Some of the challenges that come with bringing home a new baby are expected, such as sleepless nights and endless diaper changes. But it is the unexpected problems that can be especially distressing for a new mom:
difficulty with that first bowel movement
leakage with sneezing or lifting your baby
difficulty controlling gas
perineal pain with sitting
back and shoulder pain with breastfeeding and holding your baby
pain with intercourse
vaginal pressure towards the end of the day
Where was all of this in the pregnancy books?!
Pregnancy and the process of giving birth, whether vaginally or via C-section, can mean a 1-2 punch to our core: overstretched and weakened abdominal muscles, along with traumatized and struggling pelvic floor muscles. This means that these 2 powerful muscle groups which help make up our core are often not up to the task of keeping us dry, protecting our backs, or supporting our perineum and pelvic organs.
But here is what is important to know: while these problems are common, they are not "normal", and there are steps you can take to get your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles back on track. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help get a new mom on the path to a quicker recovery, while respecting the healing process of the precious perineal tissue, and help to prevent problems in the future.
Having a baby the French Way
Did you know that in France, all new moms receive pelvic floor therapy, automatically? After giving birth, women are prescribed 10 sessions of rééducation périnéale, in the form of pelvic floor exercises by manual therapy techniques, biofeedback, and electrical stimulation. These services are routinely provided, regardless of symptoms, and the sessions are covered as part of the country's government health care plan.
The main goal of the French program, which was instituted in 1985, is to "prevent postpartum incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, and to restore sexual function, all major factors in a women's health and well-being."
Wouldn't it be great to actually prevent pelvic problems, instead of waiting for calamity to strike and then getting treatment? We could learn a thing or two from our French friends in this regard, and it is this standard of care which we in the United States need to strive towards, because healing our pelvic floor and core muscles are just as important to our quality of life as the healing of our uterus.
This requires a major paradigm shift. Childbirth is one of the primary risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction, so it makes sense to address it head on, shortly after the main event, instead of waiting until a woman has had problems for years before starting treatment. One wouldn't think of foregoing physical therapy after having a knee replacement, for example, so let's start viewing childbirth for the major health event that it is!