Pregnancy and childbirth are life-changing in so many ways and require immense sacrifice; your pelvic health should not be one of them. Here’s what you need to know about the pelvic floor, what pelvic floor physical therapy is, what a pelvic floor therapist does, and the symptoms to watch for.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues shaped like a hammock that spans between the tailbone and public bone. It supports the bladder, uterus, vagina, and bowels and works to stabilize your hips, core, and spine. The pelvic floor is responsible for bladder and bowel control and plays a big role in sexual function.
1 in 3 women will suffer from at least one pelvic floor disorder in her life as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, age, trauma, or non-optimal habits. And when it comes to the method of delivery, both vaginal and cesarean births can cause muscle trauma with symptoms such as urinary incontinence, prolapse, and more. Thankfully a pelvic floor physical therapist can help manage or alleviate these disorders entirely.
What is a pelvic floor therapist?
A pelvic floor physical therapist is a licensed physical therapist who has additional training and specializes in rehabilitating and reconditioning the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) in addition to the hips, back and core. They are trained to help you safely improve the strength and function of your PFM through exercises that stretch, strengthen, and relax the muscles giving you further control of your body and alleviating pain and discomfort in the process.
Using techniques such as hands-on manipulation that improves mobility, flexibility, and posture, exercises to improve pelvic floor activation and relaxation, as well as biofeedback all to combat incontinence, overactive pelvic floor muscles, and more. A pelvic floor physical therapist provides a unique tailored plan for you that involves internal and external treatments and education to help you feel your best at every stage of life.
Learn more about what to expect from pelvic floor physical therapy postpartum here.
When to seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist?
If you are suffering from:
- Bladder or bowel urgency/frequency
- Constipation, irritable bowels, leaking stool, straining with bowel movements
- Diastasis recti
- Pain in the pelvis, lower abdomen, vagina, rectum - with or without intercourse
- Painful scars along abdomen or pelvis
- Organ prolapse
- Urine leakage
- Weak pelvic floor
How therapeutic exercise can support treatment.
Therapeutic exercise is incredibly beneficial for pelvic floor dysfunction and postpartum healing. More often than not, pelvic floor dysfunction presents concurrently with diastasis recti (abdominal separation), a condition caused when the abdomen stretches sideways during pregnancy, injuring the connective tissue in the process. This leaves the core weak and puts additional pressure on the pelvic floor, resulting in damage.
Thankfully, you can both restore core strength and improve pelvic floor function through targeted deep core exercises. Our clinically proven Core Compressions encourage a healthy activation of the transverse abdominis, prompting a spontaneous co-contraction of several core muscles, including the diaphragm, the rectus abdominis, the lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor. The Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell found statistically significant reductions of diastasis recti, back pain, and urinary incontinence for women using the Every Mother program. It is all the more effective when combined with pelvic floor physical therapy.
Learn more about the science behind Every Mother’s workouts and why they are so effective here.
It’s never too late or too early to consider your pelvic floor health. Whether you are experiencing the symptoms above or looking to make a game plan through pregnancy and beyond, a pelvic floor physical therapist can give you the support you need to take command of your pelvic health.
Reviewed by Abby Inman PT, DPT in December 2021.