In the United States, it’s uncommon to receive a referral for postpartum physical therapy with a pelvic floor specialist after childbirth. At Freedom Physical Therapy Services, we believe it should be the norm. One country that is giving women’s postpartum health the attention it deserves is France. For decades, all French women have been referred for perineal re-education with a physical therapist after their 6 week follow up visit with their OB-GYN.
Here are four reasons why the French are right on this topic:
1. A physical therapist can help with urinary and fecal incontinence.
Many mothers leak urine or feces after giving birth. This can continue for many years postpartum if not treated correctly. Physical therapists use methods that are incredibly effective to treat incontinence without invasive methods or medications. A 2003 study in the International Urogynecology Journal revealed almost half of 144 mothers studied experienced urinary incontinence during and immediately after pregnancy. Eight weeks after giving birth, 38% still suffered from urinary incontinence.
Physical therapists teach women how to properly exercise their pelvic floor muscles to regain the strength they need to maintain continence. These are known as Kegel exercises, and they are very difficult to do correctly. However, a pelvic floor trained physical therapist can help ensure that the exercises are done properly and do not result in harm from performing them incorrectly.
2. Treat Scar Tissue & Pelvic Pain
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process, but scar tissue can often grow rapidly and cause pain. Such pain can occur in the abdomen after a C- section procedure or in the perineum as a result of tearing or episiotomies during childbirth. Perineal pain may be experienced while sitting or moving your bowels, or during vaginal exams, tampon use, or intercourse.
Treatment for scar-related pain may include gentle tissue mobilization techniques, massage, education, and stretching exercises.
3. Help With Low Back Pain
Pain during pregnancy and post-partum is incredibly common. The new mother also has new demands on her body although she has not fully healed and recovered. These demands can worsen back pain that was present during pregnancy. Low back pain can result from misalignment, tight muscles, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, or muscle imbalance. Physical therapists are trained to find the root cause of the pain by performing a thorough evaluation of the new mother’s strength and flexibility as well as her joint integrity and alignment. In fact, physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts that can help improve the health of your spine after giving birth.
4. Restoring Your Core
It is important to re-learn how to use your core efficiently after giving birth. The deep muscle of your core, specifically the transverse abdominis, and your pelvic floor, are stretched and weakened during pregnancy. If these muscles are not awakened and strengthened correctly, then other muscles will be burdened, which can cause adverse effects on the entire body. If the core is not properly restored, then the woman is susceptible to disc herniation, low back pain, neck pain, hip pain, and pelvic organ prolapse. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn how to properly engage and strengthen your deep core muscles!
At Freedom Physical Therapy Services, we have three pelvic floor specialists, at three locations here to help you! We would be happy to assist you in making your body be the best it can be so that you can Enjoy More Freedom!