Whether you’ve had children or not, most women are aware of the changes that occur in the female body following pregnancy. While the emphasis in society is usually on “getting that pre-baby figure back” (coupled with daunting images and seemingly impossible standards to meet), there are several other considerable issues women face in terms of their physical fitness.
For starters, there is the significant lengthening and stretching of the abdominal muscles which concerns many women for obvious reasons. As if this weren’t enough, there is the accompanying strain on other musculoskeletal structures such as an exaggerated curvature of the spine and a weakened or torn pelvic floor (the muscles in the pelvis that support organs and bones). This may result in a fallen bladder, uterus or rectum – also known as prolapse. Though these conditions are passively accepted as part of having a baby, combined with the natural aging process, the fact is these conditions can develop into more serious disorders in years to come such as stress urinary incontinence, painful intercourse and chronic pain issues. As a result, 40% of women ages 60 to 79 report some sort of pelvic floor disorder that is usually linked to unresolved injuries sustained during pregnancy.
Because so many women simply chalk these issues up as a sacrifice of becoming a mother, pelvic organ prolapse often remains untreated for years. This is unfortunate as there are multiple treatment options. Physical therapy may utilize core strengthening exercises to improve abdominal muscle strength and Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, many times yielding satisfactory results. A pessary, a plastic device placed in the vagina long-term to improve support, may also alleviate the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. The most aggressive treatment option is surgical correction, many times performed in an ambulatory surgical center with no hospital stay. Dr. Brady has performed hundreds of pelvic organ prolapse surgeries and can discuss your options in a clear and straight-forward manner.
In summary, perhaps one of the most important points to take from this is to talk with your gynecologist if you are suffering from symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse – you don’t have to live that way and you have many options. At Women’s Wellness Institute, we have the resources and information to keep you fit and thriving! Dr. Brady can teach our patients the proper way to do Kegel exercises, coordinate physical therapy sessions, fit pessaries or discuss surgical options if desired. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you may have – we’re here to help!