Did you know that once you have a baby, you are forever postpartum? Seriously. Postpartum doesn’t last six months or 12 months, it lasts for the rest of your life.
And, I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing TV ads geared towards women my age (mid 30’s), for pads and incontinence products for their workouts, for their life. Peeing a little bit when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or workout is VERY common. It’s almost a badge of honor it seems…..”After I had my baby(ies), a little leakage happens here and there.” I was watching Real Housewives of Orange County last week and heard one of the cast members talking about peeing a little bit when she coughed too.
Unfortunately, if we don’t talk about this more, we will be seeing more and more ads for incontinence products. Because common doesn’t always mean normal.
And to be honest, incontinence is only ONE of the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. And leakage isn’t the only symptom. Frequently feeling like you have to go, feeling like you can’t quite empty, constipation, and alllllll that stuff are symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction under the umbrella of incontinence. And where you think of “incontinence” as pee, know that it can you can interchange the word “poop” as needed.
But WAIT! There’s MORE! So sexy this topic is.
Pelvic pain, pain during sex, , back pain, feeling like something is falling out of you or something ACTUALLY falling out of you (pelvic organ prolapse – your bladder, your uterus, or your rectum or vaginal wall collapsing) are all ALSO grouped together under pelvic floor dysfunction.
I’m working through a post natal fitness course on this very subject as well. Did you know that 50% of women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction? And that the first line of defense seems to be “get the surgery” where they sling up your pelvic floor. And did you know that surgery has a 70% fail rate? Eek. These numbers, ladies, are not good. And to be honest (and I’m not science-y), I’m not quite sure I understand slinging up muscles for a system that is dysfunctional and will just continue being dysfunctional if the work isn’t done to get it more functional, lol. But of course, I’m still learning.
All of these issues are signs that your pelvic floor is not working properly. And it likely has something to do with your entire core canister – your diaphragm straight down to your pelvic floor muscles.
There could be MANY reasons for this. For many women, it’s the fact that they carried and birthed a baby or multiple babies and their core was stretched and their pelvic floor was under constant strain of a growing baby PLUS the force of birth. Could be a birth with interventions – forceps, vacuum, loooonnggg labor, etc.
There can also be MANY reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy. Chronically poor posture that doesn’t support core and floor function in optimal positions. Hypertonic (always tensed, never relaxed) pelvic floor muscles. Chronic coughing, constipation, and all those sexy things that put lots of force on pelvic floor. And if you are reading THIS list, and not the pregnancy list, and you are a DUDE, know that you can suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction too.
But back to the postpartum stuff.
Here are three big reasons to get your pelvic floor to a women’s health physical therapist about 4 -8 weeks (or anytime after birth really, even 20 years or more) post birth.
- They help you understand your body, and the workings of those precious muscles of the core and floor, and that entire SYSTEM. And they do it in a way that is in regular words, and not PT speak. They help you understand that you JUST HAD A BABY, and liken labor and delivery to tearing your ACL. Your body has experienced trauma, and that area needs to rest and recover, and begin to rehab, just like you would your knee after an ACL injury. They help you understand that you REALLY need to rest (sit) a lot, because basically standing and doing stuff is basically force on those muscles.
- They help you understand how force works on your core and floor, and help you understand how to work with your body during your new life with all these new activities with baby. They help you understand how to contract your pelvic floor at just the right time when you are heaving that infant carrier full of baby out of your car, off the floor, into the shopping cart at Target, etc. They help you understand optimal posture and it’s importance. They help you incorporate your breathing into your life better, and to be honest, teach you how to use your breath strategically when putting your floor in vulnerable situations. And they help you COORDINATE this all one step at a time, and help your brain get on the same page as your muscles and your body.
- They help you understand how YOUR core and floor are working or not working via biofeedback and drills and tests that they go do with you at your session(s). They help you understand what a kegel ACTUALLY is and when to use it, and not use it – depending on the workings of your own core and floor. They give you homework to do while lying, sitting, standing, jumping (as you progress), running, lifting, etc. They make you imagine a blooming flower when you do your pelvic floor contractions. And they help you understand how to RELAX your pelvic floor. Much of this is done while you are hooked up to biofeedback sensors near your rectum, on your abdominals, etc. Some of this is done internally. Some of it is done with them talking you through things. They also help you understand how every single factor of lack of sleep, stress, overtraining, undertraining, hormonal changes, periods, and the like impact EVERYTHING. In the event you are dealing with prolapse, pain, etc….they help you develop strategies to help you in REAL LIFE with your normal life activities.
I know you can tell from my writing that I think EVERYONE should see a women’s health physical therapist. I do think that. I think that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can ask your doctor for a referral, or you can self refer (I did) if you know you need help with some of these issues. We need to start talking about this more so this is the FIRST line of defense for those dealing with these issues, and surgery is the LAST line of defense.
I’ll also be writing my personal experience with a women’s health physical therapist next week. Cliff’s Notes – I made my first appointment “because I should, because I tell my clients to go” and turns out I had a lot of things to work on. Stop back here next week!