Ladies, how well do you know your pelvic floor?
A TABOO TOPIC
Pelvic floor health is a topic that’s seemingly just as taboo to talk about as any other ‘below-the-belt’ issues. Am I right? How openly would you talk about your dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles with your friends and family? It’s a topic just as uncomfortable to talk about as having problematic digestive issues. Just like digestive issues, us humans – more commonly females – experience issues with the muscles in our pelvic floor region at some point in time. Maybe you’ve peed a little when you sneezed or coughed, or you have a hard time completely “emptying” when you pee…or maybe you suffer from pain in your low back and pelvic region, or even discomfort during sex.
Whether you’ve never had a baby (like me), are currently pregnant, postpartum, a middle-aged mother, or a lady with changing hormones, the health of your pelvic floor muscles is just as important as the health of your digestive system. A healthy pelvic floor is the cornerstone for keeping our pelvic organs in their correct positions (including the uterus, vagina and bowel) and preventing pelvic organs from prolapsing. It contributes to the health of your elimination muscles (bladder and bowel control), your uterus and digestive tract…and it helps with a healthy sexual function.
PELVIC FLOOR PHYSIOTHERAPY
A few years ago I was working at a healthcare PR agency and one of our projects was working on a patient advisory board for overactive bladder (OAB). It was the first time I had ever heard of OAB and the first time I learned that there were such a thing as pelvic floor physiotherapists (PFP). A physiotherapist for your pelvic floor?
Fast forward three years to two weeks ago where I had my first pelvic floor physiotherapist appointment at Toronto Yoga Mamas, all out of curiosity. I’m the curious type when it comes to my body. I like understanding the ins and outs (literally) of my body and I love learning ways I can improve my wellbeing. Although I didn’t think I had any real issues going down in my pelvic floor, I was curious to know what exactly a PFP did and what an appointment entailed.
My appointment was with Lamiya, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist at Toronto Yoga Mamas, and she began my appointment by discussing my overall health with me and any concerns I may be having. She went through a list of common pelvic floor issues women (and men) often have, why they happen and how they can be solved. She then explained the anatomy of the pelvic floor…I had no clue it was so complex! I don’t think we ever learned about this in health class! I then did a couple of exercises, like touching my toes, arching backwards and pushing my hips right and left while she observed the way my pelvis bent (apparently it didn’t move so well). Next was examination time – an internal examination – which wasn’t mandatory but recommended to further understand how strong the muscles are.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Before the physical examination began, Lamiya explained the whole process to me. She explained how the examination worked, what muscles she was feeling for, what a strong, healthy muscle should feel like and let me know that if I was uncomfortable at anytime to let her know. As I lay on the table listening to her, I kept associating the next step with a pap exam…and thank goodness it wasn’t anything close to the discomfort of a cold, tense pap.
She left the room while I undressed and covered myself with a sheet. She then returned and slipped on a double layer of medical-grade gloves, applied lubricant and assessing the muscles with internal palpation of the four different muscle groups. She took me through different breathing exercises to see how well the muscles contracted and relaxed and thoroughly explained the process as the exam went on. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, just extremely informative and made me 10x more aware of my body.
After the internal exam, she provided me with a few exercises and breathing techniques to practice at home and asked if I had any questions.
I left my appointment questioning why pelvic floor physiotherapy isn’t a mandatory appointment every few years, even before conceiving…or even for ladies who don’t choose to have children. Our pelvic floors consist of a group of muscles that keep everything working correctly. Why should we be waiting until there is a problem before we have to get them checked out? Unfortunately, this is commonly the case for most. We strengthen and condition the rest of our bodies to prevent injury and to keep strong, but we totally take our pelvic floor muscles for granted until we realize they’ve weakened. For females, I think pelvic floor health should be learned and talked about way before childbirth.
I also left feeling very educated. Did you know that…
So ladies (and men), whatever issue you may be having in your pelvic region…don’t be embarrassed, you aren’t alone. Talk about it, seek help and get examined by a pelvic floor physiotherapist….and if you’re in Toronto, book an appointment at Toronto Yoga Mamas, you won’t regret it!
Written by Lamiya Zaidi, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist at Yoga Mamas
With all of the excitement surrounding the arrival of your newborn, it's easy to forget the changes that have occurred in your body-particularly when it comes to the pelvic floor muscles, as this is often an area that is affected the most. Once you consider this, recovery and returning to your normal activities may seem daunting, however a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can do wonders through implementation of specific exercises so that you can recuperate naturally and enjoy life as a Mama!
Here are my top 5 reasons to visit a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist after you've had your baby:
1. Recover Safely
Many women have the desire to get back to their regular physical activity after having a baby as soon as possible without knowing how to safely do so. Without proper education and support from a healthcare professional, early return to physical activity can make recovery slower, harder and in some cases, cause further problems. A Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can help guide and empower you to return safely to physical activity by making recommendations on what activities are most appropriate, modifying activities you enjoy, using soft tissue techniques and more to help you reach your goals pain free!
2. Prevent Leakage
You may have heard that incontinence is very common during and after childbirth, but this is not normal and can be avoided. Incontinence indicates an issue with the pelvic floor muscles, and their inability to support our pelvic bladder. A Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can assess the strength of those muscles and develop a plan of action to repair or prevent this from occurring
3. Repair Abdominal Separation
The medical term for this is Diastasis Recti. During pregnancy, as the baby and belly grow, there can be a split in the connective tissue holding your abdominal muscles together. In postpartum, a separation leads to core weakness, low back and hip pain, and incontinence. A Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can assess the degree of separation, and provide you with education and a plan to prevent and repair any separation.
4. Prevent Pain
Due to the stress your body has undergone during delivery, it's common to experience discomfort during intercourse, however this too can be avoided! A Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist is able to reduce scar tissue formation and loosen tight muscles to prevent further complication and potential pain during intercourse.
5. Provide Support
The pelvic floor muscles may become weakened during pregnancy or childbirth, leading to a condition called Pelvic Organ Prolapse. This occurs when the structures designed to keep organs in place are weakened or stretched and as a result are displaced. Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy can reduce the symptoms caused by Prolapse and improve pelvic floor support through individualized treatment plans and education.