I'll never forget learning about prolapse. It wasn't from a birthing class or my doctor. It was from my friend who had a baby shortly after I did and she was telling me about her new physical therapy program specifically targeting her pelvic floor. My mind was blown. How did I not know about this?
Even if I didn't personally suffer from prolapse, I was shocked to learn how many resources are out there designed specifically to help women in postpartum heal properly instead of just assuming you should pee your pants a little every time you jump on a trampoline. Just because something is common doesn't make it normal! Mamas, there's a better way to get through postpartum.
5 Postpartum Healing Tips
by Marina Castellanos, MPT
A tiny human made you into a mother! Cue the celebratory balloons and congratulations from family and friends. Cue the unconditional love you have for your new little one.
Next, cue the influx of emotional AND physical challenges that often accompany the postpartum period. Let’s face it, when we are pregnant we’re preoccupied planning for the baby’s room, registries, maternity leave, and childcare when we return to work. What do we lack planning for? Urinary incontinence, painful sex, pelvic organ prolapse, and other symptoms women experience in the postpartum period. All of which are common, but NOT normal and should not be ignored (especially if you are beyond your initial 6 week healing time).
What can you as a new (or seasoned) mother do? Here’s 5 tips:
1. Seek out help from a pelvic floor physical therapist.
A pelvic floor therapist will assess your posture, movement and breathing pattern. All of which change during pregnancy as the baby grows. Addressing each of these will not only facilitate rehabilitation, but can also help ward off injury.
- Demonstration of proper bending and baby lifting techniques while healing from the physical toll of childbirth. Many people have heard of "lifting from the legs" to avoid a back strain. A physical therapist will provide extra input on how to lift the baby and car seat without sustaining an injury.
Demonstration of the appropriate corrective exercises for diastasis recti. A physical therapist will prescribe the right core restorative exercises for your
- Guidance in resuming intimacy with your partner. Not every woman feels ready at the 6-week mark to resume intercourse, and that is okay. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you feel prepared to engage in sex again or provide care for you if sex becomes painful.
- Treatment of bladder leakage or constipation. By guiding you in pelvic floor strengthening (hint: it's more than just kegels) or pelvic floor relaxation, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you deal with postpartum bathroom troubles. While you wait for your visit, be sure to use a footstool, like a Squatty Potty, and practice belly breathing to facilitate easier bowel movements and urination.
- Guide you in safely resuming exercise while minimizing the risk of injury or worsening pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where the bladder, rectum, uterus or other organs protrude into the vaginal space. If you were doing an intense workout regimen prior to pregnancy, it's best to ease yourself back in. While you're waiting, start with a slow walk.
- A pelvic floor physical therapist can work with you in person, or virtually (a handy option during these days of Covid-19). So while pelvic PTs can treat someone internally (whether it’s vaginally or rectally), they’re main value is in the ability to assess a person as a whole. Which can be done online or in person.
2. Ensure you’re taking in good nutrition and hydration.
Both are essential in helping your body heal from childbirth as well as for keeping your energy up as you take care of a newborn. Eating healthy proteins, fruits, fats, and veggies along with enough water to make your urine a paid yellow color is a great start. If you are breastfeeding, speak to your physician or nutritionist about the best nutrients for you during this time.
3. Use the bathroom when nature calls.
It can be tempting to avoid going to the bathroom, especially in the middle of the night when you are trying to keep your sleeping baby sleeping. So many new moms experience this. But withholding urine and stool will add to pelvic floor dysfunction. Withholding will cause the pelvic floor muscles to tense, even when they should be relaxing. This can lead to constipation, as well as urinary symptoms such as leakage, difficulty initiating urine stream, or feelings of urinary urge. Give your baby a quick look to make sure all is safe and well, and proceed to the bathroom.
4. Breathe mommy!
The exhaustion that comes with a newborn can be easily overwhelming, even in the best of times. When you feel anxiety creeping in, take some deep belly breaths. Your pelvic floor will also thank you for this.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Know that it's okay to feel how you feel. Reach out to other moms to connect and check-in with each other. Seek professional help if needed. Call your physician or midwife if you experience unusual or excessive bleeding or pain.
Having a baby is a one of a kind experience. You deserve to feel well and strong. Your recovery from pregnancy and childbirth is important so you can be at your best for your own sake as well as for your family. You spent nine months growing a human. Rehabilitation is essential. There IS help for incontinence, pelvic pain, and other postpartum conditions. Breathe, nourish yourself, and see a pelvic floor physical therapist.
“I’ve been a PT for about 20 years. I started out in the pediatric specialty and transitioned to pelvic health 5 years ago, focusing on treating pelvic floor disorders for women, children, and teens. This includes conditions like bedwetting, fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, painful sex, constipation, leakage with exercise, postpartum recovery, and pregnancy pain/disability treatment. Right now I’m currently offering telehealth visits.“
Marina D. Castellanos PT, PLLC provides physical therapy services for women's health and pediatric pelvic floor dysfunction. You can learn more about her practice at marinacpt.com or follow her on Instagram at @marinacpelvicpt.