I was so inspired by Jen’s FitMama ‘Unfuck Yourself’ challenge that I decided to continue the theme. While we can’t return you to virginity, there is way more hope for your pelvic floor than you may have been led to believe.
The first step to pelvic floor healing is to recognize when there is an issue.
As a pelvic floor physiotherapist, I spend a lot of time educating people about the difference between ‘common’ and ‘normal’. It is common to have some bladder issues with pregnancy and postpartum. Likewise with back or pelvic pain. Painful sex is also common after having a baby. Your pelvic floor has been through a trauma and it is to be expected that your body may not feel quite the same thereafter, so have patience with yourself as you recover. But, it is important to know that it is not ‘normal’ to be in pain and to have incontinence in the long term.
The second step to pelvic floor healing is to know that there is help. We are inundated with advertisements about incontinence garments and prescription options, but those assume that your problems are irreversible and provide ways to cope. Pelvic floor physiotherapy should be part of postpartum follow-up to help women address these issues. In fact, seeking the work prior to delivery can be beneficial in helping to circumvent or decrease the severity of such problems—which is definitely worth it, particularly if you have had painful periods or other gynaecological issues in the past that may be indicative of pre-existing pelvic floor issues.
The third step is to get that pelvic floor assessment from a qualified pelvic floor physiotherapist and follow-up. I know moms don’t have a lot of time for self-care, but this is important!! There is an assumption that after childbirth, everything will just be all stretched out and doing Kegels will make it all okay, but this may not be the underlying problem for everyone. While there is no denying that things get stretched out, there is also an element of trauma, scar tissue, injury, or stress that can also create restrictions or tightness in the tissue. It is important to have tightness addressed before weakness when treating the pelvic floor in order to retrain it properly, as proceeding with strengthening without addressing the tightness can actually make things worse.
There are a couple of bonus steps that are critical at any and all stages of pelvic floor healing. The first is to listen to your body. This is critical in recognizing when there is an issue to seek help, and throughout the process of treatment to re-connect with your pelvis and what is going on down there. The second is a step that I think we can all take for one another, which is to talk about the issues and encourage one another. There are any number of pelvic pain syndromes and gynaecological conditions that happen at any stage of life that can benefit from pelvic floor physiotherapy, but they seem to be either accepted as normal or viewed as too shameful to discuss so people do not get the help they need.
We need to know that it is possible to reclaim our bodies—to unfuck them, as it were. There is help and the journey starts with education; seek a qualified pelvic floor physiotherapist to guide you.
Shannon is a registered physiotherapist, myofascial release practitioner, and pelvic floor physiotherapist at the Integrative Health Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org