Is self-treatment effective for postpartum pelvic weakness?
A new mom considering physical therapy recently asked me this question:
Q: “Do I have to see a physical therapist to treat my pelvic floor weakness? Or can I treat it myself with Kegel exercises?
A: Twenty-eight years ago I tried to self-treat my own postpartum incontinence, and I learned a valuable lesson in the process. I often share this personal story with my patients:
After the birth of my first child, who is now 28 years old, I was incontinent and needed to find a solution. There were no pelvic floor physical therapists on the West Coast at the time, so I did some research and ordered a perineometer, which is an internal vaginal kegel probe that uses lights and noise to signal whether your pelvic floor muscles are “on” or not. But six months into this self-treatment, my urinary incontinence and prolapse were even worse.
I was lucky to identify a pelvic floor physical therapist, in Boston, and decided to fly out to meet with her. During our session she took one look at me and said, “Yes, you are making the machine light up nicely, but you are bearing down instead of lifting up!” She gave the muscle a quick stretch. Immediately, in this single treatment, I felt the critical difference between a lift-up and a push-down.
Once I knew how to do the proper pelvic floor contractions I was able to progress my pelvic floor strengthening program. Just 12 weeks later, I returned to my regular running schedule and resumed competing in monthly 5K races. In fact, I became so confident with my pelvic floor health that I was able to carry out two more pregnancies with very minimal complications.
And the rest is history. I signed up to be a pelvic floor therapist for life.
If you are looking at self-treatment options, please give me a call at (424) 353-9791 as I’d be happy to assess your condition and discuss solutions.