You might rarely think about the muscle group, but your pelvic floor supports all the organs in your pelvic region. This consists of your bladder and bowels; for women, it also includes the uterus and vagina. As you can imagine, childbirth affects these muscles. Delivering a baby can cause trauma to your pelvic floor. For many women, this leads to long-lasting effects on urination, defecation, menstruation, and sexual wellness.
Our physical therapy and rehabilitation team at Elation Physical Therapy in Houston and Pearland, Texas, specializes in managing pelvic floor disorders, which often affect women sometimes after a vaginal delivery. With specialized physical therapy, you can retrain those muscles to support your organs and restore your control over their functions.
Beyond simply giving your pelvic organs support, the muscles within the pelvic floor flex to move up and down and allow you control over the sphincters of your bladder and bowel. They also stabilize your spine and aid in sexual function.
Your pelvic floor’s life after childbirth
Not every vaginal delivery happens in the same way. Some are smooth and complication-free, while others take hours upon hours and are traumatic. There’s no predicting whether or not you’ll experience pelvic floor dysfunction after your own delivery, but it’s always good to be aware of the possibilities.
Pelvic floor changes start during pregnancy before you give birth. Among many other pregnancy-related bodily changes, your pelvic floor muscles and ligaments can get weaker because of the hormone changes and the increased pressure they must withstand to support the weight of your growing baby.
The pressure reaches a peak when you’re in labor, with the pelvic floor muscles contracting and stretching to push the baby and the placenta out. You may experience pelvic floor disorder symptoms soon after childbirth or later in your life because the pelvic floor has weakened from this process.
Signs of trouble
An estimated 20% of first-time mothers experience severe pelvic floor dysfunction due to a vaginal delivery, and roughly 35% of new mothers experience at least some urinary incontinence. This is one of the most common signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, making it difficult to control your urination. You might dribble when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.
Although urinary incontinence is common, it’s not the only sign of pelvic floor dysfunction that can appear after you give birth. You might also experience:
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Fecal incontinence
For many women, signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, like urinary or fecal incontinence, improve after about two months. But pelvic organ prolapse, which happens when one or more of your organs slips out of place and bulges into the vaginal canal, can appear months or even years later as a result of vaginal delivery.
What you can do about it
Kegel exercises can help you retain control over pelvic floor muscles. Taking the time to flex your kegels every day in three sets of 10 might be enough to improve milder pelvic floor troubles without clinical care.
If your pelvic floor dysfunction persists, or if it worsens, pelvic floor therapy is highly effective for correcting almost every issue resulting from weakened pelvic floor muscles. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online at Elation Physical Therapy for an initial evaluation and treatment consultation today.