Your Pelvic Floor and More: The Benefits of Physical Therapy in the Childbearing Years
Part II: Postpartum Care
Some people think urinary incontinence is to be expected after having a baby. Sneeze and pee, right? Here the doctors at Body Central Physical Therapy discuss why this doesn’t have to be your new “normal” and how physical therapy can help with a plethora of issues after baby arrives:
Why is it important to see a physical therapist after baby is born?
Birthing causes trauma to tissues just like any other injury or surgery. Many times, after a birth (either vaginal or cesarean), muscles, ligaments, pelvic alignment, and tissues can be irritated or in a state of dysfunction. Without assistance of pelvic floor therapy, these lingering dysfunctions will continue years after birth. Leaking urine when jumping or sneezing, while common, is not normal for a postpartum body and it generally means there is an underlying issue with the coordination and/or strength of the pelvic floor muscles. There are also the potential added challenges of scarring, tissue asymmetry, pelvic alignment, and posturing dysfunctions. These all can be assessed after birth which allow the new mother to rehabilitate her body in order to strengthen and stabilize the pelvis to reduce long lasting effects or complaints.
What kind of issues do women have after birth with which a physical therapist is trained to help?
Postpartum care can include a myriad of diagnoses. All can be assessed through physical therapy and properly assigned exercises to improve mobility and function and to relieve pain.
Coccydynia is inflammation of the tailbone caused by relaxin’s effect on the pelvic floor muscles or by the baby passing through the birth canal.
Diastasis Recti is a fairly common condition of pregnancy and postpartum in which the right and left halves of Rectus Abdominis muscle spread apart which can lead to lower back pain, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and even painful intercourse.
Incontinence (both fecal and urinary), frequent urination, nocturia (excessive voiding at night), and fecal urgency can all be caused by pregnancy and birth, whether vaginal or cesarean.
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) can be caused by hormone imbalance or lingering pelvic floor issues. Cesarean birth and vacuum assisted birth both make this issue it twice as likely to occur.
Sciatica and Back, Hip, or Pelvic Pain may linger after birth or be caused by the work of birth.
Dr. Melissa uses physiotape to treat Diastasis Recti.
Exercises are demonstrated in the office and then sent home for continued work on healing Diastasis Recti.
Are there any “must-do’s” for healing from which all women can benefit?
Although there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment because every woman is different, most women can benefit from transverse abdominus strengthening along with pelvic floor conditioning. Gentle stretching to relieve achiness caused by breastfeeding, holding a new baby, or lugging around a carseat is beneficial. Resting whenever possible and using relaxation techniques are wonderful for tuning back in with yourself and your body, which is often lost when constantly caring for a newborn. Call Body Central Physical Therapy today and let them “mother the new mother” in this critical fourth trimester.
Many thanks to Doctors Maria, Madeleine, and Sarah for their contributions to this article and Doctor Melissa and Client Jessica for allowing me to tag along and see first hand the wonderful work the team of Pelvic Floor Specialists at Body Central can do!
Visit one of Body Central’s five pelvic floor physical therapists at four locations in Tucson and Oro Valley.