Postpartum Recovery: Helping New Moms Regain Pelvic Health

Giving birth can put a woman’s body through the wringer and for millions of women, along with a new bundle of joy comes one or more pelvic health concerns. Incontinence, painful sex, and pelvic or back pain are often experienced by new moms—and while these symptoms are common, they are never normal.

Pregnancy and childbirth can damage the muscles, ligaments and nerves of the pelvic floor. Stretching from the pubic bone to the tailbone, the pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowel, uterus, vagina, pelvis and back, and are involved in virtually every step you take. When these muscles become weak, torn or tight, incontinence, prolapse and pain can be the result. Scar tissue from an episiotomy or C-section can cause pelvic or back pain as well as sexual or bowel dysfunction.

If you are among the roughly 40 percent of women who experience a problem after birth, pelvic floor rehabilitation—a specialized type of physical therapy—can often eliminate your symptoms and make a significant difference in your health and well-being.

Too many women try to simply live with their symptoms and don’t seek treatment until years after they given birth, when the seemingly small problems—a “little” pain or leaking—have grown into larger, more serious issues. If your symptoms are still present at your six-week checkup, ask your doctor for a referral for pelvic floor therapy at St. Jude’s Centers for Rehabilitation. Our services are covered by all insurance plans.

By normalizing pelvic floor muscle tone, decreasing tissue tightness and sensitivity, and strengthening weak or overstretched muscles, the vast majority of pelvic floor disorders can be treated or prevented. For more information or to make an appointment, please call us at (714) 578-8720.

Taking Care of Your Back

During pregnancy, hormones decrease the stability of muscles, joints and ligaments; posture and body mechanics are affected; and weak or stressed muscles force other muscles to overcompensate, causing muscle spasm and tightness. The result is often back or hip pain. If pain is part of your new “normal”, ask your doctor for a referral for pelvic floor therapy at St. Jude’s Centers for Rehabilitation.

Some additional tips to keep your back healthy:

  • Practice good posture and avoid standing on one leg with your hip jutting out.
  • Before standing or lifting your baby, support your back by pulling in your lower belly and anus muscles.
  • Hold your baby close to your body and try using support when carrying your baby, such as a sling or Snuggli.
  • When breastfeeding, sit straight and tall and bring your baby to your breast, don’t hunch over. Supporting your baby with pillows or a Boppy can help; you can also try other nursing positions, such as side lying.
  • For sore muscles, apply ice or heat (a sock filled with uncooked rice and microwaved for 60 seconds works nicely).

The Benefits of Kegels

Kegels are not helpful for every pelvic floor condition but can be a great starting point for women affected by minor leakage, whether urine, gas or feces. By toning and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles that control continence, Kegels can help women regain control as well as promote a faster recovery from childbirth.

This simple exercise can be performed sitting, standing or lying and you can start immediately after giving birth.

  • Breathe in, and as you breathe out, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Pull your muscles up and in, as if you’re trying to not to pass gas.
  • You may feel your lower tummy muscles tighten, but if you’re tightening your thighs or buttocks, you’re tightening the wrong muscles.
  • Try to hold the squeeze for five seconds, counting out loud to ensure you don’t hold your breath – and then relax for at least 10 seconds. Letting the muscles relax is important; not fully releasing after every squeeze can overwork and over-tighten the muscles.
  • Gradually work up to 10 second holds and 10 contractions at a time.
  • In addition, get in the habit of doing a quick, strong squeeze before you sneeze, cough, laugh or lift your baby. These quick contractions tone the fast-twitch muscle fibers within the pelvic floor that need to react quickly to increased pressure to prevent leakage.
  • It can take time for these muscles to strengthen, so persevere. If you are uncertain if you are doing them correctly, your pelvic floor physical therapist can help you learn how to use the right muscles.

Pelvic Floor Therapy can help with:
• Bladder or bowel incontinence
• Diastasis recti (a separation of the abdominal muscles from their central tendon)
• Rectal pain
• Urinary frequency, urgency or retention (difficulty starting your urine stream)
• Vulvar burning and pain
• Tailbone pain
• Scar tissue from C-section, episiotomy or tears
• Perineal pain
• Pelvic prolapse (when the uterus, bladder or bowel slips out of place)
• Back or hip pain
• Painful intercourse
• Constipation and obstructed defecation

About St. Jude Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation

We are uniquely qualified to help. We offer a highly trained and experienced team of female physical therapists who specialize exclusively in women’s pelvic health – along with one of the state’s most comprehensive and innovative array of services and therapies. The result is highly individualized treatment in an emotionally healing environment.

Our integrative and holistic approach uses today’s most effective non-surgical options to restore balance, strength and flexibility to the muscles and tissues throughout the pelvic area—each designed to help you regain a healthy and active life, free of embarrassment, pain or limitation. Our services are covered by insurance. To learn more or make an appointment, please call us at (714) 578-8720.

Pilates Meets Pelvic Floor Fitness

In addition to individualized physical therapy, we offer Pfilates, a unique and highly effective pelvic floor strengthening class designed for all fitness levels. Twice-a-week group classes use simple Pilates-inspired exercises and traditional rehabilitation to help participants rebuild pelvic floor muscles and recover normal bladder, bowel and pelvic floor function. To sign up, please call (714) 578-8720. No physician referral needed.

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