition but it goes misdiagnosed because when apregnant woman tells a doctor “this hurts” they say “it’s just normal pregnancy pain, pregnancy hurts.” Sometimes when the pubic symphysis stretches everything else can get out of line and your hips and sacrum can hurt too.
The major symptom women SPD have is debilitating pain between the legs. In bad cases, women may experience the pubic symphysis popping (like when any other joint on your body pops) and that is scary as hell. Strangely walking backwards seems to hurt less than walking forwards but since we don’t actually have eyes in the back of our heads, that’s not really a viable option.
By the time I was only 27 weeks pregnant I’d had to basically re-teach myself how to perform basic bodily functions. I had to do this waddle/shuffle thing so that I was walking from the knees-down instead of from my hips. I had to devise a way to back and then pivot myself into my car because lifting my leg to slide onto the seat caused excruciating pain. I had to use my husband as leverage to pull myself up from a seated position because putting weight on my legs caused the bones to push up into my pelvis and create a stabbing pain. And then we learned that my symphysis was stretched so far that I no longer met the criteria for the diagnosis of SPD. In fact, I exceeded that criteria and my diagnosis was changed to DSP (Diastasis Symphysis Pubis). It turns out that before the point in a pregnancy that most SPD patients even have the diagnosis of SPD, my symphysis had already stretched more than the normal amount for any pregnancy!
So, yes, I was looking forward to the day my daughter would be born because I wanted to meet my precious little girl. But, also, I was desperate to be out of pain.
And so the big day came. I only pushed for 20 minutes because, boy, was I ever loose already. I did feel immediate relief from my pain but by that I mean my consistent pain level dropped from off the charts to about 7 out of 10. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I continued to feel less pain but I probably plateaued around 5 as far as my continual pain went. The pain could still easily spike to 7, 8, or 9 depending on the misstep, slip, or wrong move.
Throughout my pregnancy (and then the first seven months postpartum), I worked with six or seven different chiropractors, a Doctor of Osteopathy that performed gentle osteopathic manipulations, and my doula and none of them were able to do too much to relieve the pain.
Most women that suffer from SPD are mostly healed by three months postpartum. (Though many report some pain or tenderness around the beginning of their cycle each month.) Women who suffer from DSP usually have a longer recovery time. All in all, it was probably nine months before a day went by that I wasn’t in pain. Around the time my daughter turned one, I finally had a pain-free week. Not a pain free month, still haven’t had one of those, but I was thrilled to have my first pain-free week.
If you’re reading this because you arrived here after searching for ways to heal your SPD. I am sorry to tell you that there is nothing you can do but give it time. If you find that chiropractic, acupuncture, hypnosis, warm baths, resting in a recliner, or anything else help to ease your pain then my best advice is to do those things. Making yourself as comfortable as possible by any means necessary is the best way to maintain your sanity while you are dealing with the extreme pain that comes with SPD. Do what you can to ease your pain.