Why Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
I’m sure many of you pregnant ladies out there are surprised by this statement. You’re saying to yourself, “my OBGYN or midwife never told me to see a pelvic floor PT”. In fact, I don’t even know what a pelvic floor PT is! Hopefully after reading this, you’ll not only know what a pelvic floor physical therapist can do for you, but you’ll feel empowered to address some of the unwanted changes to your body you may have noticed since becoming pregnant.
Until recently, there was very little in the media about the effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body. Why you ask? Well, frankly, it’s not pretty. Many women silently suffer with embarrassing problems after they give birth. Topics like leaking urine or pain with sex aren’t exactly dinner table convo. Many new moms are left to deal with these changes to their bodies alone, without guidance or resources. Thankfully, recently, there has been more information available to new moms about what is normal and not normal following childbirth, and what to do and who to see to address some of these issues.
Last year, Cosmo published a very unique article that openly and honestly discussed some of the embarrassing problems many new moms face. This article went viral on social media, receiving thousands of comments and over 50,000 shares on Facebook. It opened the door for new moms to discuss issues they have been dealing with since childbirth and gave them resources to get help.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Here are the facts:
1. 21% of women undergoing vaginal delivery had levator ani avulsion (tearing of some of the pelvic floor musculature)1
2. 29% of women undergoing vaginal deliveries had pubic bone fractures2
3. 60% of postpartum women reported Stress Urinary Incontinence (leaking urine with laughing, jumping, coughing)3
4. 64.3% of women reported sexual dysfunction in the first year following childbirth4
5. 77% of women had low back pain that interfered with daily tasks5
I realize these statistics may be surprising and unsettling to learn. Trust me, I’m not trying to scare you if you’re about to give birth for the first time. My hope is that if you are a new mom and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you learn that you are not alone and there is very successful treatment available for you. There is absolutely no reason to suffer in silence.
As a pelvic floor physical therapist, these statistics are not surprising to me. My education and experience teaches me the effects pregnancy and labor and delivery can have on a woman’s body. It has also taught me how to help pregnant women and new moms eliminate things like pain, incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
I’m sure many of you have been told, “just do your Kegels and you’ll be fine”. I’m here to tell you, there’s a lot more to it than just doing “your Kegels”. In fact, a study revealed that most women who receive verbal instruction alone on how to do Kegels, did them incorrectly. They are not as easy as everyone makes them out to be!
How do you know if you should see a pelvic floor physical therapist? Frankly, anyone who is pregnant or has given birth would benefit from a consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist. For pregnant women, a pelvic floor PT can eliminate discomfort in the hips and pelvis as well as help mom-to-be better prepare her body for labor and delivery. For new moms, a pelvic floor PT can identify very common postpartum changes to the body, such as a diastasis recti, that can cause problems down the road if not addressed correctly.
Additionally, a pelvic floor PT can eliminate postpartum incontinence, minimize scar tissue restrictions from C-section or perineal scars, and help moms get back to pain-free sex and safe and healthy exercise. Not only can a pelvic floor PT help eliminate these worrisome and sometimes embarrassing symptoms, but she can answer many of those unanswered questions you may have about the changes to your body throughout pregnancy and afterward.
How do you find a pelvic floor physical therapist? There are a couple routes you could take. Many of our pregnant patients and new moms find us on their own via internet searches and mom groups. However, thankfully, more and more OBGYNs and midwives are working closely with pelvic floor PTs. Here is the best way to find a pelvic floor PT that is right for you.
1. At your 6 week postpartum check-up, or anytime thereafter, ask your OBGYN or midwife if he/she can recommend a pelvic floor physical therapist. He/she may currently work with a PT that they trust.
2. Most states, including Massachusetts, have direct access to physical therapy. That means that an individual can directly schedule an appointment with a physical therapist without a physician’s prescription. However, please keep in mind that some insurance companies require a physician’s prescription to see a PT in order for it to be covered by insurance. You can find a PT yourself in this “Find a Provider” link.
Since pelvic floor physical therapy is not the standard of care for pregnant and postpartum women in the US, many women suffer unnecessarily with symptoms that can be easily and successfully treated. Don’t be one of those women. Don’t suffer in silence. A pelvic floor physical therapist near you is ready to help you get back to YOU!
1. Van Delft et al. Levator ani muscle avulsion during childbirth: a risk prediction model. BJOG 2014 August; 121(9):1155-63.
2. Miller et al. Evaluating maternal recovery from labor and delivery: bone and levator ani injuries. AJOG 2015 August; 213:188e.1-11).
3. Mannion et al. The influence of back pain and urinary incontinence on daily tasks of mothers at 12 months postpartum. PLoS One 10(6):e0129615.
4. Kajehi M et al. Prevalence and risk factors of postpartum sexual dysfunction in Australian women. J Sex Med. 2015 Jun;12(6):1415-26. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12901. Epub 2015 May 11.
5. Mannion et al. The influence of back pain and urinary incontinence on daily tasks of mothers at 12 months postpartum. PLoS One 10(6):e0129615.
Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, MSPT is the co-owner of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, MA, and co-author of Pelvic Pain Explained. She is a pelvic floor physical therapist specializing in treating men and women with pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. www.pelvicpainrehab.com