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pelvic floor health during pregnancy
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Health Digest author Catherine Caruso reached out to me about why pelvic floor health is so important during pregnancy, and of course this being one of our major areas of expertise I was more than glad to answer her questions. Here is a brief synopsis of the article, along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

What's So Important About Pelvic Floor Health During Pregnancy?

If you've never been pregnant but think it may be in the cards for you, here's a mental trick you can try - just imagine strapping a bowling ball to your abdomen for a day and going about your normal routine. Your pelvic floor muscles would let you know soon enough what an extra strain you've put on them, haha! But seriously, in the real world pregnancy doesn't just overtake your life in one day (thank goodness!), and your body has time to adjust to this new task it's been given. That said, there are a lot of issues to be aware of and tactics you can take to make the whole experience go as smoothly as possible, and that's what we are here for.

Catherine's article begins:

Believe it or not, your pelvic floor muscles can actually play an important and essential role during pregnancy. Located at the base of the pelvis, the pelvic floor consists of a group of muscles that help support your pelvic organs, including your bladder, bowel, and uterus (via Better Health Channel). While many people may not even be aware of their pelvic floor muscles prior to becoming pregnant, they can certainly have a significant impact on your health throughout your life, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Dr. Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, owner of Femina Physical Therapy in Los Angeles and PT with plusOne, discusses the importance of maintaining good pelvic floor health during pregnancy. According to Dr. Jeffcoat, pelvic floor muscles "serve important functions through all stages of life, but when women start to experience urinary urgency and frequency, bladder leakage or sexual dysfunction, they become intimately aware that this is a region that is deserving of more attention."

As I mention in the article, your pelvic floor muscles are responsible for helping your body perform some of its most basic and essential functions, and during pregnancy they really need to be in peak shape. One great way to improve your pelvic floor health during pregnancy is through a yoga program specifically tailored to pregnancy.

Related: More articles about yoga and pregnancy at Femina PT

And even if everything seems to be going great, it's always a good idea to get assessed by a pelvic health expert to make sure your pelvic floor is ready for the next steps. The article continues:

According to Dr. Jeffcoat, one of the most common signs of pelvic floor dysfunction is bladder leakage, along with urinary urgency and painful sex. In order to make sure this isn't happening, Dr. Jeffcoat recommends going to see a pelvic health physical therapist after 32 weeks of gestation, even if you're not experiencing any symptoms. "I'll often find my pregnant patients are developing overactivity in their pelvic floor muscles," she explains. "With this finding, we start doing pelvic floor muscle relaxation techniques, including specific intravaginal release techniques, mobility exercises for the pelvic floor, hips, and lumbar area, as well as coordinating their breathwork with bearing down to prepare for a vaginal delivery." 

From there the article takes a brief look at what can be done to relax the pelvic floor, and here's one exciting clue... orgasms can help!

When the pelvic floor muscles are in a tonic state of overactivity, it's not as easy to relax them. As a result, breathing techniques, exercises, and even orgasms can help relax your pelvic floor and make your feel more comfortable during pregnancy and childbirth.

There's much more to be learned about pelvic floor health during pregnancy in the full article at the Health Digest website. And if you think you're ready for some pelvic floor therapy, click here to set up an appointment with one of our trained specialists.

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Testimonial by Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

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Testimonial by Jackie W.

I was in multiple car accidents a decade ago, and I have been to many physical therapists through the years without success. They found the root of my lower back pain problems and after nearly a decade of barely being able to walk I finally can again without pain. They are also the best pelvic floor pts and the only ones who found the connection between my pelvic floor and lower back problems. If you need help with physical pain, they are your answer.

-- Jackie W., 1/19/17 via Yelp!

Testimonial by A.M.

Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

-- A.M.

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

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Testimonial by R.D., age 38

"I had a severe tear during childbirth that was not stitched together correctly and therefore healed poorly. Even after having a surgery a year later to remove the scar tissue, I was still having pain, and no one could explain why -- there was no overt 'reason' to explain the pain. I had tried other 'specialists' and even saw another physical therapist who had me do hip / leg stretches -- what a joke! I was about to give up and just 'live with it' until thankfully I kept searching online and found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by R.D., age 38

Testimonial by Fritzette H.

I went to Heather after the birth of my third child. It was lucky, really, that I was referred to her, because my doctor had referred me to a surgeon for a possible hysterectomy or pelvic wall rebuild. Thankfully, I went to Heather before undergoing either surgery, she was able to fix the problem. She has studied extensively in women's health--even written a book about it--and was able to diagnose my problem, suggest a course of treatment (6 weeks), and then follow through with said treatment. By the end, as she said, I was as good as gold. Boy, was it worth it! Though uncomfortable to talk about, much less write about, it is worth getting the word out there. If you have painful intercourse, especially after birth or other trauma, the treatment may be as simple as Physical Therapy (with Heather, of course). I highly recommend her.

-- Fritzette H., 3/24/16 via Yelp!

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