By: Clare Antonioli PT, DPT, Colleen Ryan PT, DPT, Dana Solge PT, DPT, PRPC
As pelvic health physical therapists, we specialize in the group of muscles that attach to the base of the pelvis. While we instruct pelvic floor strengthening exercises, commonly termed kegels, and relaxation exercises for the muscles of the pelvic floor, we also address the person as a whole. These muscles are particularly important in pregnancy and post partum because of their various functions - support the pelvic organs, stability in the pelvis, sphincteric control of bladder and bowels, sexual function and “sump” pump of lymphatic fluid out of the legs into the pelvis.
The pelvic floor and pelvic girdle muscles go through significant changes during pregnancy as well as during labor and delivery. While the body has an amazing capacity to heal, some folks need support and guidance to return to their prior level of function following childbirth. The 4th trimester, the immediate postpartum period, has become recognized as deserving of care. We recommended a 6 week postpartum evaluation - however, women can come in much earlier if presenting with dysfunction.
Pelvic health physical therapy during pregnancy can reduce the risk of common postpartum issues such as urinary, bowel and sexual dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain, and pelvic organ prolapse. In the postpartum period, we can offer guidance and provide an individualized program to return to exercise - as most women are cleared for exercise much sooner than feel ready to do so. Physical therapy can also address birth related traumas such as scarring (cesarean or perineal) or diastasis recti (abdominal separation).
As pelvic health physical therapists, we can help you with so much more than just your pelvic floor. We are trained to understand how the whole musculoskeletal system changes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Physical therapists can help modify and adjust what you are currently doing ranging from being able to continue running or lifting weights to something as simple as putting on your socks or breathing. We also help with the care of your body while you care for your new infant by instructing body mechanics, providing suggestions for feeding positions, or even carrying a car seat.
Pelvic health physical therapy can answer your questions and offer you support throughout your pregnancy, the birthing process or postpartum. Many people feel overwhelmed and confused during pregnancy and postpartum and unsure if the aches and pains they are feeling are normal. Many postpartum pains are common, but they are not normal. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help.