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Tags >> Pregnancy and Postpartum
Apr 21, 2014


While the literature is clear that childbirth is a risk factor for pelvic floor dysfunction, how does a first childbirth affect the pelvic floor muscles? Does a vaginal delivery, instrumented delivery, or cesarean delivery affect the muscles differently? These questions were addressed in a prospective, repeated measures study involving 36 women. Outcomes included pelvic muscle function via vaginal squeeze pressure and questionnaires, prior to and following childbirth. The women were first evaluated between 20-26 weeks gestation and again between 6-12 weeks postpartum. All participants were primiparas, meaning that they had not given birth previously, and were found to have a significant decrease in strength and endurance after their first childbirth. 


 Pelvic floor muscle strength and endurance testing included maximum voluntary contraction (3 repetitions for up to 5 seconds) , sustained contraction, and repeated contractions at least 15 times. Ability to correctly contract the pelvic muscles was assessed via vaginal digital testing (with one examining finger) and perineal observation. A Myomed device was utilized with a vaginal sensor to more accurately measure strength. At the time of postpartum measurement, 33 of the 36 women were breastfeeding, the instrumented deliveries were completed with vacuum extraction, and all episiotomies were performed as right mediolateral procedures. Although the women in the study were asked if they completed pelvic muscle exercises- they were not instructed in any specific exercises. 


Apr 08, 2014

Do women who have pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy have altered gait patterns? The answer to this question was the aim of a study published in the European Spine Journal in 2008 by Wu and colleagues. Pelvic girdle pain, defined by Vleeming and colleagues as "…a specific form of low back pain (LBP) that can occur separately or in conjunction with LBP…" has been estimated to occur as often as 50% in pregnancy. (Gutke et al., 2006) Unfortunately, of the women who develop pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy, research has demonstrated that 1 in 4 women will develop chronic postpartum pain. (Ostgaard et al., 1991) Pelvic girdle pain can appear as mild, moderate, or severely debilitating, and can be confirmed using provocation tests such as the posterior pelvic provocation test and the active straight leg raise (ASLR). Our role as pelvic rehabilitation providers is critical in minimizing the functional impact of pelvic girdle pain during and following pregnancy. 



In regards to gait changes in women who present with PGP in pregnancy, in general, walking velocity is reduced, is negatively correlated with fear of movement, and there are changes in thorax and pelvic rotations. In the study by Wu and colleagues, kinematics were examined in 11 women with PGP and 12 pelvic-healthy controls. Findings within the patients with PGP include that transverse segmental rotation amplitudes were larger, and peak thorax rotation occurred earlier in the stride cycle at higher velocities. The authors suggest that this change in thorax rotation may aid in avoiding excessive spinal rotations caused by larger segmental rotations, or in limiting the motion in the lumbopelvic region.. They further describe that in healthy subjects, pelvic rotations are relatively out-of-phase with the lower extremities at lower velocities, and more in-phase during higher velocities, and that this pattern may be altered in the presence of PGP.


Mar 27, 2014


This post was written by H&W instructor, Ginger Garner, PT, MPT, ATC, PYT, who teaches the Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy and Labor & Delivery and Postpartum courses, and is teaching her brand new course, Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury, in June in Akron, OH.


Pregnancy brings with it a bevy of physiological and hormonal changes, both of which greatly influence orthopaedic health, not to mention psychoemotional well-being. However, what has historically been overlooked is the risk at which the acetabular hip labrum and related structures are placed during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum. Hip labral tears are debilitating and painful, preventing normal ambulation, ADL completion, or participation in any recreational activity, including sex. Tears can also lead or contribute to pelvic pain, with the average time of injury to diagnosis being an average of 2.5 years. This delay in diagnosis can put mothers at high risk for developing chronic pelvic pain.


Mar 19, 2014

As rehabilitation providers move towards primary care for musculoskeletal dysfunction, the privileges bring responsibilities. Regardless of our level of training and degree attainment, screening for underlying medical conditions is at the forefront of our work at all times. During the postpartum period, it is understandable that a new mother may report fatigue, aches and pains, as she tends first to the needs of her newborn. Many pelvic rehabilitation providers love working with new mothers because we have such a powerful opportunity to serve, support, educate, and nurture our patients. 



One important health risk to keep in mind in the postpartum period is blood clots, or thrombosis. Changes in a woman's physiology during the peripartum period alter her risk factors for experiencing blood clots, a topic that is discussed in our pregnancy and postpartum courses.  A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, often occurs in the calf area, but the upper extremity can also develop clots. While local injury can result from a DVT, a major risk of a DVT is the progression to a pulmonary embolism, when a blood clot travels through the blood stream to the lungs- this is a life threatening condition. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the most significant risk period is within the 6 weeks postpartum. Let's get to the heart of this issue: how do we screen for a DVT or pulmonary embolism?


Mar 17, 2014

Jenni Gabelsberg  DPT, MSc, MTC

This blog was written by H&W faculty member Jenni Gabelsberg DPT, MSc, MTC, WCS, BCB-PMD. You can catch Jenni teaching Care of the Postpartum Patient later this month in Oakland, CA.


Physical Therapists specializing in Women’s Health are in a unique position to help guide and inspire women during their perinatal years, affecting both the health of the woman, as well as the long-term health of any unborn children.


Mar 07, 2014

Postpartum mothers are often juggling intense schedules: infant feeding, mealtimes for other family members, work both in and outside of the home, and there is scarce time for self-care. Throw in the typical postpartum fatigue, potential for postpartum depression, adjustment to parenting or adding another child to a family, risk for weight retention, and the ability of a new mom to resume or begin exercises can be beyond daunting. An additional complication arises when a woman has been on bed rest, as she has lost muscle mass and cardiorespiratory function and endurance. How can we best set up a new mother for success? 



Research published in the journal Clinical Sciences reports that regardless of exercise intensity, women receiving postpartum intervention experience health benefits. If a woman is unable to reduce the weight gain that occurs in pregnancy, by 6 months postpartum she will have increased risk factors for developing chronic disease, according to the authors. In the study, 20 women were instructed in nutrition advice and low intensity (30% heart rate reserve (HRR)) and another 20 women women were instructed in nutrition advice and moderate intensity(70% HRR) exercise. A group of controls (n = 20) was included and matched for BMI, age and parity. 

Mar 01, 2014

Postpartum depression is a very real, frequently occurring phenomenon that has potentially serious adverse effects on the mother, the child, and on the family as a whole. Serious consequences can include, according to McCoy et al, marital disruption, child neglect or abuse, and suicide. While there are many factors including hormonal shifts that can influence a woman in the postpartum period, strong predictive risk factors can include age less than 25, readmission to the hospital, inability to breastfeed, and lower self-reported health of the mother.  A rehabilitation professional is uniquely poised to monitor a postpartum woman over an episode of care and can screen for changes in mood, behavior, or identify risk factors. 



Screening for postpartum depression is often completed clinically utilizing the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. There is a shortened version, the EPDS-3, that asks about self-blame, states of anxiety, and feeling scared, and the shortened version has been documented to have excellent sensitivity. Postpartum psychosis and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder can also negatively impact a woman's health and a provider needs to be alert for concerning symptoms. 


Feb 24, 2014

Within the evaluation process for pelvic muscle health, a woman is often asked to "bear down" so that the examiner can assess muscle coordination. This maneuver is also utilized during assessment for prolapse or pelvic organ descent. Clinically, the patient's ability to perform a lengthening or bearing down is quite varied, depending upon many factors such as levator plate resting position, strength and coordination, childbearing status, and comfort with the maneuver. What are the implications of not being able to bear down? An interesting study published in 2007 concluded that women, when asked to perform a Valsalva maneuver (a forced expiration against a closed glottis), frequently co-contracted the levator ani muscles. 



Participants included 50 nulliparous women between 36-38 weeks gestation and they were assessed with translabial 3D/4D ultrasound following emptying of the bladder. In almost half of the subjects, a pelvic floor muscle contraction was noted during the attempted Valsalva. Patients were provided with visual biofeedback to train the levator muscles to avoid a concurrent contraction, and despite the training, 11 of the 50 women were still unable to avoid a co-activation. (Keep in mind that for purposes of assessment, the prolapse would be best imaged or viewed if the levator muscles were not tightening.) For this reason, the study concludes that levator muscle co-activation is a significant confounder of pelvic organ descent. While a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles may be a positive, protective action when thoracic pressure is increased, a woman's degree of prolapse or pelvic organ descent may appear diminished during an examination. The authors of the study conclude that a clinician may have a false-negative finding for prolapse in the presence of strong, intact pubovisceral muscles. 


Feb 21, 2014

Lumbopelvic pain is a common diagnosis in pregnancy that can be challenging for both the patient and the provider. A recent study assessed the effectiveness of 10 weeks of Hatha yoga in women between 12-32 weeks of gestation. 60 pregnant women ages 14-40 were divided into two groups, with the intervention group being guided in yoga exercises, and the control group instructed in postural activities. Nine pregnant women in the yoga group and six women in the control group were lost to withdrawal, obstetric complications, or refusal to participate. Excluded were women with twin pregnancies, medical restrictions, women using analgesics or those participating in physical therapy. Outcomes included a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) to measure pain intensity, and tests of lumbar and posterior pelvic pain. Lumbar provocation tests used in the study included trunk flexion and circumduction, paraspinal muscle palpation, and pelvic tests included the posterior pelvic pain provocation test.





Feb 19, 2014




A recent article published in the Evidence Based Women's Health Journal reports on the use of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) for labor pain. The study was carried out in a teaching hospital in Cairo, Egypt, and involved 100 subjects divided into a treatment group (TENS application) and a control group (intramuscular pethidine 50-100 mg.) Pain assessment was completed by a visual analog scale (VAS) and a postpartum satisfaction questionnaire 48 hours after birth. Outcomes included relief of labor pain, duration of first stage of labor, labor augmentation, mode of delivery, fetal outcome, and adverse event reports. Patients were excluded in the following cases: cephalopelvic disproportion, multiple gestations, presence of a cardiac pacemaker, known congenital abnormalities, in the presence of complications such as preeclampsia, antepartum hemorrhage, and fetal asphyxia. 


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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Durham, NC (SOLD OUT)
Apr 25, 2014 - Apr 27, 2014
Location: Duke University Medical Center

Myofascial Release for Pelvic Dysfunction - Portland, OR
Apr 25, 2014 - Apr 27, 2014
Location: Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center

Finding the Driver in Pelvic Pain - Milwaukee, WI
May 01, 2014 - May 03, 2014
Location: Marquette University

Visceral Mobilization of the Urologic System - Winfield, IL
May 02, 2014 - May 04, 2014
Location: Central DuPage Hospital Conference Room

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics - Seattle, WA
May 03, 2014 - May 05, 2014
Location: Swedish Hospital - Issaquah campus

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging Orthopedic Topics - Seattle, WA
May 03, 2014 - May 04, 2014
Location: Swedish Hospital - Issaquah campus

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Scottsdale, AZ (SOLD OUT)
May 16, 2014 - May 18, 2014
Location: Womens Center for Wellness and Rehabilitation

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Maywood, IL (SOLD OUT!)
May 16, 2014 - May 18, 2014
Location: Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine

Pelvic Floor Level 3 - San Diego, CA
May 30, 2014 - Jun 01, 2014
Location: FunctionSmart Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Arlington, VA (SOLD OUT)
Jun 06, 2014 - Jun 08, 2014
Location: Virginia Hospital Center

Care of the Postpartum Patient - Houston, TX
Jun 07, 2014 - Jun 08, 2014
Location: Texas Children’s Hospital

Bowel Pathology and Function - Minneapolis, MN
Jun 07, 2014 - Jun 08, 2014
Location: Park Nicollet Clinic--St. Louis Park

Oncology and the Female Pelvic Floor - Orlando, FL
Jun 21, 2014 - Jun 22, 2014
Location: Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

Myofascial Release for Pelvic Dysfunction - Dayton, OH
Jun 22, 2014 - Jun 23, 2014
Location: Southview Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Derby, CT
Jun 27, 2014 - Jun 29, 2014
Location: Griffin Hospital