Do You Need Pelvic Floor Therapy?
Many “jokes” about motherhood center around a pretty common theme: Moms pee their pants.
Haha, so funny, right? Because peeing your pants is cool and totally normal if you're a mom! Here's the thing, though, ladies: Not only is it not cool, but it's also not normal. Having a baby (or two, or five) shouldn't automatically equal a life sentence of incontinence. And in fact, there are some things that all women can do to help strengthen their pelvic floors during and after pregnancies, which can help prevent leakage from happening.
Urine incontinence happens when the pelvic floor is weakened. It can happen pretty easily as a result of pregnancy and giving birth. I mean, think about it. You add 24-50 pounds (ahem, I was definitely in the 50-range, no shame here), place it like a direct weight on your pelvic floor, then add in a few hours or days of contractions and pushing and it only makes sense that there could be some serious damage down there.
But what can you do to prevent injury to your pelvic floor? And if you already have suffered damage to the pelvic floor, is there anything you can do to help heal it?
Unfortunately, here in the US, there isn't a lot of focus on supporting a mother's health throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Our focus seems to be primarily on fear tactics. For example, a long list of what moms shouldn't eat and shouldn't do at their first prenatal visit, and then quickly switches to focusing on the baby after birth.
Do you need pelvic floor therapy?
Other countries, however, focus extensively on mom's health, especially in the postpartum period. For example, pelvic floor therapy is a norm for mothers in France, but many mothers in the United States haven't considered the possibility of getting therapy for pelvic floor health. You may be a candidate for pelvic floor therapy if:
- You have urine or fecal incontinence
- You have pain or pressure in your vagina or rectum consistently
- You have uterine prolapse (this is when the uterus literally falls down into the vagina)
- If pelvic problems are affecting your quality of life
Preventing pelvic floor problems
If you are currently pregnant, and especially if it's your first baby, the best thing you can do is to try to protect and maintain your pelvic floor health throughout your pregnancy. It's easier to try to prevent problems than work backward after giving birth. If you can, ask your pregnancy care provider for tips and exercises you can do throughout your pregnancy. Good programs will focus on maintaining proper core strength without straining. If you can't find a pelvic floor therapy program near you or your doctor isn't receptive to helping you, you can also check for online resources, such as the Bloom Method, which can help you strengthen your core and pelvic floor.
Healing your pelvic floor
If you've already had a baby, however, don't worry–you can still help strengthen your pelvic floor after pregnancy. There are small things you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor, such as Kegels, although Kegels can only go so far. One simple trick that can help you easily learn to strengthen your pelvic floor is to simply tighten your glutes throughout the day and especially while standing and holding your baby for a long time. You know that backache you get after walking the baby around the house for hours on end? Yeah, as it turns out, that's not great for your body.
The literal pressure of pregnancy, followed by the physical strain of carrying around a baby, can lead to pelvic floor problems, but by simply focusing on tightening your glutes throughout the day, you can help lighten the load on your pelvic floor and help strengthen those muscles back up slowly. Cool, huh? (Side note: This is a tip I picked up just today from my massage therapist, so we'll just consider this yet another reason that massages are an essential part of life.)
Other than small steps you can make on your own, however, it is best to talk to your doctor about any pelvic floor problems you may have. Therapy might be covered by your insurance in many instances and the actual exercises you will do in pelvic floor therapy are probably more simple than you might think.
There are tools and programs available through healthcare providers, but most women aren't made aware of their options and even many doctors may not know all the services available to women. As with many things related to your own health – during pregnancy and beyond – you should do your research and ask as many questions as you can to see if there are pelvic therapy options that are right for you.