“Pregnancy and childbirth bring about significant changes in a woman’s body, some of which can be unexpected or unwanted. Symptoms such as stress incontinence, pelvic pain, and difficulty controlling bowel movements are not uncommon for mothers. However, these symptoms are not something to be simply tolerated or brushed aside. They stem from a condition called pelvic floor dysfunction, which is characterized by weakened or injured pelvic floor muscles. Thankfully, there is a solution: pelvic floor therapy. By understanding the importance of pelvic floor therapy, mothers can regain control and improve their quality of life. It’s time for every mother to prioritize her well-being and seek the guidance of a pelvic floor therapist.”
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of supportive muscles that form a hammock-like structure in the pelvic region. These muscles are responsible for keeping the organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder, uterus, ovaries, and rectum, in place. They also play a crucial role in controlling urine and bowel movements. When these muscles become weakened or injured, it can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, which can cause symptoms such as stress incontinence, pelvic pain, and difficulty controlling bodily functions.
How Your Pelvic Floor is Affected During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles undergo significant changes and strain to accommodate the growing baby and the increased blood supply to the pelvic region. The additional weight and pressure on the pelvic floor can cause stretching and weakening of the muscles. This can result in symptoms such as pelvic floor weakness, pain, and incontinence. Factors such as constipation and straining during bowel movements can further contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles.
In addition, during vaginal delivery, the pelvic floor muscles need to stretch even further to allow the baby’s descent down the birth canal. This stretching can lead to trauma to the muscles and nerves, causing postpartum pelvic pain. The use of forceps or vacuum during delivery can also increase the risk of pelvic floor injury. Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles can have long-term effects on their ability to support other pelvic organs, potentially leading to pelvic organ prolapse.
How Can a Pelvic Floor Therapist Help?
A pelvic floor therapist, who is a specialized physical therapist trained in treating pelvic floor disorders, can play a crucial role in helping women with pelvic floor dysfunction. The therapist will evaluate the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and goals before designing a personalized treatment plan. The therapy may include exercises, strengthening techniques, and biofeedback therapy to improve the strength and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor therapy can also address issues such as diastasis recti, which is a separation of the abdominal muscles that can occur during pregnancy and delivery. The therapist may provide guidance on lifestyle changes that can improve pelvic floor function and prevent exacerbating factors such as constipation.
Pelvic Floor Therapy: What To Expect
When undergoing pelvic floor therapy, the first step is a comprehensive evaluation by the therapist. This evaluation may involve discussions about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. The therapist may use visual aids or models to explain the anatomy of the pelvic floor and how specific muscles may contribute to the symptoms.
A physical examination, similar to a pelvic exam, will also be conducted to assess the condition of the pelvic floor muscles. The therapist may insert a gloved finger into the vagina to identify the specific muscles that need strengthening. The patient will be guided to contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles, providing feedback and input throughout the process.
Based on the evaluation, the therapist will develop a customized treatment plan targeting the specific needs of the patient. The plan may involve exercises, stretches, and biofeedback therapy to improve the strength and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles. The therapist may also provide recommendations for lifestyle changes and offer guidance on preventing further dysfunction as the patient ages.
Does Insurance Cover Pelvic Floor Therapy?
Many insurance companies that cover physical therapy may also cover pelvic floor therapy. However, it is advisable to verify coverage with the insurance provider before beginning treatment. It may also be necessary to obtain a referral from a healthcare provider, such as an obstetrician, before seeking pelvic floor therapy.
Do I Need to See a Therapist? Can’t I Do Kegel Exercises?
While Kegel exercises can be beneficial for some pelvic floor issues, it is a common misconception that they are a one-size-fits-all solution. Many people initially perform Kegels incorrectly, which can render them ineffective or even exacerbate symptoms. Consulting with a pelvic floor therapist is essential to determine if Kegels are appropriate and to learn the proper technique.
A pelvic floor therapist can assess the individual’s specific needs and provide guidance on pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises tailored to their condition. They can also address any concerns or questions the patient may have and monitor progress throughout the therapy.
Can You Do These Exercises During Pregnancy?
Kegel exercises are generally safe to perform during pregnancy. However, if a pregnant individual experiences symptoms such as pain or urine leakage, it is advisable to consult with their obstetrician. In some cases, formal pelvic floor physical therapy may be recommended to address specific needs. The pelvic floor therapist can guide the individual in performing exercises suitable for their condition and adjust the treatment plan as needed after delivery.
When To Start Pelvic Floor Therapy After Birth
After giving birth, the body goes through a recovery process, during which the pelvic floor muscles undergo further changes. Some symptoms of pelvic floor weakness may resolve naturally over time. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to discuss them with a healthcare provider during the six-week postpartum follow-up appointment.
The healthcare provider can provide a referral to a pelvic floor therapist if necessary. In some cases, if symptoms significantly impact the individual’s quality of life, seeking treatment before the six-week mark may be beneficial. Pelvic floor therapy can help address postpartum symptoms and aid in the healing process, providing long-term benefits for the individual.
In conclusion, pregnancy and childbirth can lead to changes in the pelvic floor muscles, resulting in symptoms such as incontinence and pelvic pain. Pelvic floor therapy, guided by a specialized pelvic floor therapist, offers a solution to these issues. By strengthening and rehabilitating the pelvic floor muscles, women can improve their quality of life and prevent long-term complications. It is essential to seek help from a healthcare provider and prioritize self-care to address pelvic floor dysfunction effectively. With the proper therapeutic guidance, women can recover and enjoy a healthier and more comfortable postpartum experience.