Part Three: Diagnosis SPD!
DIAGNOSIS MURD…ER…I MEAN DIAGNOSIS SPD
Sorry for keeping you all in suspense for so long. I didn’t plan on waiting this long to get back to the story about my SPD, but you know . . . life.
So where did we leave off? Oh yes, the physiotherapist announced those three “magical” words: symphysis pubis dysfunction. (In case you need a refresher on the story so far, check out Part One and Part Two.)
Both my and the husband’s reaction was ‘what?’ This wasn’t a term we had heard before or read about in any baby books. We had never heard a woman or man utter those words before. So, this diagnosis became a double-edged sword, as
1) we didn’t know what SPD was (and didn’t realize it was so common); and
2) we discovered there was no cure.
The physiotherapist briefly explained to us (laypeople) that SPD was a condition in which pregnant women are dealt the biggest pain in the ass that anyone could ever imagine on top of all the other terrible pains that are attached to pregnancy.
Okay, no, she didn’t say that.
She described SPD as a condition that most often affected the joints in the pelvic area possibly due to the release of the hormone ‘relaxin’ in pregnancy. She said it was quite common and that it affected women in different ways. She clearly knew what it was, but emphasized that there was not a whole lot of information about it, and worse still, there was no cure.
Me and my husband – clueless
Now that we had a diagnosis and I knew that my tailbone wasn’t broken, we wanted to know what could be done.
Before our follow-up appointment with the physiotherapist, I went straight to the sparse number of books I had about pregnancy. Had I missed this part on pelvic and tailbone pain? I looked through the index and there was nothing.
Next step was Google. Again, babycenter.com had some information on SPD, and as an academic researcher I looked through medical journals to see what was available. There was (and currently is) research being done in various countries around the world (France, India, USA), and the most prominent country working on SPD is Norway. And interestingly, as I discovered, the diagnoses rates of the condition are much higher in places like Scandinavia.
To Google…and Beyond!
This does not suggest that there are more women with the condition in Scandinavian or Asian countries (most reports claim that ¼ women worldwide have or had this condition). Rather this information suggests that other countries (apart from the UK, US and Canada) seem better (or better equipped) at detecting and diagnosing women with SPD. The more we discovered about the condition the more we started to ask others. Lots of women knew exactly what the pain was and either confirmed having SPD during their own pregnancies or said they knew someone else who had it.
In a recent study of over 850 women, between 70% and 86% reported having Pelvic Girdle Pain (another name for SPD) and/or low back pain.
I was disappointed in myself for not seeing or hearing about this condition before in other women. I became one of those cases of ‘if it doesn’t affect you, you don’t care about it,’ and I was racked with guilt. How could I have missed this? I spoke to my Mom about it and she said that this same pain was what she had when she was pregnant with her first child. I had never paid close enough attention to the details of her story and it both dawned on us that when she was pregnant with my brother decades ago, they didn’t even have a diagnosis for SPD, so her pain and suffering was simply associated with ‘pregnancy-related pain.’ Her tailbone pain still bothers her decades later (sorry ladies), but I will let her tell you about that another time.
Yeah, yeah, no need to rub it in, Mom!
Back to the story. We had one further follow-up appointment with the physiotherapist so that she could reassess the pain and offer some tips. I was offered a hand-out with tips on how to move my legs when getting in/out of bed or the car and also provided tips on how to sit. The handout also included tips to ease pain like warm baths and the use of a wedge/donut cushion. Some of the tips were useful.
Keep your legs together. Got it.
Sit (or try to) while putting socks and shoes on. Sure. I can handle that.
Have a soak in the tub. Um, not possible with my tailbone hitting the surface of the tub.
Turn your chair (like a dining room chair backwards) and sit with your butt hanging off of the chair. Oh boy. With the searing pain in the backs and inner areas of my thighs, this became impossible. I couldn’t open my legs wide enough to straddle a chair. As for the pain in the tailbone and getting relief, it was suggested that we give an inflatable donut or wedge cushion a try. Ugh. This was the biggest annoyance of all. The donut cushion made the pain worse because it put pressure on my thighs and intensified the pain.
So what did I do? What does anyone tend to do when you aren’t getting the relief you need? You find solutions yourself. Stay tuned!