As a Pelvic Physical Therapist specializing in women’s health I see women both prenatal and post-partum. Some of these women come to me for general return-to-activity strengthening and guidance, but, additionally some of them experience pain with intercourse and/or have urinary frequency/urgency.
After having my own child, everything that I had taught my patients previously about engaging their core, bladder control, prolapse, and good body mechanics with lifting baby have never been more clear. I listened to my doctor’s and my own advice about returning to activity 6 weeks after delivery, however I still had symptoms which limited me.
Here are some of the things that kept me from returning to activity as quickly as I would have liked:
- Pee yourself much? – Urinary incontinence is a form of urine leakage. After having my son, my first sneeze ended up with me having to change my underwear, my pants, and sit on a towel while on the couch nursing. Yikes!
- What abs? – A few weeks after my son was born, we were so enamored (and sleep deprived) by our new baby that I didn’t get a chance to assess my new body post birth. I was horrified to see how “squishy” and nonexistent my abs were.
- My vagina. Enough said. – Now without getting into too much detail, I felt like there was a golf ball or something between my legs when I would lift anything heavy or bear down to have a bowel movement. This was not okay or acceptable as the new normal.
- Bodymechanics are out the window. – I teach bodymechanics all day every day to my patients, and here I am lifting, nursing, rocking, and shushing a newborn with the worst body mechanics and no ab strength. This lead me to have backpain which I never have experienced before.
- Tingling anyone? – Between nursing and trying to a sleeping baby in his crib without waking, I was experiencing tingling in my fingers and pain in my elbows. In my pre-baby life this was known as carpal tunnel and tennis elbow, respectively. However, I was not playing tennis, in fact, I was merely holding a baby! The repetitiveness of nursing, holding, and rocking a newborn caused me to have a repetitive stress injury.
Don’t let this photo fool you!
My hands are completely numb from rocking baby to sleep, my neck is stiff from nursing, and I’m pretty sure I was doing my pelvic floor exercises to stop the urine leakage as I was about to sneeze. I was surprised that even 6 weeks after delivery I was still experiencing these symptoms. My doctor had cleared me to return to activity, but I was far from ready.
What Happens If You Go Back Too Soon?
Returning back to activity too soon can result in what I call a sloppy mess! I went for a short run at 6 weeks and strained my calf, had so much urine leakage, and woke up with severe back pain. These were all signs that I wasn’t ready to return to running yet. To safely return to exercise post-partum read Part 2 of this 3 part series on how you can return to exercise after having a baby.