Q: What is postpartum pelvic dysfunction?
Sofie: Pregnancy and childbirth transform your body and ask a lot of it in a very short space of time.
The pelvic floor muscles and core muscles both suffer stress, and when there are complications like an episiotomy, tearing or an assisted birth, the damage can be more severe.
Pelvic floor or core dysfunction can present in different ways—from urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction to a heavy feeling inside your vagina and backache.
Q: Does this only affect moms who’ve had a vaginal birth?
Sofie: Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect any new mom or mom-to-be and it doesn’t discriminate either.
No matter whether you’ve had a C-section, a straightforward vaginal delivery or an assisted birth, you may well find yourself leaking or find intercourse painful in the weeks that follow.
One thing you shouldn’t have to put up with or accept is having ‘accidents’ or painful intercourse.
Q: Surely it’s only natural after the trauma of birth?
Sofie: You’d be forgiven for thinking your pelvic floor is entitled to temporarily ‘misbehave’ after giving birth—it has had the most challenging experience of its life—but that’s not to say it should be dysfunctional ever after.
Naturally it takes time to get back to ‘normal’ (or your ‘new normal’) once your baby is here, but one thing you shouldn’t have to put up with or accept is having ‘accidents’ or painful intercourse.
Q: My doctor said that it would clear up in time
Sofie: If your doctor or midwife says that leaking or painful sex is normal, or something you need to learn to live with, without having done any investigation, then please don’t accept this is the case.
Either change your healthcare provider or pay for a private session with a women’s health expert.
You owe it to yourself (and your vagina) to make changes that will make these issues a thing of the past.
Q: So how can I fix it?
Sofie: Good posture can improve the alignment of your body, alleviate misplaced pressure and improve pelvic floor and core function.
Of course it is easier said than done, especially considering pregnancy will have pulled you out of alignment, not to mention the physical challenges that that come with a newborn.
So begin by controlling what you can: don’t wear high heels for a start, and when you’re in a seated position be mindful to sit fully onto your sit bones.
Your pelvic floor muscles attach to your pubic bone at the front and the tail bone at the back and base of your pelvis.
They help you to control your bladder and bowel, as well as help sexual function.
Q: Are there exercises I can do?
Sofie: Women often think about pelvic floor exercises (kegels), but this is not the only thing that can be done.
I suggest you invest in a few sessions with a women’s health physio or health expert post-birth to help you get reconnected to your pelvic floor and core.
Q: Does my diet affect my recovery?
Sofie: Many women are surprised to learn that nutrition is just as important as exercising your pelvic floor and core correctly, especially after birth.
The main nutrients that are required for tissue healing are fiber, protein, healthy fats, Vitamin C and A, zinc and collagen.
An easy and fast way to get these nutrients into your body without spending ages in the kitchen is by making a smoothie of blueberries, bananas, spinach, avocado and coconut water, adding a tablespoons of collagen powder if you’re not vegetarian.
Q: Any final advice for moms who may be too shy to seek help?
Sofie: I’ve become increasingly frustrated to see women feel that they have to resign themselves to peeing themselves occasionally.
Leaks, accidents, pain and shame shouldn’t have to be things you accept as part of ‘life after childbirth’.
Get help and discuss your concerns—you owe it to yourself (and your vagina) to make changes that will make these issues a thing of the past.
Sofie is a midwife with 20 years of international experience in public and private healthcare. She runs Urban Hatch, providing one-to-one midwife sessions, ante and postnatal courses, meet ups, and workshops for expectant and new parents. She is also a qualified Pilates teacher.