Physical therapy can improve your intimate relationships and your sex life …..yup, that’s right.
I want to tell you a story that I tell all the women that take my postpartum rehab class, Ab Rehab because it is an important one that hit me like a ton of bricks when it happened and has given me a lot of the fire I have for working with postpartum women.
Years ago, when I was working at an outpatient orthopedic clinic, I was seeing patients who were coming in for various musculoskeletal or nerve issues. One summer I had two women in my case load who were in their 50’s, one had low back and knee pain and one had constant headaches with neck pain. Both women were mothers and in my evaluation, both presented with lots of unresolved postpartum issues such as poor posture, core weakness and complete unawareness of pelvic floor activity. These issues were the root cause of their current complaints and I began my treatment with them at the foundation, with the pelvic floor. If the pelvic floor is not efficiently working, then the core is not fully doing its job to stabilize the spine and pelvis and then something, somewhere is going to compensate. Years of compensation will result in situations like these two women were experiencing.
Treatment began with guiding them home to their pelvis; we started with breath, we started with pelvic floor awareness work, I taught them how the pelvic floor contracts and relaxes and when that should happen with the coordination of other muscles and movements. It was with this work, with my hands on their bodies and with their own hands on their bodies that the stories started to flow and I was handed the biggest golden nugget. Both women told me the stories that their pelvis’ had been holding onto. One woman told me that she had a traumatic birth 20 something years ago and after that she didn’t want to think about her pelvis or her vagina in avoidance of her birth memories. So, she lost the desire to connect to her body and to have her husband connect with that part of her body. The other woman told me that after having her kids she couldn’t feel much “down there” anymore…..sex didn’t feel good…..she just didn’t have much sensation with intercourse. So, she lost interest in pursuing pleasurable experiences with her husband.
These specific women did not have pelvic pain, but it’s important to mention that some women disconnect from their intimate relationships because of postpartum pelvic pain during sex, which is a condition that can be treated by a women’s health physical therapist and should not be dismissed or neglected.
Both women told me that their marriages eventually ended……. and they also both said that if someone would have taught them this stuff earlier, if someone would have taught them how to reconnect with their bodies, if they had learned how to improve muscle function in their pelvis, then they likely would have been able to keep showing up in their intimate relationships and in their marriages.
It was in these moments, with these women being raw and honest with me, that I realized that this work is so much more than treating someone’s pain or physical concerns that are experienced during and after the childbearing years. I realized that this work is essential to help a woman return to and stay in her body when birth and the early postpartum years can take us very far away that place. When a woman can return to her body, to her pelvis and to her strength, she can feel all the good stuff our body is designed to feel and then she can express that yumminess however she wants to, whether that is by herself or with a partner. I know us moms are tired and exhausted and sometimes connecting with our bodies and a partner is one more thing to do, I get it. But when we do, it should feel good and it should be an experience that reminds us how amazing this female body is.