Did you know that somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 women in North America experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction? And did you know that there are physiotherapists who train specifically to help heal these dysfunctions?
Many pelvic floor issues can be brought on or exacerbated by pregnancy, however it is possible for anyone to have dysfunction. Although there are not always symptoms to indicate that there is pelvic floor dysfunction, some symptoms that may present include:
• The feeling that you need to have several bowel movements during a short period of time.
• The feeling that you cannot complete a bowel movement.
• Constipation or straining pain with bowel movements.
• A frequent need to urinate. When you do go, you may stop and start many times.
• Painful urination.
• Pain in your lower back that cannot be explained by other causes.
• Ongoing pain in your pelvic region, genitals, or rectum.
• Pain for women during intercourse.
As mentioned previously, often pregnancy can play a role in creating pelvic floor dysfunction. This is mainly because as the baby grows, the internal organs are moved around to make space, and increasing amounts of pressure are placed on the pelvic floor. Many women are instructed to practice kegels, but kegels performed incorrectly (without a relaxation component) can make the pelvic floor muscles more tight instead of more supple. During labour and delivery, if coached pushing is used, this can create further damage. After Baby is born, the mother is not often given the support needed to allow her to rest and recover… in many cultures it is custom to have a “lying in” period, in which the mother and baby are cared for, allowed to bond and develop good feeding habits, and allow the mother to recover. In North America the mother is often expected to care for the family right after birth.
For these reasons, it is a great idea to be checked by a pelvic floor physiotherapist during pregnancy, and then again work with one postpartum. They can assess any areas of weakness or damage and can work to rehabilitate the muscles to reduce any symptoms. Don’t forget, not everyone experiences symptoms right away, hey can also increase with age.
If you are located in Ontario, you can use this website to Find a Pelvic Floor Physio.
When returning to movement (Yoga, exercise etc) it is important to work with a movement professional who has knowledge of the pelvic floor. Make sure to ask your teacher, coach etc what his or her background is in relation to working with women who have PFD.