Urinary incontinence is one of those things women don’t like to talk about, especially younger women who feel like they are alone in their struggle. It is a genuine issue for millions of Americans after having a baby. There are medications available to help. However, they don’t work for everyone, and if they do, they don’t address the underlying cause. Surgery is often invasive and ineffective, so women are left wearing pads, bracing for coughs and rushing to the bathroom when the urge suddenly arises. Sadly, they are also forced to avoid certain sports and exercises because of leakage concerns.
Urinary incontinence after pregnancy is a significant quality of life issue that must be addressed. Women that deliver a child vaginally should be automatically referred to physical therapy for pelvic floor strengthening.
“In addition to urge and stress incontinence due to pelvic floor dysfunction or weakness, women often have impairments such as sacroiliac dysfunction or back pain that limits their daily activities including caring for infants and their families,” said Stefanie Turner, PT, DPT, at Step & Spine Physical Therapy. “All of these things can be improved with specific manual techniques and exercise program.”
Physical therapy has been shown to be 80 percent effective at treating stress incontinence, the most frequently diagnosed type of urinary incontinence following pregnancy. Depending on the needs of the woman, however, treatment can vary.
During an initial evaluation, the physical therapist will ask a series of questions to better understand the woman’s specific needs. A customized treatment plan is then developed to correct the pelvic dysfunction, strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, and address any other areas of weakness following childbirth. Some women require other types of therapy including biofeedback to improve their condition. In those instances, they are referred to a specialist.
Research shows that women are nearly three times more likely to experience urinary incontinence for more than ten years following a vaginal delivery when compared to a cesarean. Obstetric trauma is one of three underlying causes. Although it is also believed that the hormones secreted during pregnancy, specifically, Relaxin, may be a contributor to the weakened muscles.
“I believe all women would benefit from physical therapy postpartum to help them return to exercise and activities safely,” Stefanie Turner, PT, DPT added.
Women who are pregnant should also consider physical therapy for pelvic floor muscle training. Core muscles need to be in optimal condition before delivery. Studies suggest this to be an essential strategy for all women to consider during pregnancy as well as postpartum.
If you are pregnant, postpartum or have urinary incontinence, schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapists who treat women’s health issues today. After the stress of delivery, Step & Spine Physical Therapy can help you regain confidence by allowing you to get back to doing the activities you enjoy…like jumping on the trampoline with your kids! Taking proactive measures today will allow you to better enjoy life tomorrow.