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We’ve all heard postpartum horror stories—hair loss, postpartum infections, difficulty breastfeeding, and the infamous “baby blues.” Among these common challenges include pelvic floor disorders (PFD).
According to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, almost half of women suffered symptoms of at least one kind of PFD, including bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction during and after pregnancy.
There is a lot to learn about childbirth injury, and this article aims to shed light on pelvic floor dysfunction and how women can overcome it.
What Happens to the Pelvic Floor Muscles Postpartum
One of the key pelvic floor muscles, called the levator ani, is responsible for supporting and raising the pelvic floor and maintaining urinary and bowel functions. As a woman goes through pregnancy and delivery, this muscle becomes strained to support the process.
Since the levator ani holds the pelvic organs together, the uterus and vaginal walls may collapse in case of damage to those muscles and their surrounding nerves, leading to pelvic floor muscle spasm and dysfunction.
Many factors may increase the likelihood of levator ani damage, including the following:
- Pushing for more than 90 minutes during delivery
- Large birth weight or fetal macrosomia
- Vacuum or forceps deliveries
- The mother’s age
- Previous pelvic surgery
While most postpartum symptoms resolve themselves after a few months, it’s best to undergo measures, such as pelvic floor exercises, to hasten healing from injury and improve one’s quality of life.
9 Tips for a Faster Pelvic Floor Recovery after Childbirth
Maintain personal hygiene
Maintaining good personal hygiene should remain a top priority for every woman postpartum. This helps prevent infections that can prolong PFD healing and recovery.
Some of these common yet vital personal hygiene tips for “down there” are as follows:
- Washing the vaginal area with water and avoiding the use of soaps
- Patting the area every after shower to keep it clean and dry
- Wiping the vagina from front to back after urinating
- Avoid rubbing the area
- Changing sanitary pads every 4–6 hours
- Wearing cotton underwear to prevent moisture buildup
Try belly wrapping
Aside from the pelvic muscles, the abdominal wall also stretches to its maximum length during pregnancy and birth, leading to a dysfunction known as diastasis recti. This happens when the muscles in the middle of the stomach separate during pregnancy. Since both these muscles support a woman’s core function, repairing one aids the other’s healing.
An effective way to fast-track healing from diastasis recti is through postpartum belly binding. Think of a belly bind like a crutch providing support through a sprained ankle. Like a crutch, a belly bind keeps the abdominal muscles together to prevent them from straining and promote rest and healing.
Do pelvic floor exercises
Regular pelvic floor exercises on top of deep stomach muscle exercises help women recover from diastasis recti and PFD. These can be done in many ways, standing, sitting, or lying down.
Women can get started with these easy Kegel exercises, which they can do anywhere and anytime:
- Squeezing around the vagina and bladder as if stopping urination
- Squeezing in one’s bottom as if holding in wind or lifting a piece of marble in between the buttocks
- Short squeezes for 3 seconds at a time and relaxing for a count of three
- Aiming for at least three sets of 10–15 reps a day
With regular Kegel exercises, women can expect results within a few weeks to a few months.
Work on your posture
The way you sit, stand, and perform your daily routines may affect your pelvic floor strength and flexibility. Poor posture restricts the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments from a full range of motion, which leads to common PFD symptoms like incontinence and even vaginal prolapse.
This means postpartum mothers must be more mindful of their posture. Here are some useful tips they can follow:
- Pull the shoulders slightly backward when standing straight. The earlobes should be aligned with the shoulders.
- Avoid crossing your legs when sitting. Using back support also helps if needed.
- When sitting, make sure the knees are at hip level or below the hips.
Look into vaginal dilation therapy
Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse, known as dyspareunia, is a common symptom of pelvic floor injury or dysfunction. According to a study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, postpartum dyspareunia happens in 35% of women. The prevalence decreases the longer a woman is postpartum.
However, dyspareunia can be treated with the right intervention. Women experiencing sexual discomfort should consult their gynecologist to diagnose the condition accurately. Some doctors refer their patients to a physical therapist or recommend vaginal dilation therapy—which involves using vaginal dilators to keep the vagina open and more elastic, reducing discomfort in the long run.
Get ample rest
Rest is crucial, especially in the first one to two weeks following childbirth. It’s also beneficial in treating PFD symptoms as it prevents gravity from adding extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles.
Women may feel the need to start moving about immediately after childbirth to get back on track faster. But during the first few weeks, they must listen to their bodies and only move as they feel comfortable. More importantly, it’s best to spend ample time lying down and sleeping to encourage healing from a C-section or natural birth.
Straining to move one’s bowels only prevents faster recovery from pelvic muscle injury. Women are advised to maintain a fiber-rich diet and drink around 2–3 liters of fluid to avoid constipation. Doctors may recommend using a laxative to soften the stool during the early days after giving birth.
Postpartum mothers are also advised to be more mindful of their movement to avoid putting pressure on the stomach and pelvic floor. For instance, when getting out of bed, women should roll to one side first instead of sitting straight up.
Another tip to prevent straining is to support the vaginal area manually. With a folded tissue paper, hold the hand on the perineum, and apply a bit of pressure with the fingers. Women can also support the area when they sneeze, laugh, or cough.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing into the belly rather than the chest. Doing so helps relax the pelvic floor muscles more as the diaphragm descends. It also eliminates tension or overactivity in the area. Doing diaphragmatic breathing for 5–10 minutes daily is a great start to start this healing journey.
Consult a health professional
Of course, it’s still best to consult a healthcare professional when a woman develops PFD symptoms after childbirth. This allows doctors to properly identify the root cause of the symptoms and diagnose the condition. Knowing the right diagnosis helps the doctor and patient to collaborate on an effective treatment and recovery plan for pelvic floor disorders.
Trust the Process
Following the tips above helps postpartum women recover fast from pelvic floor injury, but the most important advice to apply is to listen to one’s body. Women should learn to trust their body’s healing process and avoid any activity or approach that doesn’t feel right. Over time, they’ll be able to get back on their feet and enjoy the beauty of motherhood, as they should.
Name: Laura Smith
Business Name: The Pelvic Hub