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Prenatal Pilates: 4 Exercises to relieve SPD pain

Updated: May 1, 2023

If you follow me on Instagram, or you read my previous post, you would have known that I worried about baby being head up till my 32 week gynae visit. Finally, she turned! I was so, so relieved. But along with it, I started noticing a heaviness in my pelvic region and despite trying to be conscious about it, I began waddling because of the pain caused by SPD.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) – what is it?

In simple terms – the pubic symphysis is a cartilaginous joint between the left and right pubic bones. If you draw a line down from your belly button to a bony point in the front of your hip, you will roughly reach the spot where this joint is. Due to the increase in the relaxin hormone during pregnancy, it causes laxity at the pubic symphysis, and the instability results in pain in movement.

While I’m not an expert (please consult a doctor/physiotherapist if you do have severe pain), I noticed that movements that aggravated the discomfort included walking, having my legs too far apart when stretching, and single-legged movements/balancing. What helped was sleeping on my side with a pillow between my legs, and sitting down to put on my leggings, or just being mindful not to lift my feet too high off the floor.

Can I exercise with SPD?

Yes, you can! Of course, once again, check with your doctor if the pain is severe, but there are certainly exercises that can help relieve the pain of SPD. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, glutes and abdominal muscles will in turn improve the stability of your pelvis. Here are the exercises that worked for me:

1. Bridging (with Knees in Internal Rotation)

Lie on your back on the mat with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart (or just slightly wider). The knees can be parallel to start with. The spine should begin in neutral, with a small curve under your lower back. As you breathe out, curl your tailbone toward your pubic bone, flattening your lower back onto the mat as you lift the spine off the ground from your lower back up to the widest part of your shoulder blades. Take an inhale at the top, and lower the spine down bone by bone.

This is a good exercise to stabilise the hips with both feet on the ground, and strengthens the hamstrings & glutes. What I found was even more effective in relieving the discomfort was keeping my feet apart but turning my knees toward each other in internal rotation and performing the bridge in that position.

2. Quadruped magic circle push outs

Quadruped magic circle push outs

Place the magic circle (mine is from f1recreation and I’ve got a discount code if you’d like to get one!) outside your legs, at the thighs just above your knees, in the all-fours position. Breathe into your belly, and as you exhale, hug your belly up towards you as you press your knees out against the magic circle. As you inhale again, release the pressure on the magic circle.

If you don’t have a magic circle, you can do the same breathing exercise, which works on your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles.

3. Chair Squats

Chair Squats

Stand with your feet parallel, hip distance apart or slightly wider if you need to accommodate your belly. Breathe in to sit back into a squat, imagining you have a chair behind you and you’re trying to sit into the chair. Be mindful not to let your knees go beyond your toes. As you breathe out, stand back up slowly and think of hugging baby upwards and inwards to engage the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. This also works on your hamstrings, glutes and quads.

4. Seated ball squeezes

Seated ball squeezes

Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, knees above your feet, with a soft, slightly deflated ball or cushion between your knees. Breathe in to prepare, and as you exhale, squeeze the ball/cushion by bringing your knees closer and hold for a few seconds. Inhale to release. This helps to strengthen the inner thigh and pelvic floor muscles. But just be aware not to overwork the inner thigh muscles by using a ball that is too inflated (and especially not a magic circle in this case!) and it could cause more stability and worsen the SPD.

I hope these exercises help you to relieve some of the discomfort of SPD! Because it is the result of hormones, it won’t go away entirely (sometimes it even persists for some time after birth), but it is still important to keep moving nonetheless. If you would like to work through your pregnancy aches and pains, feel free to reach out to me to find out how you can join in for my prenatal group and private classes (virtual/in-person options available). Also, check out my IGTV on a video walkthrough of the exercises.

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