Pelvic floor health
Your pelvic floor is so important to your lower body health. And, honestly, your whole body health.
I would love to know how many of you have had pelvic physical therapy and how many of you have never heard of it. Let me know in the comments.
Is pelvic physical therapy right for you?
Are you considering having a child, are pregnant, or already had a child? Are you a little more seasoned in life? Have you started to pee a little when you laugh, sneeze, or cough? Are you starting to have low back pain? Is intercourse painful?
Men can benefit from pelvic physical therapy too, but this post is for women, today. 🙂
This post will be for you!
What is your pelvic floor?
Do you know what your pelvic floor is or does?
According to the clevelandclinic.org, the pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the “floor” of the pelvic area. These muscles help support the pelvis. They also go on to say some of these muscles form a sling around the rectum and vagina.
My physical therapist defines the pelvic floor muscles as a “hammock” from your tailbone to where your pelvic bones meet.
Think of a Summer Hammock
When you first buy the hammock, it is firm and supportive. As the months or years go on, the hammock becomes loose from wear and tear and you begin to sink down when you lie on it.
This is how your pelvic floor muscles are if they are not properly cared for.
If these muscles are strong, they can help take pressure off your lower back. Also, they will help you keep in that pee that leaks when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. It can help make sex less painful.
If you are experiencing any of these things above, you should speak with your doctor about pelvic physical therapy because these things are not normal.
How is this important for women?
Well, continence.org says, the pelvic floor muscles support a woman’s bladder, uterus, and rectum. Not only that the vagina and the back pass through the pelvic floor muscles meaning these muscles need to be kept strong all the time, really. These muscles also help control your bladder and your bowel movements.
If these tiny muscles are so important, and they are, why aren’t they being talked about more?
Has your OB/GYN ever discussed with you about the importance of strengthening your pelvic floor?
If your doctor has never discussed this with you, it isn’t because they aren’t aware of the information themselves. They seem to simply leave it to us to either complain about something that warrants them discussing it with us, or they wait for us to find out on our own. This is very unfortunate for women EVERY where in the US.
Do research and ask questions
I found out by stumbling upon a few blog posts similar to the one I am writing, and I found Nancy Anderson on Instagram.
I cannot attest to any of Nancy Anderson’s fitness programs, but her passion about postpartum health, particularly after a c-section, because she has had two; made me a follower and believer.
She made me aware of something that is being kept from women in the US, and I am here to shout it from the mountain tops. (Can you hear me now?! LOL!)
Did you know?
Women in Europe upon leaving the hospital after birth are given doctor’s order for Pelvic Physical Therapy (PT). I was informed of this by 3 different Physical Therapists at three different times. My jaw dropped to the floor. I didn’t even know this part of PT existed until 5ish months ago. We already know Europe has a better maternity leave for women than the US, and now, we know they have better postpartum care than we do.
Remember when the media was making a big deal about Kate Middleton leaving the hospital so quickly after birth? (This might be a bad example, but everyone knows her.) Not only did she, most likely, have endless amounts of help at home, but she would be going to Pelvic PT immediately following (well after the 6 weeks of recovery), so she didn’t NEED to stay in the hospital. Not that needing Pelvic PT is going to keep you in the hospital.
No matter what, at doctor’s clearance or at 6 weeks postpartum you should be getting pelvic PT
My point with the Kate Middleton reference isn’t that she left the hospital quickly because she was getting pelvic PT, but because she would be getting adequate postpartum care moving forward. There is only so much that can be done before 6 weeks, but after 6 weeks, women in Europe will receive pelvic PT to restrengthen their pelvic floor muscles.
Pregnancy changes your body
Pregnancy, although beautiful, takes its toll on your body. It isn’t just simply push the baby out and live with the consequences forever. There are things you can do after your 6 weeks of recovery to feel better down there.
This should be a given in the US, and not something we should have to seek on our own and beg for the referral.
Unless you have had a c-section or complications from birth, you don’t need to be in the hospital very long. You just need appropriate postpartum care. And, that care shouldn’t come 6 weeks to a life time later.
Ask your doctor for a referral to pelvic PT
It was so easy to do. My doctor’s office did it immediately no questions asked. As happy as this made me, it also made me so angry. My doctor could have told me about this at my annual visit when I told him I was still experiencing discomfort.
Why didn’t he tell me?
Who is Pelvic PT for?
You get Pelvic PT and You get Pelvic PT! Pelvic PT for ALL women!
Pelvic PT can literally be for every single woman on the planet.
It can actually be for men too, but we aren’t going to get into that here.
Do you have an over active bladder or incontinence? (Incontinence is the loss of bladder control.) Are you peeing a little or a lot when you sneeze or cough? That isn’t normal. Let me repeat that THAT ISN’T NORMAL. Stop just living with it and thinking it is normal. Pelvic PT is for YOU!
Have you had a c-section or a vaginal birth and still just don’t feel right, but you can’t explain what it is? Pelvic PT is likely for YOU.
Are you having pain during intercourse? Pelvic PT is for YOU.
Have you been having lower back pain or feeling pressure in your pelvic area? Pelvic PT is for YOU!
Are you seeing the pattern?
EVERY woman can benefit from Pelvic PT. It doesn’t matter if you had your baby 30 years ago. Pelvic PT can still be incredibly beneficial to you.
But, your doctor says surgery will be needed no matter what
I would suggest asking your doctor to try Pelvic PT first.
It doesn’t matter what season you are in in life; Pelvic PT is a great noninvasive way to start. Try it out and see if it will work for you. However, you have to do your part when it comes to PT, or it won’t work.
Surgery shouldn’t always be your first and only option. My physical therapist even referenced trying PT before you jump into knee surgery. You would be surprised that a less invasive approach might be the cure you are looking for. I highly recommend at least trying it before just assuming surgery is the right answer.
How do you get into Pelvic PT?
You have to get a referral from your doctor first.
My doctor’s office uses mychart. I know this is the case for Wellstar in Georgia and Novant in North Carolina beyond that you would have to check with your doctor.
However, I emailed my doctor and said, “I was still feeling some discomfort, and I would like a referral to a Pelvic PT, so that I could get some exercises and massage techniques that would make me feel better.” (The massage techniques are for my c-section scar. I will discuss this momentarily.) Without question, I received a phone call from the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center setting up my appointment.
Will this be the case for everyone? I would like to think so, but every doctor is different and some might want to see and speak with you before they will give you a referral.
What if your doctor won’t give you a referral without being seen?
Make your appointment because it is important. Your doctor will examine you again and likely discuss with you why you want to go to Pelvic PT. Be prepared to explain what your discomfort is and why you think Pelvic PT will be beneficial for you.
What can you do in the mean time between appointments?
You can start with some basic exercises I will give you below.
Also, if you have started to exercise or have been exercising and are feeling discomfort, you should stop working out or lower the intensity of your workouts. If running is uncomfortable, you should go back to walking for the time being. You have a life time to workout. Get yourself right first then you can get back to a normal workout routine.
If you have had a c-section, you can start massaging your scar once you have healed and/or cleared by your doctor. Start on either side it doesn’t matter. Massage back and forth, horizontally, to other side and back for 1-2 minutes. Next, massage up and down, vertically, over the scar from one side to the next for 1-2 minutes. I would say apply medium pressure while you massage. It is a possibility you will be sore the first few times you do this. Finally, put your hand where you have a “pooch” and pull the skin toward your head from one side to the next. You aren’t lifting the skin. You are sliding the skin up with your hands.
What are some pelvic floor exercises you can do at home?
This exercise is so simple but so good. When you are lying on your back and relaxed notice your lower back doesn’t touch the floor. When tightening your abdominals, you want your lower back to now touch the floor underneath. It helped me when my Physical Therapist said to bring my pubic bone toward my nose. (if that confuses you more don’t use it). You are simply doing a pelvic tilt. Your pelvic bone goes “up” as you contract your abdominal muscles toward the floor. Make sure to keep breathing and hold the contraction for 3 seconds. Do 10 of these.
I LOVE this exercise. Much like the pelvic tilt above; I could feel the superficial skin underneath start to move and stretch. You start this exercise on your back with your knees together feet on the floor. You then, keeping your knees together the best you can, send your knees to one side, then slowly move your knees to the other side. Your upper body should not be moving. You don’t have to be able to go all the way down with your knees right away. My range of motion increased every time I did this exercise. Do 10 of these. I did 10 per side for a total of 20.
You can do this exercise on your bed, but if you are your bed is somewhat soft like mine, I found out it hard to keep stable on the bed. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Lower your outside leg off the surface you choose to do this on. You will feel a stretch from the front of your hip. Make sure the foot on the surface remains bent. Hold this stretch for 1 minute.