Giving birth to a baby is the most beautiful and extraordinary things that humans can do. It also is a physical trauma that the body will need time and help to recover from. This is where a pelvic floor physical therapist should be stepping in. During pregnancy, your body changes constantly for nine months with a grand finale of physical trauma to your pelvic floor. While it’s imperative to receive pelvic physical therapy for this after labor (any athlete would see a physical therapist after an incredibly physically demanding event), it’s more beneficial to have started working with a pelvic health specialist from the get-go.
I mean even before conception.
Why should you start seeing a pelvic health physical therapist before pregnancy?
The simple answer is that when it comes to addressing your pelvic health, the earlier, the better. Not only is it important to ensure adequate strength and function, but the education piece you will gain is just as important. People trying to conceive will read books upon books about caring for their new baby, but how are you preparing for caring for your new post-partum body? Ultimately, it’s the best way to ensure that you and your body are in the best position possible for that next step.
Doing kegel exercises on your own is not enough! “Research shows that correct training in pelvic floor technique is essential, as many women completing pelvic floor exercises under group direction are not doing their pelvic floor exercises correctly.” (Queensland Health).
Your pelvic floor is going to play a role in your overall health for the rest of your life. A dysfunction in the pelvis could lead to chronic back and neck pain, postural imbalance, and even infertility. It’s never too early or late to learn about and proactively work on your pelvic health.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a completely safe therapy to partake in during pregnancy.
Being active throughout your pregnancy is a great way to maintain strength and flexibility, while also preventing injury. A pelvic health physical therapist can instruct and educate you on safe exercises, movements, and activities that you can participate in. You can always stop or decrease these as your pregnancy progresses.
The many benefits of getting pelvic physical therapy while pregnant can be broken down into the 4 P’s:
- Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles correctly
- Education on proper posture and technique with activities of daily living in order to help prevent an injury or discomfort during pregnancy (ie. proper lifting technique, getting in and out of a car)
- Strategies for a better night’s sleep and overall quality of life
- Activities and strategies to prevent diastasis recti (abdominal separation)
- Pregnancy-safe exercises
- Proper breathing during exercise
- Postural education
- Treatment of lower back or hip pain during pregnancy
- Treatment of pelvic pain (during activity and rest)
- Addressing and treatment of postural pain
Preparation for Labor:
- Education on the birthing position that is best for you
- Breathing and pelvic floor relaxation strategies
- Perineum stretching (manual tissue work)
Six weeks after a person gives birth, they are cleared by their gynecologist to get back to physical activities. This is six weeks after 9 months of physically demanding work. It might be safe for you to do certain activities, but it’s important to learn what you are putting yourself at risk for, what your ideal fitness regime should look like, and what you can do to give yourself the best chance of feeling 100% again.
It’s important that post-partum people do the right kind of exercises after labor. Doing crunches or other exercises improperly may actually make some of their symptoms worse. Physical therapists are trained to restore muscle function, and some receive additional training to help with pelvic health issues including those related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some common post-partum issues are diastasis recti (separation of the abdomen), urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pain during intercourse, and prolapse. While all of these are common post-partum issues, they are certainly not normal and should be addressed immediately!
In conclusion, it’s important for your long-term health and quality of life to seek the advice and assistance of a pelvic floor physical therapist before, during, and after pregnancy. However, it’s important to remember that not all pelvic physical therapy is created equally. It’s just as important to do your research and to take the time to figure out who is best for you and your needs!
If you’re pregnant, postpartum, or thinking of having a baby, then please pay special attention to what I’m about to tell you:
My name is Dr. Jessica Papa, a pelvic health physical therapist who specializes in helping people find rapid, natural, long-lasting freedom from Pelvic Pain.
To inquire more about our services and to see if we are a good fit for your healthcare needs, give us a call at 401.602.7006.
I look forward to hearing about your journey and pointing you in the right direction.