Pregnancy can cause the muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic area to be injured or weakened.
When this happens, women may experience pain, urinary problems or prolapse, the sensation that the organs are falling.
A pelvic floor physical therapist like Regional One Health’s Darianne Butler can help, either during pregnancy or after a patient gives birth.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can improve quality of life by easing painful, disruptive symptoms.
This therapy addresses the pelvic area, i.e. from hip bone to hip bone and tailbone to pubic bone. So, it’s no surprise it has wide applications for a specific group of patients – women who are pregnant or recently had a baby.
Darianne Butler, DPT, is a pelvic floor physical therapist at Regional One Health’s Center for Rehabilitative Medicine. She said women should talk to their OB/GYN if they are experiencing discomfort and think physical therapy might help.
“Pregnancy can cause a lot of the issues that we treat in pelvic floor physical therapy,” she said. “Symptoms can start during pregnancy, or they can begin after a woman has given birth.”
Pelvic floor disorders occur when the muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic area are injured or weakened. This can result in a number of symptoms:
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Pain during sex
- Inability to fully empty the bladder
- Prolapse, or the sensation that the organs are dropping
Butler said it’s easy to see how these conditions can occur after pregnancy and birth.
During pregnancy, hormones loosen the muscles and ligaments in the pelvis to enable the baby to pass through the birth canal. At the same time, a woman’s expanding uterus and stomach put more pressure on the pelvic floor. Both increase the chances for pelvic floor problems.
“There’s an increase in abdominal pressure. For some women, the baby is resting right on the pubic bone,” Butler said. “This can cause issues with the pelvic floor muscles, as well as lower back pain, trouble walking and bending and other problems.”
Giving birth brings its own set of issues.
During vaginal deliveries, the pelvic muscles are stretched and sometimes even tear. Women can also experience nerve damage.
For women who had a C-section, the scar can create issues. “Anytime you have a scar, you can’t control how the scar tissue forms. It may not just stay in that one area,” Butler explained.
Women with C-section scars may not be able to twist and bend as easily as before. This decrease in mobility can contribute to lower back pain.
Butler advises pregnant women and new mothers to talk to their OB/GYN about whether pelvic floor physical therapy can help address their symptoms.
She can see women at all stages of pregnancy, and new mothers can begin or resume therapy as soon as their doctor gives the all-clear. “I can typically start working with patients six weeks after they give birth, as soon as they have been cleared by their doctor,” Butler said.