While it’s no secret that pregnancy and childbirth take quite a toll on the body, there’s one area of the body that many women don’t even realize they’re overlooking: the pelvic floor. Located in the lower portion of the trunk between the abdomen and the legs, the pelvic floor goes through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth. Fortunately, pelvic floor physical therapy can help address many of the issues women face after becoming new mothers.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit at the bottom of the pelvis. “It’s like a hammock, with the pelvic bones and hip joints as the support posts,” says Kelly Hopkins, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT, with Holland Hospital Physical Therapy and Rehab Services. The pelvic floor plays a significant role in bowel and bladder function as well as sexual function.
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor supports the growing fetus and uterus, which can cause the muscles to lengthen and weaken. During a vaginal delivery, the pelvic floor may undergo trauma through an episiotomy or tearing.
After giving birth, many women deal with the occasional “dribble” when they cough or sneeze, or they find sex is not as comfortable as it had been prior to having their baby. Thankfully, these are all issues that can be addressed with pelvic floor physical therapy.
Pelvic floor physical therapy
Pelvic floor physical therapy focuses on a variety of diagnoses related to the pelvic floor, including bladder incontinence, bowel incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, diastasis recti (abdominal separation), pelvic pain and dyspareunia (pain during sex).
A trained pelvic floor physical therapist assesses the patient’s hip and core strength and may perform an internal assessment to assess pelvic floor strength, coordination and endurance.
“We take an in-depth look at your core, hips and pelvic floor muscles to ensure you’re coordinated and strong to support day-to-day function,” says Ellen Molenaar PT, DPT. “Even if your symptoms are minor, physical therapy can help prevent symptoms from worsening in the future. It is important to learn how to use your pelvic muscles after pregnancy and childbirth.”
Pelvic floor and postpartum recovery
“As someone who received pelvic floor physical therapy after the birth of both of my children, I can attest to the benefits,” says Hopkins. “It’s highly beneficial for new moms to see a pelvic floor physical therapist for at least one visit.”
“Talk with your OB/GYN about pelvic floor physical therapy or call us directly and we can help arrange a referral,” says Molenaar.
Even after just one visit, patients can learn how to heal their bodies after a baby and how to prevent further pelvic floor dysfunctions down the road. Physical therapists look not only at the pelvic muscles, but also at the abdominals and breathing mechanics to ensure patients can use them correctly postpartum.
Where can I learn more?
With a team of more than 65 rehabilitation specialists, Holland Hospital Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Services offers close-to-home expertise. Our personalized, trusted treatment approach combines exercise, manual therapy techniques, encouragement and education to help ensure optimal recovery. To schedule, call (616) 355-3930.