After giving birth, did you ask yourself, “Will I always pee a little when I sneeze?” Or maybe you gave up running because your wet running shorts clearly weren’t wet with sweat. Or perhaps you wondered if you should join Leakers Anonymous…
In my experience as a postpartum fitness expert, I find that too many women are shrugging off leaky bladders, painful intercourse, and pelvic prolapse (when the abdominal organs fall and rest against the pelvic floor) as unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, which we women must all learn to deal with. Not so!
What if I told you that in France, the national health care pays for women to visit a pelvic floor physical therapist at least 10 times after birth? American writer, Claire Lundberg, who once resided is France, speculates that, “It being France, everyone wants you to be able to have sex with your husband again as soon as possible.” (see article) As a result of this tactic, the French now have the second highest birthrate in Europe and the women look pretty amazing, too!
Women’s Health Physical Therapy (WHPT) is an emerging field of specialty. In fact, WHPT wasn’t approved for board certification by the American Physical Therapy Association House of Delegates until 2006. As a result, most American doctors do not routinely refer women to a WHPT after giving birth, because it is a relatively new and lesser known specialty.
For any woman who has had an episiotomy or a tear (which can occur in as many as 40 – 85% of women who deliver vaginally) during childbirth, the trauma is quite uncomfortable and difficult to heal from. Could I get another newborn diaper filled with ice please?! Why are we not paying more attention to these delicate and extremely important tissues?
Oh, because they’re down there and we don’t talk about that.
Even if she didn’t deliver vaginally, a woman will have endured inordinate amounts of weight and pressure on her pelvic floor during pregnancy. So, how do you know if you should see a Physical Therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction? Chicago Physical Therapist and owner of Pelvic Solutions, LLC, Christina Christie suggests a list of questions to ask yourself to determine if you might have pelvic floor dysfunction:
- How often do you urinate? (normal is every 2-4 hours)
- Do you get up at night to go to the bathroom? If so, how often? (normal is 0-1 times)
- Do you have accidental leakage as with coughing, sneezing, laughing or exertion?
- Do you have urgency problems and have difficulty reaching the toilet in time? Do you do a lot of “just in case” toileting?
- Do you have trouble controlling gas?
- Have you ever lost bowel control?
- Do you have pain during intercourse?
- Do you have pain with urination?
- Is stopping the flow of urine in mid-stream impossible for you?
Answering “Yes” to questions 3 – 9 may prompt a recommendation to visit a Women’s Health PT for an evaluation of the pelvic floor muscles.
Most Physical Therapy clinics do not require a referral from your doctor, so you can schedule an appointment at any time. Be sure to check with your insurance company, too. Most likely WHPT services are covered!
Please do not suffer another day with these unpleasant and embarrassing symptoms. A pelvic floor physical therapist once said that she very regularly receives flowers from her patient’s husbands. I wonder why?
Check back again soon for part two of this series when I write about my visit with a pelvic floor physical therapist and give you a step-by-step guide for restoring the most important part of your female anatomy.