Written by Mary Ann White, PTA
Are you wondering how exercise can help you during pregnancy or what kinds of exercises are safe? Exercise is appropriate for most healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
Staying safe while you exercise is a top concern. Walking, swimming, stationary biking, low-impact aerobics and pregnancy workout classes are appropriate during pregnancy. Remember to progress slowly and follow the guidelines below.
If you have gestational diabetes
Avoid activities that put you at risk for falling, injury or other complications
Stop exercising and consult your physician if you experience:
For more information, see:
Written by Becca Ironside, PT. Becca is also a published Author of Fiction.
Theresa came to Connect Physical Therapy in late fall of 2017. She looked like she had it all – dark, glossy hair, olive skin and a neckline without wrinkles that belied her age of 57. Theresa has two children, is married to a man from Ireland and is gainfully employed by the State of New Jersey in Trenton. Theresa has an unmistakable air of confidence. This was surprising, given her reason for seeking help in our office for Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy.
During her first visit, Theresa confided that she had recently begun to experience fecal incontinence. It had come out of the blue, she said. A few months back, Theresa noticed severe urgency with bowel movements. She would feel spasms within her rectum and there was no warning before she would have to defecate. There were times when she could not make it to the toilet in time, and so she was forced to wear disposable pull-ups to manage her “accidents”. She had to plan her commute to work, stopping at least once in the cleanest of public bathrooms she could find, because she could not wait during traffic. Theresa’s problem was worsening. She could no longer go to social outings without scoping out for the nearest restroom. The humiliation was awful, she said.
“After I married my husband, who is from the outskirts of Donegal, Ireland, I traveled overseas to meet his family,” Theresa explained. “They live very simply, these people. They wear the same clothing most days, drive old cars with manual transmissions, and do not have the same access to healthcare that we do.”
“I am so fortunate to live in America,” Theresa continued. “My Irish in-laws call me ‘A spoiled Yank’. I used to love it when they referred to me that way. I have everything a person could want. Except that now I am terrified of being in public and have to wear adult diapers. I do not feel like a spoiled Yank anymore.”
I knew that Theresa was at the end of her tether. She had tried prescription medication, daily Imodium, altering her diet and kept her legs tightly crossed at all times to avoid what still happened. I explained to her what Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy was all about. That in this type of clinic, we would do an internal examination to discern if the muscles of her perineum might be driving the fecal incontinence.
“I have been through so much already. If you have to do an internal examination, so be it,” Theresa declared. After an exam of the musculature of Theresa’s pelvic floor, it felt as though her muscles were in moderate to severe spasm. These muscles control urination and defecation; they were firing so rapidly that she could not contain feces within her colon, and worked incessantly to force it out. The function of the large intestine is to pull water out of our foodstuffs and allow feces to become solid. This was not happening in Theresa’s case, because the food was not in her colon for enough time, and her stool was unformed and messy. This explained her chronic diarrhea.
The treatment plan for Theresa included deep breathing, relaxation of her pelvic floor muscles and some natural over-the-counter additives to bulk up her stool. “This sounds counter-intuitive to me,” Theresa said at first. “If I relax the muscles, then won’t more feces escape unplanned?” I smiled at her and explained that if she wanted to try something new, she would have to trust me.
It took almost three months of once-weekly treatment in our clinic, with a really good home program, for Theresa’s symptoms to subside. But subside, they did. She now has solid bowel movements twice daily and can control them wonderfully. Gone are the pull-ups and the fear of accidents. Her commute to work and social life have been restored to normalcy.
“I cannot believe how this treatment has helped me! I wonder if this would be available to my relatives in Ireland? I hope so. But at any rate, I feel like a ‘spoiled Yank’ once more,” Theresa remarked. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is gaining rank, accessibility and respect all over the world. It likely is available to her in-laws in Donegal, Ireland. The trick is to find ways to talk about these issues and overcome the embarrassment surrounding words like rectum, feces, and stool.
This is what we do, as pelvic floor physical therapists. One client at a time. For spoiled Yanks, people from Ireland and every other continent, men and women, young and older, there is help. We live in a time when anything is possible.
Written by Karen Bruno, PT
We often hear the term mind/body used in various wellness, medical and healing platforms. What this means is that there are powerful and complex interactions that take place between our thoughts, our bodies and the outside world and these factors can directly impact our health. Our thoughts, feelings emotions and attitudes can affect the health of our body and our physical body (what we eat, our posture, and how we move) can positively or negatively affect our mental and emotional states. Simply put, the body can affect the mind and the mind can impact the body. Meditation, a practice of focused awareness, is a mind/body technique that can mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies by bringing calm to our bodies through calming our minds.
Benefits of meditation closely resemble and often overlap with the benefits of deep breathing and exercise. Some benefits of meditation include:
People often get anxious about the thought of meditating, perhaps because they think they can’t do it, or they don’t have enough time, or for a myriad of other reasons. Meditation can take many forms and is practiced in a variety of ways. Even a few minutes of deep breathing, relaxation or meditation can elevate your mood, sharpen your focus and improve your physical and emotional state of well being. The following are two examples of simple ways to comfort your mind and receive the benefits of meditation.
Here is another quick meditation technique to expand your heart energy:
I wish you well. I wish you peace.
Written by Michelle Dela Rosa, PT
So what’s the answer ladies? Water and mild soap. That’s it! The perineum can be patted dry afterwards. Read more to learn about conditions that can influence pH.
Written by former staff physical therapist, 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.
Patient: 24-year-old female, 12 weeks postpartum after second degree perineal tear, nursing.
Chief Complaint: Painful vaginal entry 6 weeks postpartum, bleeding with bowel movements.
Past Medical History: Crohn’s disease, low thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome.
Physical Therapy Treatment: education on bowel health, manual pelvic floor and abdominal tissue release, perineal scar mobilization, pelvic alignment, vaginal dilators, hip stretches, core strengthening, postural education.
Results: Pain-free intercourse in 15 visits, 0 bleeding with bowel movements after the first 2 visits!
Written by Becca Ironside, PT. Becca 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!
Connect PT hosted “The Pelvic Floor: There’s More to Your Core - A Guide for Personal Trainers.” Our therapists were thrilled to educate personal trainers about pelvic floor dysfunction and how they can help clients that have it. It is important that women and men with pelvic dysfunction feel safe while exercising and achieving their fitness goals.
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.