By Aisling Linehan, PT
Infertility is on the rise and as pelvic floor physical therapists we want to do our part to help our patients get pregnant. According to this study, 15% of couples will struggle with infertility. Reasons for infertility can be broken down to ovulation disorders (27%), male factors (25%), tubal disorders (22%), unexplained factors (17%), endometriosis (7%); and “other factors” (4%). Pelvic floor physical therapists specialize in manual & movement therapy. It makes sense that the type of infertility that we can help with is “mechanical”.
Release of fascial and ligamentous restrictions can decrease pressure on blood vessels, thereby optimizing the vascular phase and improving the efficacy of the lymphatic system. Better blood flow basically means better “detox” and waste management by the body. The body, in turn, is better able to perform important processes such as reproduction. It is also important to note that reproduction is not essential in keeping a person alive; thus, if the body feels under threat in any way reproduction is not a priority. Check out the study to see how pelvic floor PT can help you get pregnant.
Not sure if you want to try pelvic floor PT yet? Stop by on Thursday night to try our gentle relax and renew yoga class. Getting your body in a more parasympathetic state can help you mentally and physically prepare for bringing new life into this world.
Written by Rebecca Ironside, PT. Rebecca is also a published Author of Fiction.
I met a woman named Eva* at the Pelvic Floor clinic. She came for physical therapy to address urinary leakage, which she has endured for over ten years. I had to glance at her date of birth to make sure of her age. Eva is 85 years old, and she looks spectacular. “What is your secret to looking so young and vibrant?” I asked her. “Maybe it is having good friends. Wonderful children and grandchildren. Or maybe it is just my good Danish genes,” she replied.
Eva told me that she began leaking urine several years ago, but her condition is getting worse. She told me that she cannot go to the beach anymore at Point Pleasant, which is her favorite thing to do. In her medical history, I learned that Eva had had three pregnancies with vaginal births. She does not drink enough water, mostly in fear of losing even more urine. Based on her age and prior history of childbearing, I was working under the assumption that Eva had weakness in her pelvic floor muscles. Maybe a little prolapse of the bladder.
“A lot of young women come here with complaints of pain with sex,” I told her. Eva’s eyes opened wide. “Do you mean to tell me that there is treatment for that? I had two husbands and sex was awful with both of them. The pain was unbearable. I never understood what the big fuss about sex was all about.”
Here was a woman in her eighties who had lived with pelvic floor dysfunction her entire life. The painful intercourse made sense, given how much tension she was holding in her musculature. I devised a treatment program for Eva to allow the muscles of her pelvic floor to elongate. She was given a home program of self-stretching, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and an activity known as the pelvic floor drop, which is the opposite of the famed Kegels we have all read about in McCall’s Magazine.
Eva has returned several times to our clinic. She has far less urinary leakage, is drinking more water (she has retrained her bladder to accommodate this), and practices yoga and deep breathing. She is planning a month-long trip to Florida, wherein she will be able to go to the beach in a bathing suit encasing her lithe body without fear.
I learned something wonderful during my treatment of Eva. I rejoice in living in a time when help is now possible for these things that have plagued women for centuries. I also learned that it is never too late to change. Eva is 85. And if she responded so readily to this therapy, then anything is possible.
*The name and some personal details of this patient have been changed, according to the laws of the Health Care Portability and Accountability Act. But the symptoms of Eva and the outcome of her treatment are true. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy works!
A 2015 systematic literature review showed that yoga was not only effective in decreasing depression and anxiety in perinatal women, but also improved: pain, anger, stress, gestational age at birth, birth weight, maternal-infant attachment, optimism, and well-being. If you are pregnant or just had a baby and are unsure how to progress with exercise, our therapists who are also certified yoga instructors can help you make the leap into fitness.
Sheffield KM, Woods-Giscombé CL. Efficacy, Feasibility, and Acceptability of Perinatal Yoga on Women's Mental Health and Well-Being: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Holistic Nursing 2015:34(1)64-79.
Start by lying on your back. Use a fist, heel of your hand, or fingers to apply gliding pressure on the left side of the belly from the left ribs down to the pubic bone. This works on the descending colon. Next, use the same pressure to glide just under the rib cage from right to left. This works on the transverse colon. Lastly, glide from the right side of the pubic bone straight up toward the right ribs. This works on the ascending colon. Each glide should be performed 10 times on the descending, transverse, then ascending colons. Use light to moderate pressure to comfort; nothing should hurt!
You can use a heating pad on the abdomen to soften the tissues prior to the massage. It can feel nice to do the massage before bed as you are winding down, but it can be performed anytime. So take some time out, slow down, and get those bellies feeling happy again.
It takes time to strengthen pelvic muscles, but our therapists often see muscle training instrumental in avoiding corrective surgery and in other cases, helpful in preparing for surgery. If you've been diagnosed with prolapse, speak to your doctor about physical therapy for pelvic muscle training. If you've had therapy in the past, we're here for you too for "refresher" sessions or ways to improve your current program.
Bowel movements can be painful and accompanied by bloating and straining. Constipation can occur when the colon absorbs too much water or the colon’s muscle contractions become sluggish, causing the stool to become hard and move too slowly.
More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation. Many are women and adults age 65 and older. Common reasons for constipation include:
Signs like blood in stools, recent changes in bowel habits, or weight loss are important signals to see your doctor. Many people may not need extensive testing and can be treated with proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Increasing water intake to six to eight cups per day, and fiber intake to 20 to 35 grams per day can work wonders for the colon!
Physical Therapists at Connect PT specialize in treating constipation related to a pelvic floor disorder. Muscles in the pelvis that surround the anus and rectum may be tight and restrict emptying. Our therapists look at breathing, abdominal tension, and posture for other factors that may feed into pelvic tension. We use biofeedback, manual (hands-on) work, and pelvic stretches to release tight muscles. We even review your bowel elimination technique - we recommend placing a small step under your feet during evacuation to open up the pelvis and allow for a clearer pooping pathway! We are committed to helping you achieve normal bowel movements, feel energized, and get back to life.
Patient: 66-year- old female with mesh repair of rectal and bladder prolapse 10 years ago.
Chief Complaint: “Knife-like” pelvic pain 10/10 with physical activity the following year, pelvic pain with urinary urgency, 6 voids at night.
Past Medical History: Diagnosis of interstitial cystitis 2 years ago, lumbar arthritis, thyroid condition.
Physical Therapy Treatment: Education on lifestyle modification for prolapse; breathing exercises; bladder retraining; manual release to pelvic floor and restricted internal scars; stretches for pelvis, hips, and low back; gentle core strengthening exercises.
Results: Pelvic pain 1/10 with physical activity, 0 discomfort with 2-hour drive, and 3 voids at night in 17 visits!