A woman’s body goes through significant changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period to prepare the body for development, growth, labor, and delivery of the baby. Many women experience pain, discomfort, difficulty with previously easy activities, or urinary leakage. It’s easy to brush these symptoms off, thinking they will improve shortly after the baby arrives, but that isn’t always the case. Whether you are currently expecting, a new mom, or a seasoned veteran, pelvic floor physical therapy could help – especially if the pain, incontinence, or discomfort lasts longer than three months postpartum. It is optimal to begin pelvic floor physical therapy at the start of your pain instead of waiting to see if it improves. This decreases the risk of further injury or worsening pain during pregnancy or postpartum.
Over the course of your pregnancy, pain can come from a variety of sources. Relaxin, a hormone that causes ligaments to become more relaxed, causes a change in the center of gravity as the uterus grows. Carrying a progressively larger load around with each activity changes how the body moves, predisposing pregnant women to pain or subsequent injury. This pain can be felt in the low back, pelvic girdle, and hips, but also in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
With pelvic floor physical therapy, your therapist can assess the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles and inner core. You can learn how to carry grocery bags, pick up your other children, clean the house, perform your work tasks, and anything else you need to do but in a way that decreases the strain to your pelvic floor, back, and core. Physical therapy can help improve your strength and your therapist can help you find ways to exercise that are gentle, beneficial, and individualized to your needs.
Another common pregnancy issue is urinary incontinence. During delivery, your pelvic floor muscles endure a great deal of stress and they must stretch to allow for the baby to pass and then adjust as the load they were just helping to support is now gone. If you experience leakage that lasts longer than four weeks postpartum – pelvic floor physical therapy can help; even if you delivered many years ago. Continence can be maintained during pregnancy and postpartum with the right training program and learning how to move optimally.
Pelvic floor physical therapists are equipped to assess the pelvic floor after delivery. An assessment of strength, endurance, coordination, tension, episiotomy scars, C-section scars, and/or a separation to the abdominal muscles can all be beneficial during the postpartum healing process. This is true even if you are feeling well and not experiencing pain, leakage, or did not have an episiotomy, C-section, or tearing. Interventions are available that allow the healing process to be better supported and more complete without developing other habits or strategies for movement that are less than optimal.
If you are pregnant, newly postpartum, or know someone who is, ask about pelvic floor physical therapy. Rest assured your therapist should work closely with your OB-GYN to understand any precautions or contraindications that are important to your care. Call 563.584.4465 to schedule an appointment or submit an electronic inquiry by following this link.