“I couldn't walk because pregnancy pelvic pain crippled me”

Feeling sharp, stabbing pain in your pelvic area with every move you make? You probably have symphysis pubis dysfunction.

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“As a newly expectant mum, I was looking forward to experiencing so many things as soon as I confirmed my pregnancy. Most of all, I kept an eye out for the slightest hint of a baby bump and feeling my little one’s kicks.

Like most pregnant women, round-the-clock morning sickness plagued me during my first trimester. I constantly felt nauseous and pretty much miserable the entire time.

Every well-meaning friend and family member, my mum included, told me that it would pass and then I would enjoy my second and third trimester. True enough, the day I hit 12 weeks, my morning sickness vanished without a trace.

I was elated. I had read that the second trimester is usually the most rewarding and fun before reality (and unimaginable fatigue) sets in during the third tri. I was looking forward to keeping fit through prenatal Pilates and swimming, eating healthier since I no longer felt sick, plus nesting.

“I felt sharp pains running through my lower back and the back of my thighs. It felt like electric currents.”

Everything was going according to plan, until I felt sharp pains running through my lower back and the back of my thighs one day when I was five months pregnant. It felt like electric currents.

Having never experienced something like that before, and worried that something was wrong with my baby, my family rushed me to the emergency ward at the nearest hospital. After a thorough checkup, the doctor told me it was sciatica, a type of nerve pain, and that it was normal to experience different types of pain during pregnancy. It was in no way affecting my baby.

My doctor sent me on my way after giving me some painkillers, a referral to a physiotherapist and strict instructions to put my feet up.

Weekly physiotherapy sessions and taking it slow seemed to do the trick. The pain would come intermittently, but not with a vengeance like before. I felt good and was beginning to enjoy my pregnancy once again.

A few weeks later, when I had reached the six-month mark, I felt another kind of pain. This time, it was concentrated at my crotch area. It started out as a dull pain, so I thought it was just another type of pregnancy-related pain.

Over the next few days, the pain got more and more intense. It was worse when I tried to get up in the mornings. Just separating my legs as I got up send a searing sensation through my pelvic region.

I started doing some research. I Googled symptoms and spoke with friends who had been pregnant before. I was experiencing symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) ― or pelvic girdle pain ― and it was caused by the hormone relaxin my body was producing in preparation for birth.

The relaxin hormone is meant to loosen the ligaments around my pelvic area to make it easier for me to push my baby out. Sometimes, the body produces too much of the hormone, causing the pelvic area to become too “loose” and unstable. This subsequently causes pain when pressure is put on that area.

According to everything I’d read and everyone I’d spoken to, almost every pregnant woman experiences some kind of pelvic pain as she reaches her third trimester, though it’s usually manageable.

Deciding to not worry about it, I went about my day enduring the pain and hoping physiotherapy would ease the situation. Unfortunately, the pain did not get any better. It just got worse.

Find out what happened next…

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My pelvic pain went from a mild discomfort to a sporadic stabbing sensation over the next few weeks. I had to walk extra slowly to make sure it didn’t hurt too much. I also learnt to close my legs and use them as a support to help me get out of bed or off a low couch.

My doctor encouraged me to take it easy and put my feet up. But since this condition was supposed to be a normal part of pregnancy, I decided to tough it out.

A few weeks later, I was in the office one evening working late. As all my colleagues had left, I was the only one left. After I walked over to the printer to collect some printouts, I realised I couldn’t move when I turned round to make my way back to my desk.

“I started to panic and wished I had listened to my doctor about taking things easy.”

My pelvic area felt like it was on fire ― like someone was stabbing it continuously. When I tried to move, I felt a grinding sensation. I didn’t know what to do as I was alone and couldn’t move. My mobile phone was back at my desk.

I started to panic and wished I had listened to my doctor about taking things easy. Lucky for me, a colleague from another floor entered the room.

She quickly brought a chair to me for me to sit while she ran to get my mobile phone. I called my hubby who was just about to start a soccer game with his buddies. She also stayed with me until help arrived.

Twenty minutes later, my husband, my dad and a guard from my office building carried me down four flight of stairs into my car. We also called my gynae, who said she would meet us at the hospital.

Once I got to the hospital, I was wheeled straight into the labour ward. They monitored mine and my baby’s vitals. I was petrified because although everything was happening so fast, no one was telling us anything, which left us feeling very confused and anxious.

My gynae arrived and assured me everything was fine. The pain was an indication that my SPD was getting worse, probably because I wasn’t resting enough.

She also said that if I exacerbated the condition any further, there was a likelihood that my pelvic area could split apart and leave me permanently unable to walk. The split could also happen during a vaginal birth, which was what I had opted to do, so it was vital that I rest that area as much as I could.

Not wanting to put myself in such a vulnerable position, I heeded my doctor’s advice this time and went on full bed rest until I gave birth to my baby boy at full term.

The pelvic pain didn’t miraculously disappear right after my delivery, much as I’d hoped it would. I still felt quite a bit of pain down there for the first few months, although it wasn’t as intense as it had been before.

Initially, it was difficult to carry my baby and walk around, but the pain got better over time and was completely gone by the time my son was 3 months old.

Pregnancy pains may be common, but they are often a signal for mums-to-be to take things slowly. I’m glad I learnt that lesson in the nick of time and will continue to spread the message to other pregnant women.”

What exactly is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction? Read on...

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction – The Facts

SmartParents expert ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong sheds light on this condition.

* Symphysis pubis is the medical term for the pubic bone (ie the crotch area). The dysfunction is because the ligaments around that area have become loosened up.

* This usually happens when there’s an increase in the relaxin hormone, which helps to relax ligaments, muscle tissue and tendons to prepare for birth process.

* When too much relaxin is produced, it leads to leading to the disorderly movements of the pelvic bones, causing pain and swelling and making the joint less stable or misaligned.

* This condition is worse is patients with previous pelvic bone injuries, previous multiple births and those with preexisting joint laxity problems. Obese patients are also at risk as the extra body weight places more pressure on the pelvic bone.

* Roughly one in five pregnant women suffer from symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). Since the severity differs from patient to patient, those with milder symptoms are not diagnosed as they don’t seek treatment.

* The most common symptom is pain at crotch area or around the whole pelvic area. Some may experience swelling around the pelvic bone area, while other women will have pain running down their legs or back. Other symptoms include difficulty walking or pain that’s made worse by walking; difficulty or pain when parting the legs; and any movement of the back or lower limbs in general.

* SPD usually starts getting better six weeks after giving birth. Normally, the patient will recover between six and 12 weeks after delivery.

* Physiotherapy is very important to tone up the muscles around the pelvic bone. Pain can be alleviated with heat, painkillers or acupuncture. Alternatively, you can also try wearing a pelvic-support belt to give the area more support.

* There’s always a risk that the joints will be dislocated, so bed rest until delivery is important.

Sienna Cheng, 36, is a communications manager and mum to Nicholas, 2.

Also check out other dramatic true stories here.

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