Moms: Specialized therapy offers relief from pain, incontinence after birth


Moms: Specialized therapy offers relief from pain, incontinence after birth

Moms put up with a lot. But some of the more unpleasant aspects of motherhood – incontinence and pain during intimacy after birth – can be prevented, treated and even reversed instead of shrugged off as the inevitable consequences of carrying a child.
More and more women are discovering pelvic floor physical therapy, a non-invasive treatment to address the damage or weaking of pelvic floor muscles that can occur during pregnancy or childbirth.

Treatment can help

Long dismissed as normal, post-partum pelvic floor symptoms such as incontinence and pelvic pain or tightness don’t have to be accepted, says Cassie Woodrow, a physical therapist and pelvic health specialist who practices at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at Carolina Forest.
“Unfortunately, society has done a great job of normalizing these symptoms after birth,” Woodrow says.
She hears moms say things like, “It’s normal. I just leak when I sneeze” or “I’ve had three kids, so I can’t jump on a trampoline anymore.”
“Although these symptoms are very common in women that are postpartum, they’re not normal,” Woodrow says. “There is something that can be done.”

How pelvic floor therapy works

Pelvic floor physical therapy treats muscle groups in the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, back and hips.
Woodrow starts with an external exam to assess what might be causing a woman’s symptoms. Postpartum patients may also need an internal vaginal or rectal exam to evaluate musculoskeletal issues. At Tidelands Health, our region’s leading health care provider, women can benefit from the expertise of a specially trained urogynecologist.
In the past, Woodrow says, postpartum medical treatment was often limited to external scarring or tearing caused by a childbirth, overlooking the potential for internal pelvic floor and abdominal damage.
“The abdominal muscles and organs within the abdominal cavity get stretched out and change” during pregnancy and don’t always correct themselves, Woodrow explains.

Individualized plan

To address that internal damage, Woodrow creates an individualized exercise and therapy regimen for her patients to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic region and reduce incontinence and pain.
“A lot of it is learning how to coordinate the function of your pelvic floor and your core muscles,” Woodrow says.

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Woodrow doesn’t just treat postpartum moms. Some of her clients start therapy before giving birth.
“It can be extremely beneficial to understand what your body’s going through, how to prepare for delivery and then how to recover once you’ve delivered,” Woodrow says.
Pelvic floor therapy can help women who are recovering from both Caesarean or vaginal births.

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“Even with a C-section, you’ve carried a child for nine months,” she says. “And with the added weight, there’s a lot of pressure on the pelvic region and your pelvis in general. That can cause lower back issues; that can cause hip instability; that can cause core weakness.”
All too often, those issues keep new moms from following advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to resume exercising just a few days after giving birth, building up to 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week.
And pelvic damage can last a lifetime. The good news, Woodrow says, is that she can help patients long after they’ve given birth.
“It can be challenging as a new mom to seek care,” but improvement is still possible years later, she says.
“Pelvic floor physical therapy is a great way to improve and even eliminate those symptoms that are affecting your quality of life.”

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