I might wet myself…
I recently went out for a drink with some mums from school. After a few, (possibly too many), one mum burst out laughing. Then trying to hold back, she blurted, “Don’t make me laugh so hard… I’m going to wet myself!’
That comment opened the flood-gates (pardon the pun!). One by one everyone started admitting they too might leak if they laughed too hard. Another claimed she also worries when she sneezes. A third shared her fear of bouncing on the trampoline with her daughter…
Cue more raucous laughter…with legs tightly crossed. But the underlying issue is no laughing matter.
Few knew that I’m a women’s health physiotherapist, or what that entails, because we’ve never touched on female urinary incontinence at the school gates. Once they knew, we spent the next part of the evening with me collectively teaching pelvic floor exercises and discussing group sessions to be held at pick up, just to help get those mums back on the trampoline!
But there is something you can, and should, do about it. Now, I’m a mum of two small (and gorgeous) boys, so I know what you’re likely to be thinking…
The day you left hospital with your precious newborn, you were handed a bag full of leaflets. One told you how to help your baby to sleep. One was about how to breastfeed. Another showing what their ‘normal’ milestones are, yet another what products to buy. And there is one more about something called pelvic floor exercises and to practice them every day. Who has the time between feeding, changing nappies, constant loads of washing and relentless sleep deprivation to sift through the mountain of literature, let alone read it and actually take any of the information in? And then remember to act on it all? It’s no wonder that most of us don’t realise the importance of this ‘tiny’ exercise.
Our bodies change incredibly during pregnancy to accommodate the developing new life inside us, but what about after? Our tummy muscles and pelvic floor muscles are weakened and stretched. And what about returning to exercise and feeling ‘normal’ again?
Actually, not everyone recovers perfectly from pregnancy and childbirth. Many are left with a variety of issues.
I want to shout from the rooftops ‘You’re not on your own!
It is estimated that up to 50% of women, at some stage in their lives, experience varying degrees of pelvic organ prolapse or symptoms of bladder and bowel problems; from leaking, having to rush to the loo frequently, or having difficulty controlling wind. Women who leak urine during pregnancy are twice as likely to experience urinary incontinence at three months post delivery and this is regardless of delivery method; vaginal or caesarean. A third of women have tummy muscle separation and weakness 8 weeks after birth. Other problems following birth could include pelvic pain, painful scar tissue and pain during intercourse.
In France, all new mums are given a course of 10 sessions of postnatal physiotherapy. How about that? Here most women don’t even know such a service exists, let alone could save them embarrassment and discomfort in the future.
GPs in the UK, even with the best will in the world, simply don’t have the time to give every new mum a full and comprehensive body check. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from it and some sensitive aftercare. After all, if you don’t look after yourself, how can you look after your family?
Assessment and treatment by a women’s health physiotherapist can be of significant help. The ‘Mummy MOT’ is a service designed specifically to assess every new mum. It enables a medical professional to identify and treat all of these conditions or simply help you recover from pregnancy and childbirth. There are over 80 specially trained and registered ‘Mummy MOT’ practitioners in the country, (check out: themummymot.com). We are all passionate about helping mums to fully restore their bodies post birth. Clients are given a personalised rehabilitation programme specially tailored for them.
One of the first ladies I treated after specialising in women’s health physiotherapy had been unable to have sex since the delivery of her daughter two years earlier because of painful perineal scar tissue. However understanding your partner is, that is bound to cause a strain on your relationship. After a course of treatment she came for a check up six weeks later and was pregnant – that was definitely one great success story.
It’s not just for new mums. It’s never too late to treat these issues, however, dealing with problems when or before they arise saves a lot of suffering.
I believe in looking after the whole person; body, mind and emotions. A holistic, mindful approach allows us to explore and look after every part of our being. Physical problems can affect our relationships and confidence and in extreme cases how we live our lives.
If I can change one thing for my clients and women I meet, it should be that every woman, whatever her age, can go ahead and laugh as hard as she likes.
A Guest Blog from Louise Rahmanou
Louise Rahmanou is a Londoner born and bred. She moved to Cheltenham two and a half years ago with her husband and two boys. She has worked in the NHS and private practice throughout her career and set up a physiotherapy practice in Harley Street, London, in 2006. She still makes regular trips there to get her ‘London fix’ and recently set up at Neals Yard Remedies, Montpellier, Cheltenham. See more at: www.ptpracticeforwomen.co.uk
On another note, Louise loves to set up arts and crafts for her kids so she can surreptitiously take over and carry on ‘creating’ long after they have lost interest. She is a technophobe and has a pathological fear of not being at the front of any queue she joins!