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Alleviate Pain: Safe and Effective Exercises for SPD During Pregnancy

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SPD, or symphysis pubis dysfunction, is a condition that affects many pregnant women, causing discomfort and pain in the pelvic area. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of SPD in pregnancy, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and safe exercises to manage the condition. We’ll explore the different types of pain associated with SPD, the prevalence of the condition, and whether it can cause permanent damage.

We’ll delve into the precautions to take while exercising with SPD in pregnancy and when it may be necessary to stop exercising. If you’re experiencing SPD or want to learn more about how to manage it during pregnancy, this article will equip you with the knowledge and tools to navigate this common but often challenging condition.

What is SPD in pregnancy?

Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) during pregnancy is a condition characterised by pain and discomfort in the pelvic area, particularly around the pubic bone.

This condition is often experienced by pregnant women due to the increased weight and pressure on the pelvic region. The symptoms of SPD may include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Stabbing or sharp pelvic pain
  • Going up or down stairs
  • Performing activities that require weight shifting (for example, when you’re getting dressed)
  • A feeling of instability in the pelvic area
  • Moving your legs apart (for example, when you get out of a car)

The discomfort caused by SPD can impact a pregnant woman’s mobility, making everyday activities challenging. It is crucial for women experiencing these symptoms to consult with their healthcare provider to manage and alleviate the discomfort, promoting overall prenatal health and well-being.

What causes SPD in pregnancy?

The exact causes of SPD during pregnancy are not fully understood, but hormonal changes, increased pelvic pressure, and altered body mechanics are believed to contribute to the condition.

Hormonal influences, such as the surge in relaxin hormone, can lead to the loosening of ligaments in the pelvic area, resulting in instability and discomfort. Physical stressors, such as repetitive movements or asymmetrical activities, can also exacerbate pelvic pain. The impact of body changes, including the shift in the centre of gravity and the added weight of the growing baby, places additional strain on the pelvis. These factors collectively play a role in the development of SPD during pregnancy.

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How common is SPD in pregnancy?

SPD is relatively common during pregnancy, affecting up to 1 in 5 expectant mothers, and can vary in severity from mild discomfort to more pronounced limitations in mobility and daily activities.

What are the different types of pain associated with SPD in pregnancy?

The pain associated with SPD in pregnancy can manifest as sharp, stabbing sensations, aching discomfort, and challenges in maintaining balance and stability during daily activities.

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women with SPD to experience shooting pains in the pelvic region, making it difficult to walk or even stand for prolonged periods. This type of discomfort can also impact their ability to carry out routine tasks, such as bending down to pick up items or getting in and out of a car.

Can SPD in pregnancy cause permanent damage?

While SPD in pregnancy can cause significant discomfort and limitations, it is not typically associated with permanent damage.

How Is SPD in Pregnancy Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of SPD in pregnancy involves an assessment by a physiotherapist, including a physical examination, discussion of symptoms, and possibly imaging studies to evaluate the pelvic region.

This evaluation may encompass a thorough review of the expectant mother’s medical history, previous pregnancies, and any relevant pre-existing conditions.

What Are the Safe and Effective Exercises for SPD in Pregnancy?

Engaging in safe and effective exercises during pregnancy can help manage SPD, with a focus on low-impact activities that promote pelvic stability, core strength, and overall comfort for expectant mothers.

Incorporating prenatal fitness routines into one’s exercise regimen can also help in reducing the discomfort associated with SPD. By prioritising activities such as pregnancy yoga, swimming, and gentle stretching, pregnant individuals can enhance their physical well-being while minimising the risk of exacerbating SPD symptoms.

Regular exercise during pregnancy can contribute to improved posture, better circulation, and reduced stress levels, all of which are crucial for supporting maternal health and wellness.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts are gentle and beneficial exercises for women with SPD in pregnancy, promoting pelvic flexibility, muscle relaxation, and improved comfort in the pelvic region.

To perform pelvic tilts, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly tilt your pelvis upward, flattening your lower back against the floor, and then release. Repeat this movement in a controlled manner, focusing on engaging your pelvic muscles.

These exercises can help alleviate discomfort associated with SPD by strengthening the pelvic floor and improving blood circulation in the pelvic area. Prenatal exercise incorporating pelvic tilts may also aid in improving posture, reducing lower back pain, and preparing the body for childbirth.

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises play a vital role in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, promoting better support for the pelvic region and potentially alleviating discomfort associated with SPD during pregnancy.

Go here to find out exactly how to do a kegel.

Pregnant women should aim to do 10 kegels 3 times a day to account for the extra strain on the pelvic floor. I recommend doing them when you brush your teeth in the morning, evening and then just after you have done your workout. All women should do 10 kegels a day to maintain their pelvic floor strength.

The enhanced pelvic floor strength can also assist in preparing the body for childbirth, supporting the uterus, bladder, and bowels, and aiding in postnatal recovery.

Dynamic Hamstring Stretch

To perform it, one can start in a standing position with feet hip-width apart, then hinge forward from the hips while keeping the back straight, and reach towards the toes with both hands.

Slowly return to the starting position and repeat in a fluid motion, ensuring not to overstretch.

This exercise helps alleviate tension in the hamstrings and lower back while promoting better pelvic alignment, offering relief from SPD discomfort and promoting overall well-being during pregnancy.

Side Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts are effective for strengthening the hip muscles and promoting stability in the pelvic region, providing valuable support for pregnant women experiencing SPD.

This exercise involves lying on your side with your body in a straight line, lifting the top leg up while keeping the hip and core engaged, and then lowering it back down. By specifically targeting the hip abductor muscles, side leg lifts help improve pelvic stability and support the body’s weight distribution during pregnancy.

Incorporating this exercise into a prenatal fitness routine can aid in managing SPD symptoms, reducing discomfort, and promoting overall pelvic strength and stability.


Squats offer a low-impact and comfortable exercise option for women with SPD in pregnancy, contributing to improved lower body strength, pelvic stability, and overall fitness.

This exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, enhances circulation, and aids in labour preparation. The controlled movement of squats also supports the spine, reducing the risk of back pain during pregnancy. By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, squats can help prevent incontinence and promote ease during childbirth.

Incorporating squats into a prenatal fitness routine can provide significant benefits for both the mother and the growing baby, making it an essential component of pregnancy well-being.

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges can help alleviate tension in the pelvic region, promote better muscle relaxation, and contribute to overall comfort for pregnant women with SPD.

To perform the bridge pose, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, gently lift your hips towards the ceiling, engaging your glutes and core muscles. Hold this position for a few breaths, feeling the stretch in your hips and lower back. This pose helps relieve the pressure on the pelvis, enhances blood circulation, and reduces discomfort associated with SPD. Regular practice of glute bridges can also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, improving stability and support during pregnancy.

Note: avoid these from the second semester.

Side to Side Hips

Side to side hips help to loosen tight muscles and improve flexibility while also promoting better pelvic alignment.

By incorporating side-to-side hip exercises into a pregnancy fitness routine, women can effectively manage SPD discomfort, enhance pelvic stability, and maintain overall strength and mobility throughout their pregnancy journey.

Reach and Pull

This gentle yet effective stretch involves standing with feet shoulder-width apart, then reaching both arms overhead and gently pulling to one side while keeping the hips square.

This movement helps to stretch the muscles around the pelvis and lower back, providing relief from tension and promoting flexibility.

What Are the Precautions to Take While Exercising with SPD in Pregnancy?

When exercising with SPD in pregnancy, it is crucial to listen to your body, avoid high-impact activities, and seek professional consultation to ensure that the chosen exercises are safe and appropriate for your specific condition.

It’s important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions to protect your health and the well-being of your baby. Engaging in exercises specifically tailored to prenatal health and under the guidance of a healthcare professional can minimize the risk of exacerbating SPD.

Remember that every pregnancy is unique, so consulting with a prenatal fitness expert or physical therapist will help you customize a workout regimen that supports your body’s changing needs as you progress through each trimester.

Listen to Your Body

One of the primary precautions for exercising with SPD in pregnancy is to listen to your body, paying attention to any discomfort, and adjusting or stopping exercises as needed to ensure safety and comfort.

It’s crucial to be mindful of how your body feels during exercise, especially as a pregnant individual with SPD. Focus on low-impact activities that reduce pressure on your pelvis and avoid any movements that exacerbate discomfort.

Avoid High-Impact Activities

High-impact activities should be avoided when dealing with SPD in pregnancy, and low-intensity, gentle exercises should be prioritized to minimize the risk of exacerbating discomfort or pain.

These low-impact exercises provide an effective way to stay physically active while reducing strain on the body.

Swimming, prenatal yoga, and stationary cycling are excellent choices for pregnant women experiencing SPD, as they offer gentle movements that help maintain strength and flexibility without causing additional stress on the joints.

When Should You Stop Exercising with SPD in Pregnancy?

If you experience increased pain, discomfort, or any unusual symptoms while exercising with SPD in pregnancy, it is essential to stop immediately and seek guidance from a healthcare professional to assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action.

Seeking professional support ensures that you receive tailored advice for managing exercise and SPD in pregnancy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is SPD and how does it affect pregnancy?

SPD, or symphysis pubis dysfunction, is a condition where the ligaments that normally keep your pelvic bone aligned become too relaxed, leading to pain and discomfort in the pelvic area. This can cause difficulty with movements such as walking, climbing stairs, or even rolling over in bed. SPD is common during pregnancy due to the increased levels of the hormone relaxin, which helps to loosen the ligaments in preparation for childbirth.

Can I still exercise with SPD during pregnancy?

Yes, it is important to maintain a regular exercise routine during pregnancy, even with SPD. However, it is important to listen to your body and modify exercises as needed to avoid aggravating your symptoms. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy, especially if you have SPD.

What are some safe and effective exercises for SPD in pregnancy?

Some safe and effective exercises for SPD in pregnancy include pelvic tilts, kegel exercises, swimming, and prenatal yoga. These exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve stability in the pelvis. It is important to avoid any exercises that involve heavy lifting or straining, as well as activities that require sudden changes in direction or movements.

How often should I do these exercises?

It is recommended to do pelvic tilts and kegel exercises daily, while swimming and prenatal yoga can be done 2-3 times a week. It is important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult with your healthcare provider.

Are there any exercises I should avoid with SPD in pregnancy?

Yes, it is important to avoid exercises that put strain on the pelvic area, such as running, jumping, or any high-impact activities. It is also important to avoid exercises that involve separating your legs or twisting your torso, as these movements can aggravate SPD symptoms. It is best to stick to low-impact exercises that focus on strengthening the pelvic floor and stabilizing the pelvis.

When should I stop exercising if I have SPD during pregnancy?

If you experience any pain or discomfort during exercise, it is important to stop immediately. It is also recommended to stop exercising if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or short of breath. It is important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you are unsure about whether or not you should continue exercising, consult with your healthcare provider.