Birth Definitions

Pubic Symphysis Definition


In the birth industry, Pubic Symphysis is the term used to describe the joint located at the front of the pelvis. It is commonly known as the pelvic joint. It is a fibrocartilaginous disc sandwiched between the articular surfaces of the pubic bones, making it a unique joint. It resists tensile, shearing, and compressive forces and allows for a small degree of movement under normal circumstances (up to 2 mm shift and 1° rotation).

This joint is responsible for supporting the weight of the baby during birth. The pubic symphysis also helps to stabilize the pelvis, especially during the third trimester when the baby’s head begins to engage in the pelvis.


Role of the Pubic Symphysis During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the hormones relaxin and estrogen cause the pubic symphysis to become more flexible, which helps the baby pass through the birth canal. The pubic symphysis also begins to soften a few weeks before labor. This allows the bones to spread apart slightly and makes the joint more flexible.

If a pregnant woman is experiencing pain in the pubic area, it may be because the pubic symphysis is not yet fully flexible. Pelvic tilt exercises or ice packs can help relieve the pain.

Role of the Pubic Symphysis During Childbirth

During Childbirth, the pubic symphysis helps to open the pelvic bones to allow the baby to pass through. It can also help to stabilize the pelvis as the baby moves through the birth canal.

If the pubic symphysis is unstable or has separated, it may increase the risk of delivery complications.

Pubic Symphysis Dysfunctions

There are some cases when the pubic symphysis can become dysfunctional. This can happen when there is too much or too little movement in the joint, or when the ligaments that hold the joint together become stretched or damaged. This can cause pain in the pubic area, difficulty walking, and problems with urination and bowel movements.

Here is a list of pubic symphysis disorders that affects pregnancy and childbirth:

  • Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction Syndrome (PSDS)
  • Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)
  • Pelvic girdle pain (PGP)
  • Diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP)
  • Pregnancy-related low back pain (PLBP)

This image shows how often the term ‘Pubic Symphysis’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:


Other Terms for Pubic Symphysis

The term “pubic symphysis” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms “pelvic joint,” “pelvic girdle,” and “pelvic ring.” However, these terms have different meanings.

The pelvic joint is the general term for the pubic symphysis and the sacroiliac joints. The pelvic girdle is the bony structure that surrounds the pelvic joint. The pelvic ring is the bony structure formed by the pelvic girdle and the sacrum.

In some cases, people may use the term “pubic symphysis” to refer to all of the joints in the pelvis, not just the pubic symphysis.

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