Everything You Need to Know About Pelvic Floor Therapy After Birth
“You know that feeling when you’re pregnant and everyone tells you things will never feel the same again?”
Although I’m not pregnant yet, I have taken the initiative to learn the things many moms complain no one told them about post-birth. From what I’ve gathered, it seems like the number one thing on their minds is “What the heck happened to my body?” ” Why is there so much pelvic soreness after birth?”
For many women, giving birth is an amazing and life-changing event. But for some, it can be a traumatic experience that leaves them feeling broken both mentally and physically. One of the most common issues new moms face is postpartum pelvic floor pain.
A pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum. During pregnancy and childbirth, these muscles can weaken or tear, leading to problems with incontinence, pelvic pain postpartum during sex, or even prolapse (when organs sag into the vagina).
Luckily, I’ve recruited Dr. Maria Banks, an expert to talk about all things pelvic floor therapy after birth and pelvic floor dysfunction after giving birth. Here’s what she had to say:
Hi Dr. Maria, let’s get started with this question. What is pelvic floor therapy?
Pelvic floor therapy helps people address pelvic floor dysfunction through a variety of interventions to help restore strength and function.
The pelvic floor is a term used to describe a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments, and connective tissues all interwoven in the pelvis. It is at the base of the pelvis and is the foundation of the inner core muscles.
Pelvic floor therapy can be provided to both men and women. I specifically work with mothers, as the pelvic floor is greatly impacted during pregnancy.
How do I know if I need pelvic floor therapy? When to start pelvic floor therapy after birth?
There are a variety of reasons why you would need pelvic floor therapy. If you are experiencing pain in pelvic area after giving birth, back pain, or diastasis recti during pregnancy or after giving birth, pelvic floor therapy can help. It is also helpful for women who experience urinary incontinence and certain stages of pelvic organ prolapse.
So many women experience pressure in their vagina after birth. Is pelvic floor therapy necessary after birth?
I would absolutely say that pelvic floor therapy is necessary after giving birth, even if it is just for one session to examine that area. The pelvic floor undergoes significant pressure and strain during pregnancy which can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Unfortunately, this is often overlooked following pregnancy. Addressing your pelvic floor following birth can help with common complications such as pelvic pain and urinary incontinence.
What is the difference between pelvic floor dysfunction & public symphysis dysfunction?
Pubic symphysis dysfunction is a type of pelvic floor dysfunction and is specific to pelvic girdle pain. It typically happens during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is an umbrella term and it is used as a general term to describe a variety of problems associated with the pelvic floor.
You’re a doctorate-level occupational therapist, can you walk the readers through what happens during pelvic floor therapy with you?
The initial session consists of a general assessment of the pelvic floor and why the client feels pelvic floor therapy is necessary. For example, many women come in after giving birth due to hip pain and urinary incontinence. I walk through formal and informal assessments to measure the exact cause of the dysfunction and how it impacts function.
During the follow-up sessions, we go through different techniques and exercises to help improve strength and function. Some sessions consist of internal exams and manipulation, while others consist of a variety of exercises.
So many people experience pelvic pain 2 months after birth, what exercises help with this?
This is not a straightforward answer. Many women state their symptoms and want exercises to address the symptoms. However, you must first determine the exact cause because this will help determine which exercises are necessary. This is why working with a professional, instead of doing random exercises, is so important.
I always use the formal and informal assessments to help narrow down what may be causing the pelvic pain then proceed from there.
Is it normal to experience ovary pain when sneezing shortly after giving birth?
I wouldn’t say that any negative symptoms following birth are “normal.” Women experience a variety of symptoms that are common, but not necessarily normal.
If you experience pain with sneezing, it is best to follow up with your physician and a pelvic floor therapist.
Is postpartum gas normal? When does it typically subside?
Many women experience postpartum gas due to the many changes that happen to their bodies due to changing hormones. It typically subsides within 2-3 months. If you notice pain with gas and/or bowel movements, it is best to speak with your physician and a pelvic floor therapist.
Do postpartum pelvic pain treatments differ from session to session with you?
Absolutely! I take a dynamic approach to help restore your pelvic floor. Treatment plans evolve with time and include a variety of exercises and treatments that address the cause of the pelvic floor dysfunction. This therapy is not a “one size fits all” approach, so treatment is constantly changing as a person is healing.
If someone has a tight pelvic floor pain postpartum, how long will therapy last?
This is not a straightforward answer. It is hard to determine the time frame because our bodies are different. It depends on how tight the pelvic floor is, the cause, how you’re doing with the techniques, and also if you are doing your homework.
Many women think that just 1 session a week is all that’s necessary. However, you must do the work as well to help you truly heal.
Many mama’s complain to their doctor’s about their pelvic floor muscles after a c-section. Do you recommend this therapy for women who have had C-Sections?
Absolutely! Many women who have C-sections think that they do not need pelvic floor therapy since they did not push their babies through the birth canal. However, during pregnancy, the pelvic floor undergoes a lot of strain and pressure. Also, even if you’ve had a c-section, you likely went through dilation and the pushing phase (unless it was planned).
Given that so many women experience pelvic floor issues postpartum, we still find pelvic floor therapy necessary but it’s rarely discussed until after birth, why do you think that is?
I am so glad that you addressed this. It is so frustrating that pelvic floor therapy is not recommended for all women after giving birth. I think the reason is that talking about the pelvic region is so taboo. Pelvic examinations are intimate and some people have a difficult time being comfortable with this topic.
But I always say treat it like any other part of your body. If you sprain your ankle, you don’t just ignore it, you do something about it. So the same should be done for the pelvic region.
We need to stop being complacent with dealing with certain symptoms post-pregnancy and listening to people say “that’s just the way it is.” That’s not the case, you can do something about it and help improve your quality of life!
Pelvic pain after birth
I hope this interview enlightened you on the subject of pelvic floor therapy after giving birth. If you’re experiencing any pelvic pain postpartum, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor or pelvic floor therapist to see if it’s right for you.
Just in my group of friends, I’ve heard so many different things when it comes to postpartum recovery. From pelvic pain when sleeping to experiencing pain during intercourse, every woman’s experience is different. But one thing we can all agree on is that giving birth is a huge life event that comes with lots of changes – both physically and emotionally.
If you’re a new mom struggling with postpartum recovery, currently experiencing pressure in pelvic area postpartum, or just want to be proactive about pelvic floor health, reach out to Dr. Maria over thehealthmamas.com and give her a follow on IG @thehealthmamas