Pregnancy and childbirth place serious demands on the pelvic region. Even the most thorough health care program may not be able to inform you of all of the changes your body may undergo both during your pregnancy and after giving birth.
While you’ll be able to see the changes to your stomach and ab muscles as you gain weight, you can’t always tell what’s going on with your pelvic floor, or the group of muscles that cradle your pelvic organs. When it comes to women’s health, it’s always better to be informed. Here’s what you need to know:
What Does The Pelvic Floor Do?
The pelvic floor muscles have many functions including controlling the passage of urine, stool and gas. As such, these muscles allow you to stay in control of your bladder and other bathroom functions..
During your pregnancy, these muscles can fall behind on their work. This means that you might be ‘leaking’ several times a day or have less control over your bowels. You can blame these changes on the increased demands on your pelvic floor muscles as you gain necessary weight as well as the amount of progesterone, estrogen, and relaxin flowing through your body. Because pregnancy demands so many changes of your body, your muscles need to be both strong and able to relax to accommodate another human life.
The Downside of Pressure
Unfortunately, that pressure can lead to long-term complications with the pelvic floor muscles if unaddressed. This is known as pelvic floor dysfunction. The aforementioned lack of control over your bladder and bowels can worsen to the point where laughing, coughing, or even changing positions causes leaks or unexpectedly passing gas. Women suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction may also be unable to have sex due to the pain it causes.
When to Check for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
You should talk to your doctor or OB-GYN about pelvic floor dysfunction while you’re pregnant and after you’ve given birth. (Not pregnant yet or don’t plan to become pregnant? You can also do pelvic floor PT as a preventative measure!) Check in during your routine pregnancy check-ups to determine how your pelvic floor is reacting to your body’s changes. These early signs will give you a better understanding of how your body will react post-pregnancy.
If you have any early signs of dysfunction, you can make an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist – even during your pregnancy – to lessen your chances of more severe issues down the road.
Treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
A pelvic floor physical therapist will help you implement a pelvic floor exercise regimen specific to your needs. Pelvic floor therapy will also differ for women who are actively pregnant versus postpartum women. This may include strengthening the muscles by squeezing and lifting the muscles, relaxing the muscles, addressing muscular trigger points and treating scars from c-sections and vaginal tears.
If you feel like you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, please contact our office. It’s better to ask for help than to live uncomfortably.