Pelvic floor therapy: Restoring health for new moms and women of all ages
This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.
[3 MIN READ]
In this article:
- Pelvic floor issues are a very common issue after pregnancy and childbirth.
- Providence St. Jude’s Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation program offers several therapy options to women experiencing pelvic floor issues.
- The program is a holistic, evidence-based approach that includes therapeutic approaches ranging from biofeedback—to help “reeducate” muscles and improve pelvic floor coordination—to myofascial release for pain relief.
Pregnancy and birth take a toll on a woman’s body, and often, along with a new bundle of joy, comes one or more pelvic floor issues. Incontinence, painful sex, and pelvic or back pain are frequently experienced by new mothers.
Some women try to live with their symptoms, not seeking treatment until years after they’ve given birth, when the seemingly small problems—a “little” pain or leaking—have grown into larger, more serious issues.
Fortunately, says Denise Diener, one of several physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor issues at the St. Jude Centers for Rehabilitation and Wellness, attitudes are changing. “Today, new moms aren’t willing to spend years buying incontinence products or missing out on intimacy because of pain,” she explains. “They’ve done their research, they know their symptoms are treatable and they’re not waiting for a doctor to suggest pelvic floor therapy—they’re asking for a referral.”
Healing your pelvic floor after pregnancy
For pregnant women, therapy within Providence St. Jude’s Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation program is often focused on resolving back or pelvic pain and preparing the pelvic muscles for a successful delivery. After birth, the priority is restoring strength and function to a weakened or injured pelvic floor and helping women fully heal.
“When you hurt, leak or can’t sit or stand for long periods, it’s hard to be the kind of mom you want to be,” comments Diener, a board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health physical therapy.
The pelvic floor is a combination of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that support the bladder, bowel, uterus, pelvis and back. Weakness or tightness in these muscles, scar tissue from surgery or cancer treatment, and medical conditions—from interstitial cystitis to endometriosis—can create pain, dysfunction or a loss of bladder and bowel control.
Symptoms of pelvic floor weakness
“Symptoms as diverse as back pain and urinary frequency can successfully be treated by restoring strength and balance to the pelvic floor. This is beginning to be understood by physicians and patients alike,” she explains. The program’s holistic, evidence-based approach includes therapeutic approaches ranging from biofeedback, to help “reeducate” muscles and improve pelvic floor coordination, to myofascial release for pain relief.
Every day, the program’s experienced pelvic physical therapists shatter two common misconceptions: “Everything works differently after kids” and “I’ll just have to live with it.” Explains Diener, “When the symptoms are gone, it often changes a woman’s life.”
Find a doctor
If you have questions about your pregnancy or pelvic floor therapy, talk to your OB/GYN or another member of your care team. If you’re thinking about starting a family and want to speak to a professional, you can find a compassionate expert in our provider directory.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.