Health Update: Separated Pubic Symphysis

by Heather on February 16, 2011

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Alright, so in this picture the pubic symphysis is area #5. Last week I had a set of x-rays done that show my pelvic bones (area #4) to be separated with a gap about twice the size it should be, which means my pubic symphysis has also gone through some trauma/stretching. The right side of my pelvis also seems to be a bit misaligned, as I can’t pick up my right leg to move it forward unless it’s pointing out slightly to the side.

The amazing thing is that this is what my body needed to do in order to get little Gabriel out. I had a long labor with a lot of back pain, and I was stalled at around 2-3 cm for 24 hours after I arrived at the hospital (which was 36 more hours after I first had spotting/cramping and started ‘early labor’), and the baby’s head wasn’t descending below the pubic bone. We waited it out a full day at the hospital to see if my contractions would become more regular and I’d get more dilated, but I stayed at the same place no matter what positions I tried.

By that point I’d already missed three nights of sleep, so we opted for a pitocin induction to speed things along before I was even more exhausted. After about 5 hours on pitocin I was at 6cm and getting delusional due to fatigue. I had two options, take some meds to try and ‘rest’ (which I knew wouldn’t work and I’d just spend more time getting more tired) or have my water broken by the midwife. I went with the second and almost immediately reached 9cm and then the pushing stage. Two and a half hours after my water was broken, Gabriel was born.

Now we know why his head wasn’t descending below the pubic for so long – it wouldn’t fit!

Last week, when I still had no idea what was wrong with me except that I couldn’t walk or lift my right leg, I started seeing a chiropractor. He gave me a thorough exam and narrowed down the problem area to the pubic symphysis (a body part I’d never even heard of), but since I was so swollen and experiencing a lot of pain in that area he wasn’t sure exactly what had happened to me down there during the birth.

Now that we’ve got the x-rays, it clearly shows that my pelvis separated during delivery and remained that way after the birth. This is why I was in so much pain and couldn’t move my legs properly. The plan now is to start slowly pushing the bones back together with chiropractic adjustments, and after only 6 visits my mobility has already improved drastically.

Two weeks ago, I couldn’t lift my right leg more than a centimeter off the floor. I was constantly shaky on my feet, could only scoot/hobble sideways while dragging my right leg, and couldn’t walk more than 5 feet out of my hospital room. I couldn’t get in and out of bed without assistance and a lot of pain in my groin area. I couldn’t get to the bathroom without holding on to one or two people to help me maneuver there, and I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at all.

Now I can pick up my right foot enough to waddle forward slowly. I’m no longer dragging the right leg. I can get myself into bed and even roll over. I’ve been able to cook meals, change the baby’s diaper and even walk short distances holding the baby. Before I could only push him in his rolling bassinet. I still do that most of the time for safety, but today I did manage to steadily walk from one room to another while holding him. For me that was a huge accomplishment. I can also now get myself in and out of the passenger side of the car, walk sideways up and down stairs (I still have to lead with the left leg and pull up the right one) and walk longer distances without feeling pain.

I’m still moving slowly, but I’m moving.

Reading stories of other women who have experienced pubic symphysis separation post-partum, it seems to take about 6 months to heal. My mobility may never be how it was before the birth, but I’m trying to give myself smaller goals to work toward. Now I want to focus on going up stairs while moving forward (not sideways), being able to hold the baby while standing and walking, and being able to drive.

Hiking, horseback riding, dancing, waterskiing, teaching and so many other activities are of course in my mind, but I’m so far from being able to do any of those things at this point that I’m trying to focus on just being independent and able to take care of my baby.

These past two weeks have very emotional for me, as I never imagined giving birth would leave me temporarily handicapped and looking at months of treatment and physical therapy just to be able to walk normally again. I’m still processing it all, as being a new mom in this condition is nothing like I expected being a new mom to be like. I’ve had to banish many of my ideals and day dreams from my mind and instead focus on just making sure the baby is healthy and that I’m getting the medical attention I need.

I’m not sure how to end this blog post. There’s a lot in my mind, but now it’s time to try and eat something before the baby wakes up again. Today is our first “well-baby” visit, which is encouraging since it shows things are moving toward ‘normal.’

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