5 Common Postpartum Symptoms to NEVER Ignore

A Physical Therapist for your lady bits?! Amanda Nayfield is just that… and more!

As a pelvic health specialist, she is the local guru for pelvic floor health. Today she shares with us some valuable information regarding postpartum health. Whether you are two weeks, or 2o years postpartum, listen up! This blog is for you…

“More often than not, I see new moms (or not so new moms) in my clinic at the end of their rope with physical ailments that have been persistent and often progressive for months if not years! It is so common for women, and particularly moms with young children, to put their own physical and emotional needs last. Why do we do this? Partly because we are busy moms with little time and money, and partly because our culture and medical system do not focus maternal health and recovery from childbirth.

There are so many resources out there to prepare women for childbirth, but how many reliable resources are there for women recovering from childbirth?

Too often we are told that urinary incontinence, pain with intercourse or back pain are simply a natural consequence of having children. While these problems are common, they are NEVER normal!

Of course, taking care of yourself is an investment of time and money, but you can be a happier, healthy person and parent if you address your pain and dysfunction!

Here are 5 common postpartum symptoms that you should NEVER ignore!

1. Urinary incontinence:

Yes, peeing when you cough sneeze, laugh and jump is a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum. Why? because you carried a human in your pelvis for 9 months, stretched your muscles and connective tissue laboring and possibly tore some of the muscles in your pelvic floor if you had a vaginal delivery. Even if you had a c-section, your pelvic floor muscles were effected during pregnancy and may not provide adequate support.

At the 6 week check up, we are frequently told to do Kegels and give it time. If you tore your hamstring in a physically intense game or race, would your doctor tell you to do hamstring curls and give it time? Probably not.

Pregnancy and labor/delivery is the most physically taxing event of your lifetime. You stretched and tore muscles essential for core stability and support- you need focused and intentional rehabilitation! Kegels alone will not always cure incontinence because incontinence can be caused by problems other than weak muscles. If you are suffering from incontinence see a pelvic health specialist who can help you stop leaking urine!

2. Pelvic Heaviness:

Whether or not you are leaking urine, you may feel an uncomfortable pelvic or vaginal heaviness. This is particularly noticeable if you have been on your feet a lot or if you have does a lot of lifting or exercise. Some people describe the feeling of having a heavy tampon partially in the vagina or feeling a small ball in their vaginal region when they sit. Some women even notice a small bulge in the vaginal when they are toileting!

These are all signs of pelvic organ prolapse, which means your bladder, uterus and/or rectum have dropped into the walls of the vagina. This can cause a variety of problems including incontinence, incomplete bladder emptying, constipation and pain.

Prolapse is primarily and issue of stretched out connective tissue (ligaments and fascia), but there are things that you can do to improve the symptoms! More importantly, there are things you can do (unintentionally of course) that can make your symptoms worse. Seek out professional help if you think you are suffering from pelvic organ prolapse.

3. Urinary or fecal urgency:

It is not normal to feel like you are going to leak urine or lose control of your bowels if you don’t make it to the bathroom on time! We shouldn’t have to take note of every bathroom in our community or feel like we are rushing to the toilet as soon as the sensation of needing to pee or poop hits us.
Urgency is common postpartum partially because of voiding habits that may have developed during pregnancy and/or because of pelvic floor muscle weakness or incoordination due to lack of muscle rehabilitation. How nice and empowering would it be to be in control of your bladder and bowels again? It is possible!

4. Pain with intercourse:

Vaginal or pelvic pain with penetration can be caused by many things including muscle spasm, scar tissue restriction, nerve irritation and vaginal dryness related to hormonal changes. Even with c-sections, scar tissue can contribute to pain with intercourse by causing restriction around the labia, nerve entrapment of nerves innervating the pelvic region, and/or muscles spasm of the pelvic floor muscles.

Pain with intercourse is definitely one of those symptoms that may not respond well to Kegels. If you have scar tissue restriction that is painful and you continuously pull on the scar by contracting the muscles, that may increase the pain. Furthermore, if your muscles are clinched or in spasm, tightening them further in attempt to strengthen them may irritate the muscles more.

As a pelvic health physical therapist, pain with intercourse (known as dyspareunia) is one of the most common diagnosis I treat. Both intrapelvic and external manual therapy techniques and strategies and tools such as biofeedback are used to help you gain more control over the muscles. Physical therapy is one of the most supported interventions to address pelvic pain!

5. Neck, back or sacroiliac pain:

After pregnancy, changes in posture and decreased core stability and strength combined with the new physical demands of motherhood frequently cause pain. Over and over again, I seem women living with pain and symptoms for months or even years before getting help because they simply believe it is part of being a mother. You don’t have to live with pain!!! With physical therapy, you can be more active, get better sleep and interact with your baby pain-free!

Connect NW Physical Therapy & Wellness addresses these common problems in a few workshops; Early Postpartum Recovery and Sex After Birth.

The next early Postpartum Recovery workshop is on September 29th from 6-7:30pm. All workshops are $20 and include handouts. Please check out the website here for more information!”