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Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy and Pregnancy

Physiotherapists specialize in treating conditions that impact our ability to move and successfully carry out day-to-day tasks. Physiotherapists are often considered as the specialists we will visit when we experience an injury, illness, accident, or health condition that affects movement and limb functioning. Physiotherapists also guide us through other conditions, such as a weak pelvic floor.

What is Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy?

Pelvic floor physiotherapy is a specialized branch of physiotherapy that focuses on assessing and treating conditions impacting pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are crucial for women’s pelvic health, especially during pregnancy. Your pelvic floor muscles are located between your hip bones and sacrum, the lowest bones in your spine (sometimes called your “tailbone”). These muscles are responsible for supporting your pelvic organs, including your colon, bladder, and uterus.

How Do Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Support Women Patients?

Pelvic floor physiotherapists help women regain mobility and functioning of their pelvic floor muscles. There are many reasons why the muscles in the pelvic floor weaken or tighten. Often, weakening of the pelvic floor occurs due to surgery, childbirth, overweight, menopause, chronic constipation, and heavy lifting. A pelvic floor physiotherapist will offer treatment designed to strengthen these vital muscles. Not all women experience weakening of the pelvic floor. In some cases, these muscles are overreactive, leading to pain and discomfort with certain activities, including emptying the bladder, moving bowels, having sex, or inserting a tampon. In these cases, the physiotherapist helps the patient release and relax pelvic floor muscles.

When Should a Pregnant Woman Start Physiotherapy?

Pregnancy is beautiful; and a journey frequently accompanied by pain and discomfort. Many women experience lower back pain, bladder control concerns, and pelvic pain as their pregnancy progresses. Physiotherapy during pregnancy can help reduce the pain and discomfort that comes with hormonal changes and changes in the strength of your pelvic muscles. Physiotherapy can also help prepare you for labor and delivery by practicing pelvic floor exercises that strengthen and increase the flexibility of the muscles surrounding your uterus. Pregnancy physiotherapy can be beneficial throughout your pregnancy, especially if you have any of the concerns mentioned above. It is important to remember that physiotherapy is a crucial way to improve strength and flexibility at all stages of pregnancy, especially for women who cannot engage in rigorous exercise or activity.

When Should You See a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

Whether you are currently pregnant or not, there are benefits to connecting with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Many women wonder when they should schedule an appointment with a specialist nearby. The answer to this question is relatively simple. You should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist when you notice a concern. When you pull a muscle or strain a tendon, your body will (typically) heal with adequate time and rest. Pelvic floor muscle weakness does not heal in the same manner. In many cases, challenges with the pelvic floor muscles will worsen over time without treatment. It can be very difficult to isolate and “rest” muscles that are part of daily body functions, such as urination and bowel movements. Seeking treatment early will lead to the best treatment outcomes and preventing progressed complications. As with many medical conditions, it is easier to address symptoms when they are mild rather than when they have had months or years to develop into persistent problems. For example, addressing mild incontinence or uterine prolapse when you first notice symptoms will help you heal better and quicker.

What Does a Weak Pelvic Floor Feel Like?

Knowing when to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist may be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the symptoms of a weak pelvic floor. If you wonder what it feels like to have a weak pelvic floor that could benefit from treatment, consider the following symptoms:

  • Leaking urine or stool (bladder or bowel incontinence)
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Feeling as though you need to “force” urination
  • Long-term constipation
  • Straining or pushing during bowel movements
  • Lower back pain without an alternate explanation
  • Ongoing discomfort in the pelvic area (pelvis, genitals, rectum)
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Difficulty or inability to use tampons

What Does a Weak Pelvic Floor Feel Like?

While we do not know all the potential causes of pelvic floor dysfunction, many known factors may increase your risk. You may be at a higher risk for pelvic floor dysfunction if you experience:

  • Traumatic injuries to your pelvis, such as those experienced during a car accident
  • Overuse of pelvic muscles
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Overweight
  • Pregnancy

It is not uncommon for women to experience dysfunctions in the pelvic floor muscles after giving birth. During childbirth, these muscles become strained and can suffer damage. This is especially true if your labor was long, or delivery was difficult.

Another potential factor of pelvic floor dysfunction is advancing age. Unfortunately, many body processes common to aging also affect your muscles and hormones. As we age, hormone levels typically decrease, leading to weaker or even stiffer muscles in the pelvic floor. Both conditions -weak or overly rigid muscles- may lead to difficulties with pelvic floor function. Although it is impossible to avoid menopause or other age-related hormonal changes, it is possible to prevent the complications hormonal shifts may have on your pelvic floor muscles.

Additionally, connective tissues that provide muscle support and assist with muscle movement become more rigid with age. This leads to less support for your muscles and the organs in the pelvic floor. Also, years of bad habits such as straining with bowel movements or waiting too long to empty your bladder begin to catch up with us. In time, years, or even decades, these habits can lead to future challenges with pelvic floor function.

Suppose you have a history of difficulties with the organs in your pelvic region, such as difficulties with urination or bowel movements, painful sex, or a history of bowel or bladder inflammation. It may be time to consider scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Your provider can assess your symptoms and perform tests to determine how well you can control the muscles in your pelvic floor.

After determining which muscles in your pelvic floor, lower back, or pelvis are weakened or too tight, a pelvic floor physiotherapist will teach you exercises to stretch, loosen, or tighten, and improve the flexibility of these muscles to improve coordination and control.

To learn more about pelvic floor physiotherapy and how it can help you, connect with a physiotherapy clinic by you.

If you are interested in speaking to a health professional about a health concern that you have, you can search Medimap for a clinic near you.

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