The Price of Motherhood and Christmas
The popular Christmas song by Boney M rings in my head: “Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day….Hark the Herald angels sing”
It sounds like it was a glorious birth experience, doesn’t it? Yet Mary had just traveled a couple days on the back of a donkey, at full term! Now that couldn’t have been fun or very comfortable, although maybe it did help to get labor started if there was any doubt that her son Jesus would arrive late to his divinely scheduled birthday. Hopefully Joseph and Mary had been to some kind of birthing prep class because I don’t see mention of any doula or midwife present at this birth…
Motherhood is truly wonderful for the most part, but it does have its challenges, which for some moms, perhaps like Mary, begin before baby is even born. As the baby grows, mom can develop back pain, pubic symphysis pain, which makes even getting in and out of the bed or the car difficult, or she may just experience general pelvic pain as her ligaments relax and stretch to make room for the baby and cause her own support system to be less stable.
Other moms get through the pregnancy without any hiccups but have a difficult labor and delivery, possibly experiencing tearing, requiring an episiotomy, or more drastic measures to help get baby out. Their pelvic floor muscles undergo significant trauma which may take months and even years to fully recover from.
Once baby is born, the focus of attention usually shifts away from the mother toward the baby, and unfortunately mom’s health is usually put on the back burner. She will usually see the OBG at her 6-week post-natal check-up, and unless she has any major concerns, she is usually told that she can resume her previous level of activity. What most people don’t know, is that the mom usually does not receive an assessment of her pelvic floor strength at that 6-week visit, nor does the bony alignment of her pelvis get checked.
After having been stretched many times beyond their normal resting length, and possibly torn, the pelvic floor muscles are somehow just expected to return to their pre-pregnancy length and strength within 6 weeks, while their owner is on call 24/7, likely suffering from sleep deprivation, and practically running the equivalent of 7 miles a day if she is breast feeding. Her uterus is recovering from an internal wound the size of a dinner plate where the placenta detached, and mom is presumed to be able to go about her daily life without any further hiccups after that 6-week mark. The Bible isn’t clear on how long Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus but fleeing to Egypt on a donkey even 3 months post-partum could not have been fun!
This is where moms get into trouble. The pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles take time (longer than 6 weeks) to recover and return to full strength, and if mom lifts things that are too heavy or lifts with improper body mechanics, she can injure her back or put too much pressure on those pelvic floor muscles causing further stress on the recovering muscles, which can result in pelvic organ prolapse. This can also happen when moms return to vigorous sporting or fitness activities too soon after birth, especially those which involve impact and heavy lifting.
So, the price of motherhood can be high for some moms, and some will pay that price for many years, thinking it’s just a rite of passage, but I’m here to say that just because something is common, does not mean it’s normal.
What price are you paying?
Do you pee a little (or a lot) when you want to run around the yard or jump on the trampoline with your kids? Do you wet yourself when you laugh too hard? How about when you sneeze or cough? Have you been walking (or limping) around with back pain since you were pregnant and now you’re 47 or 58? Is sex no longer pleasant (or downright painful) since your bundle of joy entered the world? Do you have to make a mad dash for the toilet as soon as you feel the urge, or do you plan your activities around your knowledge of where the closest restroom is? Do you feel a sensation of heaviness in your pelvis when you’ve been on your feet a long time, or even a sense of something bulging down there?
These are all signs that you and your pelvic floor are paying the price of motherhood, but you don’t have to keep paying! Pelvic floor physical therapy can help strengthen and rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor muscles to make sure they have sufficient strength and flexibility to cope with the demands of daily life and leisure/sporting activities. It’s way more than just doing kegels. In fact, many women (about 27%) perform kegels incorrectly and are doing more harm than good. Some women don’t need to be doing them at all because their pelvic floor muscles have become too tight and they need to be trained how to relax in order for them to contract efficiently again. A pelvic physical therapist will assess strength, endurance and coordination of these muscles and put together a plan to help mom fully recover from the effects of pregnancy and delivery.
“Once post-partum, always post-partum” is a saying in the pelvic P.T. world. Earlier is better, when it comes to getting help, for sure, but it’s never too late to get help. Even if your “baby” is 20 or 40 years old, it’s not too late to seek help from a pelvic P.T. if you are experiencing any of these issues.
If you are pregnant, or have a daughter who is, I would recommend seeing a pelvic P.T. early on in the pregnancy to get set up for a plan of care throughout the pregnancy to keep up your core strength, teach you how to minimize the size of a diastasis, check (and correct if need be) your pelvic alignment and help to prepare your pelvic floor muscles and pelvic bones for the labor and delivery process to minimize the risk of tearing or need for an episiotomy. After delivery a pelvic P.T. will assess mom’s pelvic floor strength at 6 weeks and help her regain core strength and coordination of all the muscles that are needed to support the pelvis, spine and pelvic organs as mom now carries a growing baby around on the outside of her body.
As we celebrate the gift of motherhood this Christmas, let’s make sure that moms are not paying too high a price for that title. If you or a woman in your life has concerns about bladder or bowel control, back pain or pelvic pain, is suffering from a c-section scar, and isn’t enjoying life or intimacy as much as she’d like to, then send her my way. She shouldn’t need to pay the price for the rest of her life.
Vital Life PT
Helping you live life abundantly!