safe motherhood


Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

What is it?

The symphysis pubis is a joint of two large bones at the front of the pelvis. When you are pregnant, your hormones soften the ligaments around your pelvis so they can stretch and allow the pelvis to open during labour. Sometimes this causes instability in your pelvic joints, resulting in pain at the front or back of the pelvis, or in the groin, back or legs, or a combination of these. The area can also be very painful to touch. Walking and climbing stairs can increase the pain as can turning over in bed. A ‘clicking’ sensation can sometimes be felt or even heard.

Up to 1 in 35 women have SPD, and it is important that it is diagnosed and you are given the right advice early on, to reduce the symptoms and speed up your recovery. It can also cause long-term problems so it is important to see your midwife or doctor early.

Diagnosis and treatment

SPD is diagnosed on the symptoms of pain and difficulty with normal activities such as walking. It is not "normal aches and pains of pregnancy" and should never be dismissed as such. During pregnancy ultrasound or MRI scans can confirm the diagnosis, and after birth a pelvic x-ray called a stork x-ray is helpful if symptoms continue. During pregnancy, the pain can be treated with manual physiotherapy, painkillers and sometimes equipment such as a support belt, and crutches. A TENs machine may also help with pain relief.

For help and support

If you think you have symphysis pubis dysfunction, or have any questions on pelvic joint problems during pregnancy or childbirth, e-mail Angie Lambert at