Many women experience pain or discomfort while using the bathroom even weeks after giving birth. It is also a common joke that many moms make that they pee a little bit when they sneeze or laugh. Although this is common, it doesn't have to remain this way forever. There is a remedy for this called pelvic floor physical therapy. Pelvic floor physical therapy has been shown to be beneficial for women after childbirth. Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common complaint after giving birth, and can cause a variety of problems such as urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help to improve these symptoms by restoring muscle function and coordination.
What are the benefits of Pelvic Floor PT?
One of the many benefits of pelvic floor physical therapy is that it can help to restore the muscles and tissues that were stretched or damaged during labor or by the weight of carrying a baby for nine months. This includes the muscles of your pelvic floor, which play a key role in supporting your bladder and bowel. A pelvic floor physical therapist can teach you how to correctly activate these muscles so that you can better control your bladder and bowel function, which could include both incontinence and constipation.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can also help you address issues with organ prolapse, which is a common reason for pelvic pain. This is a condition in which one or more of your organs protrude from the normally-positioned place in your body. A common type of organ prolapse is uterine prolapse, which occurs when the uterus falls down into the vagina. Another type is prolapse of the urethra, which happens when the urethra moves down and protrudes from the vagina. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and restore your organs to their proper positions. It can also greatly impact and improve bladder and bowel function.
Another common condition that occurs after pregnancy that a pelvic floor physical therapist can assist with is diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is the separation of the linea alba, which is the connective tissue between your rectus abdominal muscles. This separation can cause a bulge in the abdomen and can be accompanied by back pain. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help to correct diastasis recti through targeted exercises and education on how to properly activate the core muscles. It is also important to note that certain exercises can exacerbate the severity of and symptoms related to diastasis recti. A pelvic floor PT will be able to give you a list of activities and exercises to avoid that are specific to your diagnosis. However common exercises that often make a diastasis recti worse are: planks, crunches (including bicycle crunches), sit ups, many forms of pilates and some poses in yoga.
How Does Pelvic Floor PT Work?
Physical therapy can help new moms to heal and restore muscle tone and strength to their pelvic floor. A pelvic floor physical therapist can see a new mom in their office, after their postpartum checkup with their OB, to assess their current pelvic floor function and to understand what is painful or uncomfortable after giving birth. The physical therapist typically determines a treatment plan that includes in office visits, manual therapy, stretching and exercises to perform in the office and at home. These exercises may include Kegel exercises, which help to strengthen the muscles around the vagina and bladder. They will also include exercises that engage the core, buttocks, and leg muscles as all of those major muscle groups are connected to and impact the pelvic floor.
You will most likely need to go to several appointments to receive a full treatment, the amount of appointments needed to fully rehabilitate your pelvic floor depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your symptoms and your ability to complete exercises at home. At each appointment, the physical therapist will ask you about your symptoms to assess for improvement. During the visit they can also make recommendations for things you can do at home to aid in your healing, in addition to the home exercises they give you.
How to find a pelvic floor PT
If you are looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist, here is a resource to help you find the right one: www.apta.org. Many pelvic floor physical therapists are covered by insurance, so a good place to start is searching via your insurance in-network directory. Another thing to note is that you may need a referral from your OB, midwife or other practitioner, depending on your insurance. Some things you may want to consider when looking for a pelvic floor PT is: what training the therapist has, their current patient load, if they are taking new patients, how easy it is to get an appointment with them, do they accept your insurance and what the cost per visit will be.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can help new moms to heal and restore function after childbirth. It is a valuable treatment option that should be considered by all new mothers. It can help to improve symptoms such as urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and diastasis recti. Symptoms can improve after just a few visits to a pelvic floor physical therapist, especially if you follow an at-home exercise program provided by the PT. Many pelvic floor physical therapists are covered by insurance and can be found by a referral from an OB or through an insurance website. If you are experiencing any of these problems after giving birth, it is worth discussing with your doctor whether pelvic floor physical therapy might be helpful for you.
To really keep things clean down below, purchase a sitz bath soak made specifically for mothers in the postpartum period.
Sitz baths have been proven to provide relief to a host of issues such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, soreness after childbirth and more.