I’ve mentioned pelvic physical therapy in previous posts, and I thought I’d expand on the topic as many people have never heard of it before. I know I hadn’t when my OB wrote me a referral for pelvic physical therapy, something she does for all her patients who had tears or trauma during childbirth.
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first. My previous experience with physical therapy in that past had been for injuries for my back, neck, and knees, but pelvis? What were they going to do there? However the constant pain that I endured since my daughter had arrived drove me past the doubts and I set up an appointment through Legacy Health’s Physical Therapy Clinic at Good Samaritan Hospital. I got tired of feeling like all of insides were going to collapse through my vagina if I stood longer than five minutes, and weary of the constant pain whenever I engaged my pelvic muscles, which is all the time because they are connect to the core muscles. Sex was the furthest thought on my mind, and when it did come up, I trembled in fear. When my period returned four months postpartum, the pain got worse. I couldn’t even tolerate the smallest tampon. That made the idea of sex even more terrifying. Would I ever be able to have sex again?
The therapist I had been assigned to made me feel comfortable instantly. She explained to me what our goals were with each session. The main goal was to decrease pain by working with the scar tissue and reeducating the nerve endings in the area through ultrasound, breathing techniques, Kegal exercises, and core strengthening exercises. My problem wasn’t weak Kegals, though. I was so uptight that all my muscles were in constant spasm.
So what happens in a pelvic PT session? The therapist works with the scar tissue using her gloved-finger to stretch the skin slowly. She also uses an ultrasound probe like they do in regular PT to help smooth out the scar tissue. The homework included the practicing the exercises she had given me and continuing the stretching of the tissue myself using lube or some kind of healing cream. I used coconut oil.
At one point, she instructed me to go an adult store and buy various sized vibrators and practice stretching the tissue with them. Yes, you read correctly. I felt so silly walking in there, especially since I’d never purchased a sex toy before. But you know what? It worked! The vibration helped the tissue to relax more and my pain decreased after each use. Keep in mind that at this point pleasure wasn’t physically achievable, but this helped me down that road.
Some of the core strengthening exercises she had me do was yoga and Pilates. I started attending a couple of yoga classes at my gym during the week. As my core got stronger, my pain decreased and I could stand for longer periods of time without hurting. I could hike again!
The best part was four months after I started the therapy (eight months postpartum), I was able to have sex for the first time. Three months later, I actually enjoyed it, without having pain afterward. Pelvic PT helped me reclaim my life and womanhood again after childbirth. It gave me strength to get through a dark time in my life as I battled postpartum depression by eliminating the physical suffering. Pelvic PT gave me hope.
In the last year, I have discovered so many amazing local programs that target pelvic therapy and childbirth recovery. I wish I’d known about these two years ago. If you are experiencing any kind of pelvic pain postpartum, I strongly encourage you to speak with your doctor and check out the places noted below.
Birth Recovery Resources
1. Kelley Burke, licensed massage therapist at Doula Love, works with new moms in childbirth recovery and holistic pelvic floor therapy.
2. Dr. Becky Higginson, DC of Luna Chiropractic offers a Core Restore Series for new mamas that includes education, posture correction, exercises, nutrition and more.
3. Eve Bernfeld is an Alexander Technique practitioner focusing on the child-bearing years.
4. Baby Boot Camp (National) is a great way to meet new moms and find your mama tribe.
5. Mamalates – I discovered this fantastic program at the Birth Without Fear meet-up last spring. Wendy, the founder, blew me away with her compassion and kindness–something every new mama needs.