We all know that having a baby is a happy and joyful time, but there are some very common physical problems that can occur that I wish someone had warned me about during my pregnancy. I am a physical therapist and mother of three, and my goal, like most of you, was to get back to activity and be a healthy mom. Instead, when I thought I was doing something healthy for my body, like returning to running and exercise, I was really overwhelming a system that wasn’t ready for it. I started to have every one of the symptoms below and felt like my body was falling apart.
I used my knowledge as a PT and extensively researched my conditions and the treatments available. The common solutions were surgery or kegels, and nothing in between. Kegels didn’t work and surgery wasn’t acceptable to me. What changed things for me was a small group of women and pelvic health focused PTs who were determined to provide treatment for these conditions without surgery. I was ready to join that movement and took all the education I could get my hands on to solve my own problems. This inspired me to focus my practice on educating and helping women get back to the activities they love, like I was able to do.
Three Common Symptoms
Here are the three most common symptoms I treat in my women’s focused PT practice that you need to consider as you get back to activity after having a baby.
1. Leaking – Your Body is Telling Your Something is Wrong
Incontinence, unintended leaking of urine or feces, happens to up to 40% of women after having a baby. Most often this occurs when women cough, sneeze, or jump. Because this symptom is so common many women accept this as badge of motherhood. Here is the reality – leaking is your body telling you that something is wrong, just like a faucet only leaks when there is a problem. The pressure and stress placed on your system is overwhelming its ability to function properly. Continuing to place those same stresses on your body will only further weaken your system. I’ll say it again…leaking is not OK and is important to resolve now. Take care of your body so that you are not one of the 50% of women over the age of 65 who are incontinent in the U.S. today.
2. Bulging or Heaviness – aka Prolapse
Prolapse literally means falling out. In this case, we are talking about internal organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum that can descend to the point of coming out of the vaginal opening or give you the feeling of falling out. Again, if you have a heaviness or bulging in your vagina then your support structures are currently being stressed beyond their maximum capacity. Further pressure and stress without treatment will continue to weaken the system and ultimately lead to failure of the support structures.
3. Abdominal Separation
Diastasis Recti, a separation between your abdominal muscles along the midline, often leaves women continuing to look pregnant or have a “pooch” long after they have given birth. This is a symptom that your abdominal muscles are currently stressed beyond capacity and unable to heal due to continued stress, pressure, and/or weakness. This separation can be wide and deep and its important to know how deep and wide yours is. Over the long run, this condition can lead to further symptoms like back and hip pain as your body tries to compensate for this weak link in the system.
Go From These Symptoms To The Activities You Love- There is Something You Can Do
The common theme here is that stress and pressure beyond the capacity of the system can cause these symptoms to occur. In my case, I became my own most important physical therapy patient and learned I could train my pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to handle stress and pressure better. Through that, I eliminated the symptoms I was experiencing. For you, no matter how long you have had this condition, there is something that can be done.