Pregnancy can take a toll on even the most fitness-minded moms, and these effects are sometimes long-term and can have a devastating impact on your self-esteem, physical wellness, sexual health, and your mental well-being. Incontinence is one of these effects that can completely derail your recovery from pregnancy, and C-sections can further complicate this recovery.
Incontinence isn't something that's talked about much, except occasionally in hushed tones at new mom groups. However, it isn't something that you just have to live with. As a new mother, it's important to prioritize your physical and emotional health. Incontinence can have a negative effect on both, especially in the early days home with a newborn. In France, all new mothers are prescribed sessions of pelvic floor physiotherapy to ensure that their pelvic floor muscles gain their former strength.
Your pelvic floor is the sheet of muscles and ligaments that stretch between your pubic bone in your front, to the base of your spine in the back. During a C-section, the front portion of your abdominal muscles is cut to remove the baby. Of course, these muscles have already been under strain and are stretched from nine months of pregnancy, so when they are cut, they take some time to heal. Many women's pelvic floor muscles don't heal properly, in part because of the strain they were under while pregnant. The C-section greatly increases the likelihood that a new mom will experience incontinence or other pelvic floor related issues such as back pain, or problems with core strength.
It is important to address these issues soon after childbirth, as the French do, to avoid life-long problems. As women age, pelvic floor issues also become more common, so whatever issues you have now are likely to become much worse with age if they go untreated. In extreme cases, a woman may also have bladder, uterus, or a bowel prolapse because of her poor pelvic floor tone.
Your body is under so much stress in the first few weeks after birth. You're not getting enough sleep, you're trying to recover from a C-section, you're trying to produce milk, and you're trying to feel like yourself again, so the temptation can be to let your body rest and heal on its own. However, the reality is it is best to start pelvic floor physiotherapy as soon as your doctor allows after childbirth. This therapy will help you recover faster and make everyday new mom tasks, like carrying a baby for hours a day, easier.
Counterintuitively, physiotherapy can also help your C-section heal faster by stimulating the muscles underneath and around your uterus. These exercises will also help your body expel any remaining afterbirth faster and help to shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. This alone can have a great outcome for a woman's state of mind, as helping shrink the womb will keep the woman from carrying around that puffy, post-pregnancy belly.
Overall, take a tip from the French and be sure and talk to your doctor and see a physiotherapist as soon as possible if you are experiencing incontinence, heaviness in your perineum, or other pelvic floor related symptoms. The exercises are easy, effective, and will make all the difference in your life as a new mom.