Did you know one in three women in the United States experience a pelvic floor disorder? These issues include urine leakage, pelvic and back pain, and painful sex and are commonly a result of pregnancy and/or childbirth. Unfortunately, for moms, they’re among the most under-discussed health issues of our time, but they don’t have to be. ‘Pelvic floor therapy’ shouldn’t have to be whispered.
There is a national “pelvic mafia” movement dedicated to getting this vital information to as many women, physical therapists and physicians as possible. One of the pelvic mafia leaders, whose team is a tremendous resource for Boston-area moms, is physical therapist Jessica McKinney, co-founder of The Center for Women’s Health at Marathon Physical Therapy. She works tirelessly helping heal women and even spreading the word to moms that although pelvic floor disorder is common, the effects of childbirth on a woman’s body can and should not simply be accepted as par for the course.
What Is Pelvic Floor Therapy?
Pelvic floor therapy is the strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles to heal or avoid prolapse, pain, or weakness. It is often needed after pregnancy due to the stretching of muscles. It involves working with a physical therapist and then continuing exercises as home.
Do I Need Pelvic Floor Therapy?
If you have any of the following symptoms, then you would benefit from pelvic floor therapy. It’s important to have a strong pelvic floor because it supports our bladder, bowel, and uterus.
- Urine leakage, especially while sneezing or coughing
- Trouble emptying your bladder or bowels
- Back or pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- If you are unable to do a kegel correctly (at your 6 week postpartum appointment they can check this and may ask if you’re able to stop your pee midstream for a few seconds.)
What To Expect
If you schedule a pelvic floor therapy session, it’s common to be a little nervous. Knowing what to expect can help settle your nerves. Keep in mind that each physical therapist has a different style of helping you heal. Most often they will begin with questions and an exam of your abdomen to see if your abs have come back together after birth. Next, with your permission, they will feel the inside of your vagina and ask you to try to contract your pelvic floor muscles via a kegel exercise. Then, you will work on different exercises to tighten (or relax) your pelvic floor. At later appointments the physical therapist may ask if you would like to try using an internal sensor to track on a screen the strength of your contractions.
Pelvic Floor Therapy Exercises to Try At Home
Engage and contract your lower abdominal muscles as you work on these exercises. Your muscles are connected and work together. Keep your pelvis still throughout each exercise (try not to move your hips too much). Keep in mind that if you are pregnant, you need to consult with your doctor for safe and appropriate pelvic floor exercises that won’t risk coning from diastasis recti.
- Arms Over Head: This is a good one to get started. Lay on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise both arms straight up. One at a time lower one arm slowly back over your head. While doing this your abs should be contracted; you may notice as your arms go back it’s harder to keep your abs engaged. Do this 10 times per each arm, for half of them try to contract your pelvic floor muscle simultaneously.
- Bridge: Lay on your back, bend your knees to put your feet flat on the floor, and lift your hips. Do 10 reps and engage your pelvic floor by doing a kegel every other bridge lift. Reference the picture on the right.
- Leg Raise: Lay on your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Straighten one leg out and slowly raise it up and then back down to right above the floor. If your back lifts off the floor as you lower your leg, don’t go any lower until you strength your abs and pelvic floor a bit more. Try ten reps per each leg.
- Plank: From lying on your belly, push up onto your tippy toes and forearms. Keep your neck, spine, and bottom flat and aligned. Try to do 2-4 minutes of plank alternating between 30 seconds up and then 30 seconds resting down.
If you have any pelvic health questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Marathon Physical Therapy’s Women’s Health team or a pelvic health provider in your area. If you are looking for any additional postpartum support, Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny offers lactation consultation, sleep coaching, and more!