In Australia, seeing a women’s health or pelvic floor physiotherapist isn’t a standard course of recovery. But it should be. Most women will only see a women’s health physiotherapist if they have obvious symptoms, however, there are good reasons why all women should visit a women’s health physiotherapist at least once after giving birth.
A brief check-up with a midwife or obstetrician six weeks after giving birth isn’t sufficient for postpartum care. Generally, this type of check-up only involves a quick look at the uterus, a few quick questions on depression and how feeding is going.
Most women have some degree of pelvic floor or core muscle dysfunction after giving birth. A brief check-up typically doesn’t allow sufficient time to address all the questions surrounding any issues and the risks involved in not rehabilitating fully. Obstetricians and midwives’ main focus is on pregnancy, the birth and also recovery following the birth, however, they’re main focus doesn’t generally extend to the rehabilitation of the pelvic floor and core muscle control.
Childbirth and pregnancy place a huge strain on the body.
In Pregnancy ligaments become lax, posture changes due to a shift in the centre of mass, and organs are pushed to the side by the rapidly growing uterus. Along with pregnancy, there is also the birth itself. Regardless of the method of delivery, it involves a baby passing through a relatively small opening or layers of abdominal tissue. After the trauma that is often experienced during pregnancy and birth, returning the mother’s body to normal function and alignment is an important step.
Women place so much pressure on themselves to get back their “pre-baby body” that in many cases this goal is pursued at the expense of their own health, without any awareness of the damage they may be doing… and often under the guidance of a trainer that has no training in postnatal health. Just because a trainer has had a baby, or because a training session is called “mums and bubs” does not mean the trainer knows how to train a postnatal body. Make sure you research your trainer and ensure you have a postnatal check-up with a women’s health physiotherapy prior to exercising. An insufficient postnatal assessment followed by exercise under the guidance of an under-qualified trainer can be dangerous and has the potential to lead to long-term damage.
Your health is important, so make sure you do your research, let your health professional know of any issues you are experiencing, and don’t be afraid to ask your personal trainer, Pilates instructor or physiotherapist what qualifications or formal training they have in postnatal exercise.
Many postmenopausal women present to women’s health physiotherapist with a prolapse that has occurred because they didn’t sufficiently rehabilitate their pelvic floor and core after childbirth, or because they started running too soon after birth. The body can remain in a postpartum state for around 30 years, so it’s not uncommon for a postmenopausal woman to experience a prolapse after picking up a grandchild or moving some furniture, because their bodies have not returned to full health after childbirth.
Postnatal symptoms that may be experienced include, but are not limited to:
- pelvic pain
- low back pain>
- thoracic back pain
- incontinence (urinary or faecal)
- increased urinary frequency
- pain during sex
- pain sitting
- pain walking
- a sensation of heaviness
- organ prolapse
Most of these symptoms are due to a breakdown in pelvic floor function and can be relatively easily treated. If you are postnatal, whether it has been 3 months or 40 years since you gave birth, book yourself in to see a women’s health physiotherapist or a pelvic floor physiotherapist – it could be the answer to any of the symptoms listed above, including the niggling back pain you have been putting up with for years.