You are not alone.
Did you know that urinary incontinence (leaky bladder, loss of control of bladder) is a common symptom of postpartum pelvic floor issues? Although many women experience it after birth, some may not realize just how common it is.
Often it may take up to two months to regain strength in the pelvic floor muscles. However, for some, pelvic pain can last for months or even years after giving birth.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
The pelvic floor muscles are attached to the pelvic bones by connective tissue. They provide support to the vagina, uterus, bladder, and bowel.
The main group of muscles involved here is called “levator muscles”. Between these muscles, there is an opening that allows the urethra, vagina, and anal passage to exit the abdominal area. This is called the “levator hiatus”. In addition, there are also nerves that work to either relax or squeeze the pelvic floor muscles as needed.
These muscles and nerves working together are what allows us to go to the bathroom at our control.
What happens to the pelvic floor during childbirth?
While giving birth vaginally, the baby actually passes through the levator hiatus. As a result, the pelvic floor muscles, tissues, and nerves can actually become damaged during this pushing and overall process.
The levator muscles stretch to more than 3 times their normal length during the birthing process. The amount of stretch depends on the size of the baby, as well as the opening the baby passes through.
In approximately 30% of women, the muscles are overstretched. In more severe cases it can be torn off the bone. This injury is called “levator avulsion”.
To note, it is often the first vaginal birth that appears to cause the most damage. Subsequent births are seen to have less of an effect on the pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor Problems After Childbirth
Once injury to the pelvic floor has occurred, the muscles and connective tissue no longer provide the support they once did. They go through some trauma or maybe more depending on the situation of the birth.
Although we now know what is happening to the pelvic floor during childbirth, it’s very difficult to identify the level of damage or if much at all during the birth itself. It’s often later when women realize they are having either bladder or bowel problems.
This results in losing the ability to control the bladder (or bowel) to hold its contents and often women can have incontinence before making it to the bathroom. It’s common to lose control during a sneeze, laughing, or even during sleep.
When this type of prolapse or pelvic floor problems occur, there is help. In fact, there are many non-invasive methods to help strengthen the pelvic floor and restore the functionality of the muscles, connective tissue, and nerves.
Do not suffer silently, there is a solution.
The OB-Gyn and Incontinence is a specialized clinic addressing various Pelvic health issues. Dr. Kothandaraman applies her unique gynecological and urological expertise to diagnose and treat all conditions.