SALT LAKE CITY (Good Things Utah) — Out of the 3.6 million women who give birth in the U.S. each year, up to 50% will experience pelvic floor symptoms during pregnancy or in the first postpartum year. These symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to significantly disruptive to a woman’s life.

What is the pelvic floor and what happens to it after giving birth?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective tissue at the bottom of the pelvis that supports the uterus, bladder, and bowels. These muscles undergo significant strain during pregnancy and childbirth. This can affect their ability to function normally and lead to symptoms like urinary or stool leakage, and pelvic organ prolapse.

In addition, vaginal tears at the time of delivery can involve the pelvic floor muscles. Muscle tearing increases the risk of pelvic floor symptoms further and can also result in wound healing complications or persistent pain following delivery.

Do postpartum pelvic floor symptoms resolve on their own?

For many women, pelvic floor symptoms resolve in the first 1-2 months following childbirth. However, others may need to seek care from a specialist. It takes about 6 months for the pelvic floor to recover from a vaginal delivery.

Those with an obstetrical laceration involving the rectal muscles are at higher risk for wound healing complications and pelvic floor symptoms and can benefit from early evaluation to ensure healing is going well.

In addition, women who experience bothersome pelvic floor symptoms should see a specialist to avoid months or years of discomfort.

What can women do if they need help?

UPWARD is Utah’s Peripartum Pelvic Floor Wellness and Recovery after Delivery Program for women with bothersome pelvic floor symptoms within 1 year of delivery.

They see women with obstetrical lacerations involving the rectal muscles within 2-4 weeks of delivery to ensure healing is going well.

Also, women with complications like rectovaginal fistulas require special care in addition to urinary and bowel leakage, prolapse (pelvic organs and vaginal walls coming outside of the vaginal opening), and persistent pelvic pain following delivery.

The UPWARD program is the only clinic in the Mountain West dedicated to the care of pregnant and postpartum women with pelvic floor symptoms. Its team of urogynecologists and nurses collaborate closely with specialists in pelvic floor physical therapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and other experts to provide comprehensive care for pelvic floor conditions.

What should patients expect when they visit the UPWARD clinic?

You will meet with one of their urogynecologists who are highly trained in pelvic floor anatomy and its symptoms during pregnancy and following delivery. They will evaluate your pelvic floor symptoms, examine your pelvic floor muscles and assess wound healing, and provide education on pelvic floor anatomy.

After your evaluation, you may need to be referred to another provider, like a pelvic floor physical therapist, lactation specialist, physical medicine and rehabilitation, or psychologist.

Where can women go to get more information about the UPWARD clinic?

To learn more about the UPWARD clinic, go online to uofuhealth.org/upward or make an appointment by calling them at 801-213-2995.




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