Pelvic Pain After Birth
Few things have such a dramatic effect on a woman’s body as pregnancy and childbirth. Whether you have a vaginal delivery or C-section, the impact of delivery can impact your pelvic floor for months.
Many women experience pre and postpartum pelvic pain. There is also a common condition called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) that can have long-term effects on women up to 11 years after pregnancy.
Carrying a baby to term is a strenuous process, and childbirth puts the pelvic floor through trauma that may lead to lasting pain and dysfunction. While a cesarean can prevent some common complications of vaginal delivery, such as prolapse, there are still many women who report pelvic floor dysfunction after C-section.
Even women who have wonderful pregnancies and uncomplicated deliveries can go on to experience pelvic problems after baby. While this can be a trying and difficult condition to suffer from, there are treatment options available. What’s more, most women who struggle with postpartum pelvic pain recover within a few months.
Is postpartum pelvic pain normal?
Although childbirth is a natural process our bodies were built for, it still causes immense trauma to the pelvic region. In a study of 20, 248 new mothers, 4.5% experienced pelvic pain during the first 3 months after delivery.
Pelvic pain can also cause perennial pain, affecting the area between your anus and vagina.
Causes of Pelvic Pain After Delivery
Separated Public Symphysis
During delivery, the baby’s head may press down at a certain angle on your pelvic bone. This can lead to future discomfort by stretching the connective tissue (ligaments) between the two bones at the front of your pelvis.
The gap between the bones can cause pain and pelvic dysfunction. You may have pain while you walk, sit, or stand for extended periods of time. Generally, this condition lasts between 3 and 8 months as the body heals and the gap gradually closes.
Pelvic Floor Prolapse
When the muscles that support your pelvic floor are too weak, they can fall (prolapse) and extend out of the vagina. Women who have vaginal deliveries are at a greater risk of postpartum pelvic prolapse due to the strain of childbirth on their pelvic floor.
Pelvic prolapse can cause the vagina to feel full or heavy all the time. You may experience a sensation of pressure, have discomfort urinating or during sex, and experience more flatulence. Pelvic prolapse can also cause pain during bowel movements or lead to difficulty emptying your bowels or bladder.
Pelvic floor dysfunction also includes the pelvic muscles, but rather than prolapsing, they are overworked and strained. Pelvic dysfunction can cause pain when using the bathroom, during sex, and a sensation of pressure in the vagina, and the development of hemorrhoids.
A heavy, painful feeling in the vagina and possibly rectum are common for women with postpartum pelvic dysfunction. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is key to reducing pain and restoring healthy function.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)
PGP is a severe form of postpartum pelvic pain that affect three joints in your pelvic region. This pain can radiate throughout your body, affecting your vagina, rectum, thighs, and back. Any weight-bearing movement can cause pain and discomfort, such as walking, standing, and exercise.
Certain joints are more likely to be affected by PGP, like the sacroiliac joints at the base of your spine. You could feel pelvic pain in your lower back, on one side or both, that may radiate to your thighs.
How long does postpartum pelvic pain last?
Postpartum pain in the pelvis can last anywhere between 3 and 8 months. However, some women experience ongoing pelvic pain over a year after giving birth.
A study of 300 mothers who have birth between 2015 and 2016 found that some experienced pelvic floor pain 3 to 4 years postpartum, and delivery method had no impact on whether they were more likely to have pain.
Interestingly, the study also found that women who had a fear of childbirth and inadequate help with pain management after delivery were more likely to have problems with their pelvic floor.
When to See a Doctor
While some postpartum pain is normal, it should not interfere with your everyday life. If you experience pain for more than 3 months postpartum, you should speak with your doctor. However, if you show any signs of pelvic floor dysfunction or prolapse at any period, medical treatment should be your top priority.
There are several ways you can manage pelvic floor pain after birth. The most impactful is physical therapy. Physical therapy helps you target your pelvic muscles and restore function without surgical intervention.
If you have pelvic prolapse, your doctor might suggest a pessary. This soft silicone device is inserted into the vagina to provide greater support to the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles.
Six weeks after childbirth, you will likely be cleared by your physician to start light exercise. Daily physical exercise can help you strengthen your core and eliminate pain naturally.
How long does it take for the pelvis to return to normal after pregnancy?
Expect six months to 2 years for your pelvis to fully return to normal after having a baby. Your body was rapidly changing and accommodating new life for nearly a year — it takes about as long (and sometimes a little longer) to return to its pre-pregnancy state.
It’s important to note that pregnancy and childbirth can permanently change your body in some ways. Some women will always have wider hips and ribs after carrying a child. Pelvic pain, however, does not need to become a permanent part of your life.
How Physical Therapy Can Help Alleviate Postpartum Pelvic Pain
Physical therapy after birth helps you restore function to your pelvic floor by gently strengthening the muscles. At Lake City PT, we start every new relationship with a comprehensive patient assessment. We get to know you first, so we can help come up with a plan that’s right for your body.
Your physical therapist will work with you to determine your biggest pain points and the safest, most effective ways to treat them. You will perform exercises at our office, as well as learn ones you can do at home.
If you have pelvic pain after birth, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Lake City PT. We are happy to answer any of your questions and help you start healing.