Why do you need pelvic floor treatment as a new mum?
21% of women undergoing vaginal delivery had levator ani avulsion1
29% of women undergoing vaginal deliveries had pubic bone fractures2
60% of postpartum women reported Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)3
64.3% of women reported sexual dysfunction in the first year following childbirth4
77% of women had low back pain that interfered with daily tasks5
Last month, Cosmo published an article titled “Millions of women are injured during childbirth, why aren’t doctors diagnosing them?”. The article had over 50,000 shares on Facebook and thousands of comments from suffering postpartum women grateful to hear that they were not alone. The article was unique and truthful and openly discussed the staggering high prevalence of embarrassing problems that women silently deal with following childbirth.
As an Osteopath specialising in pelvic floor therapy I am well aware of the musculoskeletal consequences of pregnancy and delivery. It is mind blowing to pelvic floor specialists that pelvic floor care for new mums is erroneously and ineffectively compartmentalized to ‘do your kegels’. Having read the Cosmo article and it was no surprise to me that there was confusion about the lack of postpartum medical care and why so many women were suffering.
Cosmo asked the question, WHY aren’t doctors diagnosing these problems? The short answer is musculoskeletal health is not technically the anyone’s responsibility. As standard most women will be under midwife care until only 10 days which is not long enough for a woman to know if there are any long-lasting traumas from the birth. The woman will then receive a check with their GP at 6 weeks which includes a depression screening, discussion around contraception and breast feeding, and checking the health of the cervix and uterus. This visit does not routinely include evaluation of musculoskeletal structures.
Urinary, bowel and sexual function spans many medical disciplines, but a primary owner lies in the hands of a pelvic floor physical therapist who has undergone specific training to evaluate pelvic floor and girdle function and biomechanics. Since pelvic floor physical therapy is not automatically part of a women’s medical care in the UK, treatable impairments are often left unidentified and treated. As a result women suffer unnecessarily with incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and pain. The symptoms are not life-threatening. However, one look at the comments on the recent media articles reflect the significant impact the symptoms have on the mother’s quality of life, relationships, and ability to care for her baby.
There is no need for women to suffer. A University of Michigan study described childbirth as event more traumatic than the most aggressive combat sports. I do not think any sane person would disagree with this. Therefore, it should be no surprise that postpartum rehabilitation is a hell of a lot more sophisticated than doing a few kegels, and that every new mom needs it.
Since the current standard of maternal care does not automatically include a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist, many women find us on their own. Once they do, they’re understandably upset that this type of service exists and that they were not told about it. We understand this frustration, but it is impossible for doctors to address all postpartum concerns in the limited time they have with their patients and this is as frustrating for them as it is for the patient.
Once you find a pelvic floor physical therapist, you can expect that your unanswered questions and concerns will be addressed. Many women are embarrassed and worried about their symptoms, don’t be. As pelvic floor physical therapists we have seen and heard it all and are here and ready to help!