How well do you know your pelvic floor? If you’re like me, you probably just Googled “pelvic floor!” Sadly, it took me three pregnancies to even ask this question, let alone speak with a very in-tune physical therapist to help me understand just how important it is. Cristin Zaimes, owner and doctoral-level Physical Therapist at Oceanside Physical Therapy in Stratham NH, specializes in just this.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
As I sat in the posh but inviting reception area of Oceanside Physical Therapy awaiting my first meeting with Cristin, I couldn’t help but wonder what she would do or say. I thought the pain in my hips, upper thighs and back was normal during pregnancy. In each of my pregnancies I experience this pain; usually beginning around week 20. It gradually intensifies until delivery and then the pressure quickly shifts to my back, upper back and shoulders. Taxed from breastfeeding and hauling tiny humans all day (and night), I thought all this discomfort was a part of motherhood. I should just accept it, right? Well, not quite.
Cristin cheerfully introduced herself and instantly made me feel welcome. She is knowledgeable, thoughtful in her questions, and quick to provide me with resources I never knew existed in the realm of maternal care. The pelvic floor, Cristin gently explained, is made up of a group of muscles that support internal organs and should be exercised regularly. The health of each woman’s pelvic floor, she explained, can drastically affect not only the child-bearing experience, but intercourse and bowel and bladder function as well. When a woman’s pelvic floor is weak or distressed, it can foster both current and long-term gynecological problems, chronic pain, and lead to expensive health care. In layman’s terms, the pelvic floor is incredibly important to women’s health and we are ignoring it.
Many mothers, regardless of whether they had vaginal or cesarean births, may experience increased difficulty in recovery after delivery when the pelvic floor is weakened. Common symptoms of this include constipation, pain or urgency to urinate, painful intercourse, and abdominal, back, or hip pain.
Oh, and that comical mama problem of peeing when you cough, sneeze, or laugh hard? Yup, that’s usually pelvic floor related, too.
So the pain I was experiencing? “Common, but not normal,” Cristin cautioned. Many women believe that these pregnancy or post-delivery aches and pains are just part of the journey, but they’re not. They’re little red flags to our bodies that we need to give ourselves a little more attention and care.
About Cristin and Oceanside Physical Therapy
Cristin opened Oceanside, a small, private practice in 2011 with the intention of providing an atmosphere where patients feel supported, empowered and heard. While she strives to provide expert care, she is clearly passionate about raising awareness for women in their respective health journeys.
Cristin and her team go beyond providing basic physical therapy services; their practice now encompasses individual appointments, workshops, classes, and even customized fitness plans to accommodate a myriad of client needs. Oceanside even offers a free weekly mom and baby class; a rare and valuable resource for women across the Seacoast. For a more in-depth snapshot of what Oceanside provides to their clients, click here.
What I Learned…
What do I know now? I am one of those women with a weak pelvic floor. In my teens and twenties, I wanted to love horseback riding lessons and spinning classes. Yet, in the days following these lessons, I found myself intensely bruised and my lady parts aching. Intercourse was never unpleasant for me, but rarely experienced without some pain. After my assessment with Cristin, these seemingly meaningless symptoms suddenly made sense: I wasn’t as healthy as I could be.
But there was good news. With a little care and intentional exercise, this didn’t have to be my “normal.”
With Cristin and the whole team at Oceanside Physical Therapy’s help, I can uncover healthy ways of strengthening my body, specifically my pelvic floor. Reducing my “pregnancy pain” is possible, and maximizing my body’s core muscles for delivery (even with a planned cesarean) is an attainable goal. I’m feeling much more confident as I head into my third delivery.
What I Need to Work On
Cristin outlined a few ways to accomplish this. She helped me to practice intentional breathing exercises to find and strengthen my pelvic floor muscles. Leaving her office, I was equipped with simple exercises and a more astute knowledge of how to better distribute my body weight. I felt ready and empowered to make the remainder of this pregnancy the healthiest one yet. Not just for my baby, but for me, too. After all, how can we mamas effectively provide for our kids when we ourselves are broken?
The Take Away
Like me, you might be just beginning your journey in discovering your pelvic floor and a path to better maternal health. Or, you might be further along. Either way, consider making the team at Oceanside Physical Therapy part of it. You – and your pelvic floor – won’t be disappointed.