If you’ve had a baby, chances are coughing, running or laughing might trigger a bladder leak. And thanks to the TikTok community (and experts like The Vagina Whisperer), pelvic floor therapy — a medical fix for these TMI problems — is finally having its moment.
Once a taboo topic, there’s been a recent movement to normalize the narrative for this postpartum stage.
“Every woman should have pelvic floor therapy after a pregnancy, no matter the mode of delivery,” says Melisa Lott, Chicagoland high-risk OBGYN. “There’s a lot of healing that our bodies need to do after a delivery and the pelvic floor is one of the most impacted from carrying a baby. Taking the time after a delivery for pelvic floor PT can have a long-lasting positive impact in prevention of chronic pelvic pain.”
What is pelvic floor therapy?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is the branch of physical therapy focused on conditions that relate to the pelvic floor. This includes urinary function, bowel function, pregnancy and postpartum, pelvic pain and sexual function.
The goal of pelvic floor physical therapy is to restore a higher level of mobility, movement and healthy function. In cases of pain or discomfort, therapists identify muscle trigger points and tight connective tissues that may be causing the problem.
What sets PFPT apart from other fields of physical therapy is that pelvic floor physical therapists are trained to perform internal pelvic floor muscle exams.
“The pelvic floor is a unique area that has muscles and these muscles help control bladder, bowel and sexual function, which is what makes it a little more unique and sometimes intimidating for individuals, but it shouldn’t be,” says Physical Therapist Dr. Kimberly Vincent with Advocate Health Care.
Benefits of pelvic floor therapy
Many women suffer in silence, whether it be pain with intercourse, difficulty with bowel movements or urinary leakage.
Vincent says although pelvic floor therapy has been around for decades, it has been lacking awareness and has taken time for physicians to recognize the benefits, and in turn, for patients to be offered it, which is covered by most insurance plans.
“People talk about their knee pain, back pain and shoulder pain, but most people don’t talk about bladder or bowel problems or difficulty/pain with intercourse,” says Vincent. “I think the influx of people coming now is awareness and empowerment. People are becoming more aware that having bladder, bowel or pain symptoms is not normal and there is treatment for it.”
What to expect
During pelvic floor therapy, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health will evaluate your strength and mobility (especially in your core and lower body) and prescribe exercises or treatment that can help with your specific type of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Vincent says that while pelvic floor therapy can be extremely successful, it is important to remember that this type of therapy isn’t a quick fix.
“Pelvic floor physical therapy won’t solve all of your symptoms or problems overnight, but often individuals start to see improvements right away,” says Vincent. “It does take commitment and effort on the part of the patient, but the pelvic floor therapist will work with you to develop a program that fits your schedule and gives you success.”
Lori Orlinsky is a mom of three who discovered pelvic floor therapy after the birth of her third baby. She is a frequent Chicago Parent contributor and award-winning author of several children’s books, including Being Small, Balloons for Tiger and The Adventures of Lefty and Righty: The Windy City.
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