As a physiotherapist with a special interest in pelvic health, I am passionate about empowering people to discuss their pelvic floors, and how important it is for overall health. It’s an easy topic to sweep under the rug, but a little bit of leakage after your friend tells a joke is no laughing matter! When it comes to pregnancy and your pelvic floor, there are a lot of strategies to manage any concerns you may have, as well as preventative tools to ensure you are setting yourself up for success during this exciting (and often stressful) time.
What Is The Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and soft tissue running from the pubic bone to the base of the spine, like a hammock. They interact together to serve as sphincters (controlling the opening of the urethra, vagina and anus), allow sexual intimacy, promote venous and lymphatic flow, provide support to the lumbo-pelvic complex, and support internal organs. That’s a big task for a part of our body most of us don’t even think about!
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy – Sorry, What?
Physiotherapists who treat pelvic floor issues have completed all of the accredited physiotherapy education, and then taken additional advanced training to learn how to treat pelvic floor concerns. What you may or may not know is that pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained to assess your pelvic floor from the inside out (vaginally and/or rectally).
Pelvic floor physiotherapy has been shown to be beneficial for a variety of conditions, including (but not limited to) the following:
Stress and urge incontinence (urinary leakage)
Frequency (peeing more than 5-8 times a day)
Dyspareunia (painful sex)
Pelvic organ prolapse
Pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain
Chronic pelvic conditions such as endometriosis, bladder pain syndrome, and interstitial cystitis
Rectus diastasis (abdominal separation)
Do I Need An Internal Assessment?
To most effectively diagnose and treat your concerns, an internal assessment is invaluable because we just don’t know what these muscles are doing from the outside.
However, if an internal assessment is not something you are comfortable with at this point – that’s okay too. Pelvic floor physiotherapists are aware that there are a variety of reasons that this may not be suitable for you and will work closely with you to ensure you are provided with the best treatment tools possible to achieve your goals.
Is Pelvic Floor Therapy Useful During Pregnancy?
Yes! I love to work alongside you and with your other health care practitioners to ensure you are going into your pregnancy, labour, delivery and postpartum period feeling as confident as possible. This may involve preventative exercises and education, or may be as specific as learning different breathing, posture and mobility techniques for pelvic girdle pain or incontinence, both common complaints during pregnancy.
People begin working with me at all stages of their pregnancy and postpartum experience.
But Don’t I Just Need Kegels After I Deliver?
It is important to know that kegels are not a “catch-all” exercise designed for everyone with pelvic floor issues. While for some this may be enough to help manage symptoms, research has shown that many women perform a kegel incorrectly.
Furthermore, a recent study has shown that up to 84% of women with low back pain actually have an overactive pelvic floor! For many individuals, it is most important to teach them how to lengthen and properly relax their pelvic floor to manage their symptoms, and in this case a kegel can even be detrimental.
Isn’t A Bit Of Leakage Normal?
No! Leakage is very common, but it is not normal. In fact, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 9 men experience urinary incontinence.
Urinary leakage is often a symptom that your “core” including your pelvic floor, diaphragm, abdomen and back, is not engaging as efficiently as possible. This is frequently associated with issues including pelvic organ prolapse, urgency, rectus diastasis and low back pain.
Let’s Talk About Sex
Becoming intimate again with your partner after delivery is not often talked about. Studies suggest that at three months postpartum, up to 58% of women report pain associated with intercourse.
Pelvic floor therapy works to identify why this may be the case and provides you with tools to once again enjoy this experience with your partner.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
What we do for treatment will depend on what your goals are in coming to see me. Each individual will receive an individualized treatment plan.
In clinic, treatment may consist of releasing and mobilizing of tissues vaginally or rectally, breathing and postural techniques, Clinical Pilates and addressing joints and muscles throughout your back, pelvis and hips.
If you are interested in learning more about what Claire offers and how she can support you in having a happy and healthy pelvic floor, book your FREE 15 minute meet and greet today >>
AND if you are a Five Elements Birth Services doula client, Claire is one of our Community Partners. Ask your doula (or check out your client package) for more information on how to access your discount.
Claire Harris is a physiotherapist with Intrinsi in Calgary, AB. Claire completed her Master of Science in Physiotherapy from the University of Alberta. Her interest in physiotherapy stemmed from several years of volunteer work in pediatric rehabilitation during her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. Her post-graduate certifications include advanced training in pelvic health for both female and male clients dealing with incontinence and pain, as well as advanced training in Intra-Muscular Stimulation (IMS).
During her career as a physiotherapist, Claire has worked with a variety of clients experiencing different musculoskeletal concerns. This includes everything from pain and injury after motor vehicle accidents to postural dysfunction and sport related injuries.
In treating chronic low back and sacroiliac pain, she developed a special interest in pelvic health. She realized that the impact of the pelvic floor on overall health is often under-appreciated, and the pelvic floor under-treated. Conditions such as pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse and others can have a major impact on quality of life.