Pregnancy and labor can lead to pelvic floor disorders - AmericaNowNews.com

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Pregnancy and labor can lead to pelvic floor disorders

Being a good parent, losing weight and getting enough sleep are usually the biggest worries for most new mothers.

Unfortunately, these concerns push aside major post-partum health issues such as pelvic floor disorders which nearly a quarter of women experience. 

While some women chalk these disorders up as a normal part of aging, family genetics, or motherhood, doctors say that needs to change.

If not treated, these disorders can dramatically restrict a woman's activities and quality of life.

Recently, America Now met new mother December Daughtery who experienced one of these disorders.

When she gave birth to her first child, Daughtery knew there would be plenty of potty-related accidents ahead of her, but she never expected some of them would be her own and seemingly all the time.

"I remember I had a cold, and I coughed and peed all over the floor, like completely peed on the floor, and I was crying I was so embarrassed," Daughtery recalled.

A physician diagnosed her with stress incontinence, a type of pelvic floor disorder where labor and delivery weakens or damages the tissues supporting the bladder causing uncontrollable urine leakage.

"It's huge on quality of life," said Dr. Kevin Stepp, a urogynecologist with Carolinas Healthcare System's Mercy Hospital. "We see patients every day who have been dealing with this for years."

Pelvic floor disorders, like incontinence or prolapses, occur when a woman's pelvic organ literally drops down out of place after giving birth to a child.

Age, obesity, and how many pregnancies a woman has had are contributing risk factors.

None of these, however, were factors for Daughtery because her diagnosis came after her first pregnancy, she was in her 20s, and she was extremely fit.  

"When I got cleared, I went back to the gym, but I couldn't jump anymore, I couldn't do jumping jacks anymore, I couldn't run," Daughtery said.

Instead, Daughtery's physician sent her back to the workout room to do physical therapy exercises for her pelvis.

"I went for six weeks, did all the exercises and got better," she recalled.

While Kegel exercises are the tried and true solution to pelvic floor disorders, most women who attempt to do them, do them incorrectly.

"The problem is you can do that and be recruiting all sorts of different muscles, not really working out the ones that you need to," Stepp warned.  

While these simple exercises can strengthen deep pelvic muscles, they often require the help of a physical therapist or doctor to correctly learn the techniques involved.

Women need to start Kegel exercises during or immediately after pregnancy, and the exercises must be done four to six weeks before expecting to see results. Similar to working out to build muscle, one must continue doing the Kegel exercises to reap the health benefits. 

"If you look at pelvic health, there is a reason why one in nine women have surgery for this in their lifetime because it's often neglected," Stepp said.

Pelvic floor surgery is an option, but likely won't be the first suggested or before considering the use of a pessary, a silicone device used to reposition and support organs that have fallen out of place after delivery trauma. 

If this sounds or looks scary, doctors say a healthy lifestyle and Kegel regime in your pregnancy years is your best defense.

Stepp says, often, patients want quick results.

"I have so many patients that just say, 'Can't you just fix it with a surgery and I'll be done with it?'" Stepp said. "I tell people, you have to work on it."

With more women having babies later in life or having them closer together with less time to recover, doctors predict a steady case increase of pelvic floor disorders.

It's a topic not to be skipped with your doctor during post-partum checkups.

Its important to remember that pelvic floor disorders are really not a matter of being out of shape.

So, rushing back to the gym to do a lot of crunches isn't going to solve the problem. Exercising too hard or soon after giving birth can lead to more problems including pelvic pain.

Use your four to six week check-up with your doctor to test your pelvic strength and learn more about the kind of exercises that can get your body back on track both inside and out.  

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