Throughout your pregnancy, your body underwent some significant changes to accommodate your growing fetus. Like the 3.5 to 4 million women who give birth each year in the United States, it may take a little time for everything to return to normal, and there may be a new normal.
One area that’s well worth paying attention to after you give birth is the health of your pelvic floor. In this month's blog post, Dr. Denise Furlong and our team here at Chicago Center for Women’s Health want to discuss postpartum pelvic floor health and what you can do to restore these important tissues more quickly.
Pelvic floor 101
We often hear about the pelvic floor, but it’s helpful to review exactly what these tissues are. Your pelvic floor is a band of muscles that stretches from your tailbone to your pubic bone to form a supportive hammock for certain organs, including your:
Your pelvic floor also contains several sphincters, which are muscular bands that your vagina, urethra, and anus pass through.
When your pelvic floor weakens
As you progress through your pregnancy, you place more pressure on your pelvic floor, which can weaken the tissues. This is perfectly normal and explains why you may have experienced certain side effects, such as urinary incontinence (you leaked urine when you coughed, sneezed, or laughed) or the inability to control passing wind.
After your pregnancy, it may take a little time for these muscles to regain their strength, and some of the side effects you experienced during pregnancy may linger.
Restrengthening your pelvic floor
While you can wait for your pelvic floor to restrengthen on its own, we very much recommend that you do your part through pelvic floor strengthening exercises. The best exercises are what we call Kegels and this link shows you how to perform them correctly.
Problematic postpartum pelvic floor health
Most of your postpartum side effects should dissipate after three to six months, but up to 31% of women still experience incontinence after six months.
If this is the case with you, we may recommend that you engage in pelvic floor physical therapy, which goes beyond Kegel exercises to help restrengthen the group of muscles.
If, after targeted physical therapy, you’re still having issues with incontinence or pelvic floor dysfunction, we may turn to a pessary or bladder sling.
The bottom line is that changes in your pelvic floor are to be expected after you give birth, and it may take a little time for everything to function the way it did before. But if it’s taking too much time, we’re here to help.
For questions about postpartum pelvic floor health, please contact us at one of our two locations in Bedford Park or Oak Lawn, Illinois. You can call the office of your choice.