After delivering their sweet bundle of joy, new parents are often overcome with feelings of excitement (and sheer exhaustion). Hyper-focused on their newborn, ensuring that all is healthy when it comes to baby’s sleep schedule and feeding habits. But what is equally important is focusing on Mom’s health as she recovers from labor and delivery.
Regan Hill, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Baptist Medical Center Nassau, offers a little much-needed insight on what mamas may experience after delivery and shares some advice on how women can strengthen the pelvic floor in order to properly heal.
Three types of pelvic floor conditions
According to Dr. Hill, three of the most common conditions experienced by mothers after delivery include:
1. Perineum pain. “The perineum is the body tissue located between the vagina and rectum which contains very important muscles that help support the pelvic floor. During vaginal deliveries, the perineum becomes stretched, and sometimes tears,” explains Dr. Hill. “After delivery, many women experience pain, swelling, and tenderness of the perineum, especially if a tear occurred. To help soothe this pain, women can apply padded ice packs and use pain-relieving spray and witch hazel pads. Soaking in a shallow bath, also called a sits bath, can also be very soothing. Perineal pain usually lasts for about three to six weeks.”
2. Urinary incontinence. “It’s very common to feel as if you’ve lost control of your bladder, otherwise known as urinary incontinence. This also occurs because the supporting pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are stretched during vaginal delivery,” she shares. “The amount of time it takes for urinary incontinence to resolve is highly variable and depends on the number of times a woman has given birth and other factors. If it is going to completely resolve, it typically does so in about 12 weeks.”
3. Constipation. “Constipation can also occur postpartum due to pain medication and a decrease in fluid intake. For this reason, many women fear the first bowel movement after delivery,” Dr. Hill says. “Making sure to take stool softeners and staying well hydrated postpartum greatly ease this discomfort. Staying active by walking and performing pelvic floor exercises will help improve blood flow to these areas and speed healing.”
Strengthening the pelvic floor
Dr. Hill says these conditions can all result from a weakened pelvic floor — this generally happens while pregnant because the muscle group isn’t being exercised in the same way it was before conceiving.
“Doing pelvic floor-strengthening exercises like Kegels during pregnancy can lead to a more rapid recovery postpartum,” she says. “If there are signs of pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy such as incontinence, pain or bulging tissues, many times a referral can be made to a pelvic floor physical therapist.”
Seeking help from your provider
While these conditions can be common, it’s critical to listen to your body and contact your healthcare provider for support when it’s needed.
“Perinium pain, bladder weakness, and constipation are normal after delivery and should gradually resolve over time,” Dr. Hill assures. “If you feel that your bladder isn’t emptying and it’s causing extreme pain, you’re unable to hold gas or stool, or are having pain and bleeding with bowel movements, contact your doctor.”
Pregnancy and the postpartum period can be tough, but you’re not alone. That’s why Baptist Health created The Motherhood Space, which includes a free virtual video series led by maternal health experts to support women before, during, and after pregnancy. Learn more at baptistjax.com/motherhoodspace.
If you find yourself dealing with incontinence or pelvic floor issues, visit 4Her or call 904.202.4HER (4437) to find the right provider for you and make an appointment. To learn more about Labor and Delivery services, visit baptistjax.com/baby.