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Should We See A Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist Postpartum?

Image from Google Images 

Image from Google Images 

Just a little food for thought.  Delivering a baby, vaginally or cesarean, is a difficult job for our body.  I hate to say it, but birth is traumatic to our tissues.  The muscles are stretched during childbirth, some are torn or even cut through, in order to do what is best to get baby out safely.  As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I have often wondered, why are these women missing out on opportunities to improve the function of their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles after delivering a child?  In all other areas of muscle injury (strain) or rupture/ tearing, patients are usually advised to seek the help of a physical therapist for regaining muscle control, range of motion, strength, flexibility, stability and overall function.  For instance, someone might have a whiplash injury (similar to a childbirth with minimal or no tearing), they would see a physical therapist to stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles.  If someone tore their Rotator Cuff, they may have surgery to fix the muscles (similar to repairing pelvic floor muscles or abdominal muscles after delivering a baby(ies)), then they would seek the help of a physical therapist to stretch the tight muscles, regain coordination of the muscles, teach the brain how to connect with the muscles again, and go through a program of improving range of motion and strength/ endurance of the muscles.  

I think we are missing this with our new moms.  Think about it.  Women are pregnant for approximately 9 months (posture changes, back muscles tighten, abdominal muscles weaken etc) and then they go thru delivery (with tearing or not) and their body's are expected to bounce right back while taking care of a rapidly growing new born.

What I see with my patients are poor postural stances of weakened and stretched abdominal muscles, tight and short low back muscles, sometimes tucked bums or ribs thrusts with carrying and lifting baby/ children/ car seat etc.  I think it would benefit so many new moms to be referred to a pelvic floor physical therapist postpartum.  Every new mom could come in for a screen to see if they are having any issues and if there are any things a new mom should be working on in the first couple of months.  I personally think, it would be beneficial to see a pelvic floor physical therapist for a screen PRIOR to getting back into an exercise program.  A pelvic floor physical therapist can evaluate women for diastasis recti, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence and proper postural and body mechanics.  Hopefully with seeing  pelvic floor physical therapist, this would prevent more pelvic floor risks and issues in the future. 

So...see a pelvic floor physical therapist today, even for a screen, to see if you would benefit from starting a pelvic floor home exercise program.  Why not support your tissues for a stronger future?  

The Scoop on Poop

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Everyone poops.  This is a discussion I had with my 4 year old recently.  He was avoiding going "number 2", until we were getting home at the end of the day. 

We discussed how everyone poops.  Mommy poops.  Daddy poops.  Grandmas and Grandpas poop. His teachers at school poop.  His daycare lady poops.  All the kids he is around all day poop etc.  We talked about the different places people go too.  He seemed shocked that people would poop outside of their house.  I tried to explain, when your body is telling you it needs to get something out, aka for him a belly ache, then you need to listen and go to the bathroom instead of waiting all day and being miserable.  (As this can cause some pelvic problems down the road)

This is often a similar discussion with my patients.  Bowel movements are often a topic with pelvic patients, as the organs are supported by the pelvic floor muscles.  Constipation and frequent bowel movements can both cause pelvic floor issues so it is best to address them when treating pelvic floor symptoms.

Poop kind of has a bad reputation, which is sad, because it can tell you a lot about your health.  So before you flush after your next BM (bowel movement), be sure to take a glance inside the toilet and just see what your poop is telling.  Yes, I said check out your poop!  

Your poop has gone on quite a trip to end up in the toilet.  Remember, at one point, that poop was food.  The salad you ate last night went into your mouth and started the digestion process with chewing (side note: try chewing 20-30 times with each bite to help with digestion).  When you swallowed, it ended up in your stomach where it continued to break down with acids and other organs helped with this process.  The nutrients of your dinner are absorbed in the small intestine. Then your salad became waste product as it reached the colon to begin it's journey of leaving the body.  When stool reaches your rectum, you get a signal from your brain that something is about to exit and make an appearance.  It is best not to hold back your poop, but to take the time to sit down on the toilet, with your knees slightly above your hips (squatty pottys), to have a nice relaxing bowel movement (breathing and "shhhhh-ing" are great tips to help with the relaxation).

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So what does healthy poop look like?  I get this question a lot and most people are surprised there are many types of poop, 7 according to the Bristol Stool Scale :). You want to strive for a Type 3 or 4. If you are more type 1 or 2 it is a sign of constipation, and adding water and/ or fiber can improve this.  If you are a type 5, 6 or 7 regularly, you may have an issue with absorption or have an infection. 

Color of poop is another thing to pay attention to as it can tell you what is going on with your organs.  Poop also gets it's color from your food so don't be too alarmed it if changes red when you eat too many beets or cranberries! Poop should be a nice milk chocolate type of color.  If it is a black, tar like color it can be a sign of bleeding so consulting a physician to rule things out is a good idea.  Stools green/ yellow in color can mean you are eating a good amount of green things or a sign of gallbladder issues.  If you are starting a diet, don't be shocked to have a variety of colors when you glance in the toilet. 

Last one, should your poop float or sink like the Titanic?  Floating poop can be a sign you have too much fat (bad fat) in your diet or issues with your liver or gallbladder.  Cutting back on pizza and fast food may give you a successful poop sink in the toilet.  

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What You Eat MAY Affect Your Hormones

The talk of how crazy women can be has been going on for centuries.  Did you know a hysterectomy was thought to cure women of "hysteria"? Crazy right?!  The thought was women were going crazy (mood swings) because their uterus was searching for children.  So they must be cured if you remove it. 

I am thankful to be living in times of modern medicine.  We know so much more now days about what can affect our hormones.  There are lots of options out there, but I will be focusing this blog on more food related items. 

So how can our hormones get "imbalanced"?  The most common causes are: 

  • excess stress
  • lifestyle choices
  • aging
  • genetics
  • lack of nutrients
  • pregnancy, miscarriages and abortions 
  • environmental exposure to toxins

We have quite a bit of control over the above, especially our genetics.  New studies have shown that we can turn on and off genes in our DNA with external factors (such as diet, sleep and stress). How cool is that?!  The DNA is still passed down to your children and grandchildren, but the choices you make today, can affect your great grandchildren.  Pretty amazing.  

So what choices can we make to make a positive change?

  • Start adding dark, leafy greens: most nutrient dense food, yet lacking in a lot of people's diets
    • dark greens clean you blood, improve circulation and improve your immune system by restoring strength and reducing inflammation
    • Start by adding in a 1/2 cup of cooked (lightly sauteed or steamed is best) greens to your day.  Slowly work your way to 3-4 cups of raw and cooked greens
  • Add more healthy fats (Fats! Handout)
    • Women's bodies are made up of about 60% fat.  That's almost 50% more than males and it is important for our fertility (that's hormones ladies!). 
    • When we eat a low fat diet, our bodies have a harder time digesting fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) which play an important role in hormone regulation. 
    • Add more Omega 3s to support brain function (deficiencies have been linked to ADD, ADHD etc) 
    • Examples of my faves: coconut butter and avocados
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How much fat do I need?  It depends.  Start by keeping a journal and see how you feel after eating good fats. I feel better when eating meals with more healthy fats and I find I am eating more fats now than ever before, somewhere between 30-50% of my daily food, especially while pregnant. Eating more healthy fats has been shown to help some women regulate their hormones to getting their periods/ cycles back on track (while reducing their carbs, not eliminating them).

  • Chewing starts your digestion and most of us aren't chewing our food enough.
    • Chewing less makes it harder for food digestion to occur and can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pains, constipation/ diarrhea etc 
    • TRY chewing your bites 20-30 times and see if you notice a difference in how you feel!

So again...

  • Take longer to chew your bites (20- 30 times)
  • Add 1/2 cup of leafy greens to 1 meal a day, working up to each meal 
  • Add good fats to one meal.  It might be avocado slices to your eggs in the morning or to a salad at lunch.  

5 Important Pieces of Information About Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Copied from Bing Images

Copied from Bing Images

Abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) of your mid line of six-pack muscles is all the chat right now in social media.  So...I want to give you the low down on what the hype is all about.

When I first started my training with pelvic floor physical therapy, I was under the impression that a 2 finger split was considered normal.  With time, more research and growing knowledge about this topic, we now know that not to be true.  

After you read this I hope you feel more comfortable about this topic.  

5 Important Pieces of Information About Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Fact 1 :I feel like a see 3 new sponsored posts daily on this topic.  An abdominal separation can happen to the linea alba, the connective tissue within your mid line, due to the laxity that happens from growing uterus and baby.  Try not to stress out about an abdominal separation.  It is very common among pregnant and postpartum women and very possible to heal a diastasis recti (men can have Diastasis Recti too).  A study by Diane Lee, found 100% of women have abdominal separation at 35 weeks gestation (pregnancy).  Your body is smart one and knows what it is doing.  Your belly stretches to accommodate your growing uterus and baby. The study found that by 6 months postpartum, diastasis had decreased to 35-39%.  So it is important to check in with belly every now and then to see if yours has gotten stronger.  

Copied from Bing images

Copied from Bing images

Fact 2: Posture and alignment are important with strengthening the gap.  Pay attention to how you are standing, lifting and carrying baby. Make sure your shoulders and ribs are stacked over pelvis to keep your torso in good alignment, which decreases pressure in your abdomen (less pressure pushing on linea alba-midline of abdomen).  Try to be mindful of how you are lifting/ carrying baby, especially when in the car seat or baby wearing. This is also a great place to start seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist so they can help you with your alignment with activities and assist you on your road to recovery.

Fact 3: Another way you can decrease the pressure in your belly is by breathing out (exhaling) when you are lifting baby.  This is great to remember when lifting baby into car, crib, picking toys up from the ground, lifting holiday decorations etc.  

Fact 4: There is NOT one exercise that will heal your abdominal separation.  There is also NOT one exercise that will ruin your abdomen.  There may be exercises that you need to avoid while you are working on strengthening your separation, but you can get back to those exercises when your body is ready.  For instance, if you are seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, they may ask you to avoid certain core strengthening exercises, like a plank, but that doesn’t mean you will have to avoid them forever.

Fact 5:  The internet gets us caught up in the separation of our abdomen.  Is it 2 fingers wide, 3 fingers wide or more.  I tend to not get caught up on the separation split width and try to not get my patients too excited on this either.  I am more interested in the tension created between the 6 pack muscles that run from the breast bone to the pubic bone. I want my patients to improve in their “bridge” between their mid line, meaning more “taut” with activities of lifting, carrying, exercise etc.  When your tension improves, you are getting stronger!