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Complications of Giving Birth: Separated Pubic Symphysis

Diastasis of the Pubis Symphysis

It Just Didn't Feel Right

Immediately after I had my first baby I knew something was wrong. I had severe pain right at my pubic bone. The pain shot through to my back when I tried to shift my position in the hospital bed to get a better look at my baby. I motioned for the nurse to come over and told her what I was feeling. She just chuckled and said, "Honey, you just had a baby". I complained to as many people as I could, including my OB doctor. All anybody ever did was bring me more painkillers. I ended up feeling like a big crybaby.

Less than a year later I was pregnant with my second baby when my symptoms went from bad to worse. There was an almost constant clicking or popping sensation in my pelvis when I walked, and every single step, every lift of a foot off the ground was torture. I had to quit my job because the long walk across the huge, pothole-filled parking lot combined with the weight of my laptop bag was too much for me to take on a daily basis. I cried almost daily because I was in pain and nobody seemed to care except my husband. Again, my OB doctor wrote me off as having normal aches and pains due to my pelvic joints relaxing in preparation for birth. She offered me more painkillers, again; Tylenol with codeine- supposedly safe for pregnancy. I didn't want to take them and risk my unborn baby's health. Finally one day the pain had me in tears and unable to move. My husband took me straight to the emergency room.

A female doctor walked in and immediately asked me to describe the pain for her. No one had ever done that before. As I spoke she did a physical exam and I jumped when she pressed down on my pubic bone. She then helped me out of the bed and asked me to walk a few steps to the door and back. She watched me carefully and was nodding her head the whole time. Then she said, "Well, it looks like you have a separated pubic symphysis". What?! A separated what-now? She explained to me that she could feel a gap in my pubic bone when she pressed down on it. She said there should be no gap there, as the left and right sides of a pelvis are joined in the front by a thick piece of cartilidge and a few tendons. This is the pubic sympysis.

Does this sound familiar? Are your experiencing something similar? If your doctor won't listen to you, go to the ER and insist that someone listen to your concerns and do something about them.

In my case, the separation was caused by my daughter being born facing the ceiling (presenting the widest part of her head) instead of the facing the floor (presenting the smallest part of her head). Pubic symphysis separation can be caused by pregnancy, birth, car accidents or other traumatic injuries.

Symptoms of Pubis Symphysis Separation

  • Pain in the pelvic region, especially upon standing after sitting for a long period
  • May be able to hear a frequent clicking or popping noise in the back or pelvic/hip joint
  • Trouble lifting one or both legs
  • Pain and difficulty climbing stairs and doing activities that require stooping or straddling
  • Waddling gait or a walk that looks like you just dismounted a horse
  • May or may not have bladder weakness

Living with the Pain

I was given a maternity girdle and pelvic binder to help lift some of the baby's weight off my pelvis. The binder worked wonders for my pain but I still had trouble walking due to my unstable pelvic ring.

Here are a few things that can help you bear the pain:

  • Sleep on your side with either a fluffy pillow or two folded towels between your knees. If your are not pregnant you can try sleeping on your stomach.
  • Avoid chores that require standing for more than 5 minutes., ie. mopping, vacuuming, grocery shopping,
  • Avoid sitting on hard surfaces like church pews and concrete picnic benches.
  • Avoid chores that require frequent squatting, ie., gardening.
  • If you hate taking painkillers, realize that staying in constant pain with no relief will take its toll on you mentally, physically and emotionally. Consider limiting yourself to one or two doses a day. It is important to take one dose at bedtime when your pain will be at its worst. This will ensure that you get a better quality of sleep and have more energy to cope with the discomfort while living life during the day.

I am not a licensed medical professional. This is an opinion based om my personal experience with this condition. Please see a doctor to discuss any concerns and questions.

Maternity Belts and Binders


Liv Carradine (author) from Los Angeles, CA on September 01, 2015:

Au fait, the condition can improve greatly and even full recovery is possible but it depends on several factors: severity of separation, level of care, aftercare, lifestyle, etc. I was able to complete my second pregnancy and have a healthy baby. My pelvis has healed itself for the most part and the pain is almost non existent but there are still some permanent effects. Thanks for reading.

C E Clark from North Texas on August 31, 2015:

Sounds pretty awful. Do I understand correctly in that there is no solution and the pain is for the rest of your life? Were you able to complete your second pregnancy?

Going to share this. I've never heard of it before and there may be women out there suffering from this who don't know what it is either. Maybe sharing will help get the word out.