How to manage pelvic floor dysfunction after pregnancy

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Cropped shot of a healthy woman holding her baby.  Close-up of a woman in underwear with child's feet in the postnatal womb.

The period after a baby is born is known as the Fourth Trimester. It is a time of immense turmoil in a woman’s life, especially if she is a new mom. A time of adjustment, of assuming a new identity, of sleep deprivation, of anxiety and fear, of being completely responsible for a completely dependent baby.

I became a mother at 38: on my first visit to my GP to confirm my pregnancy, I was declared a ‘geriatric’ mother. Although it’s an outdated term, it struck me how the odds could be stacked against me. Fortunately, I had an uneventful pregnancy and delivered according to my birth plan. I know I’m lucky.

My contractions started on a Sunday afternoon around 6 pm The pain started in my lower back and continued there. It was unbearable. I went to the hospital when my contractions were a few minutes apart. I was crying in pain and asked for pain relief. My midwife encouraged me to focus on my breathing, telling me that she was “doing great.” In the end, I used gas and air voraciously and my beautiful son was born in a birthing pool at 9am on Monday.

Started the fourth quarter.

From the moment you hold your newborn; everything changes forever. Your body, your perspective, your relationships. A woman’s body is an incredible vessel: it houses and nurtures new life.

Sadly, a woman’s postpartum body is no longer the center of attention in the fourth trimester. The needs of her baby are the focus, of course, but that doesn’t mean a woman should accept whatever changes happen to her body during labor and delivery. Particularly when it comes to postpartum.pelvic floor dysfunction.

How common is postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction?

Approximately 1 in 4 women experience pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) after having a baby, regardless of mode of delivery. PFDs may include urinary incontinence (UI), painful urination, and pelvic girdle pain. 1 in 2 postpartum women have some degree of symptomatic or asymptomatic pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

These are mind-blowing statistics.

The NHS has made a commitment to pelvic health clinics, which is very encouraging, but with the delay caused by the pandemic, it seems that they are more of an aspiration.

Still, there is plenty of help out there for mothers suffering from postnatal problems.

Managerpostpartumpelvic floor dysfunction

If you have new problems or problems you’ve had before that have gotten worse, talk to your midwife, obstetrician or GP, who can refer you to a women’s health physiotherapist or continence nurse practitioner.

Personally, I would recommend The Mummy MOT, a one-hour comprehensive exam that assesses posture, functional movement, abdominals, and pelvic floor beginning six weeks postpartum. I had mine a year after my son was born and I found it to be a great step in gaining autonomy from my body, which is also key to mental health.

There are also exciting developments in the femtech market. Contrelle Activgard, a soft bladder support for women suffering from stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is one such innovation.

Contrelle is not a newcomer, it has been around for over 10 years, mainly in the Nordic territories, but is now available in the UK. It works by supporting the neck of the bladder and the urethra. Restores the bladder neck to its natural position and helps prevent bladder leakage when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or exercise.

To learn more about Contrelle and to order a sizing kit, visit

The fight for the bigpostpartum care

It’s encouraging that products like Contrelle are available for women to live the life they want without having to rely on sanitary napkins, which annoyingly dominates the narrative that ‘ups’ are normal.

It’s just not acceptable today and I wonder if urinary incontinence were a male problem, would there still be such unacceptable inequities in care? Incontinence is a huge barrier to getting back to work, to exercise, to socializing. Yes, incontinence is all too common but not quite normal.

I feel there needs to be a broader societal change where issues like ‘leaky bladder’ are not normalized and more value is placed on women’s quality of life. We should be rewarded for being able to create life. Unfortunately, it seems that we are grounded, physically and mentally. We deserve better, as life givers, care providers and as a significant part of the UK workforce.

While I don’t suffer from incontinence, it doesn’t make me any less passionate about fighting for better awareness, for better education on women’s health issues. ‘It only takes one voice in the right pitch to start an avalanche.’ Let’s start one.

Contributed by Davina Gordon

This post was written in collaboration with Contrelle Activgard. Images from Shutterstock.

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