After pushing a double stroller for a 3 mile run to the park yesterday, I had a flare up of hip pain that made me doubt my ability to get my kids back home. While they were playing, a hanging ladder caught my eye and sent my manual therapy wheels spinning. I carefully slipped my leg over one of the rungs, angled my body just right, and leaned away to distract my hip. I noticed a toddler staring at me, so I politely told her, “I’m just mobilizing my hip joint, sweetie, but you can go ahead and climb now!” My relief was almost immediate, and I realized my patients need to know how to help themselves, too! We all know how to prescribe home exercises for patients regarding stretching and strengthening, but once a therapist is competent performing joint mobilizations, the need for this arthokinematic movement is often found to be essential prior to the osteokinematic movement of stretching. The hip joint in particular is affected by pathologies of the lumbar spine, the sacroiliac joint, and the pelvic floor. When the hip joint is not moving around the proper physiological axis, then the knee can be negatively impacted as well as the areas just mentioned.
Therapists need to discern whether a patient is appropriate for self-hip mobilization instruction, as a “motor moron” probably would not be a good candidate to whom you would explain how to perform mobilizations at home. When you realize a patient “gets it,” then you can suggest the techniques to that patient. Reiman and Matheson (2013) presented a paper regarding suggestions for self-mobilization of the hip joint. They demonstrate an inferior-posterior hip glide with a towel, weight, and a step with or without muscle reeducation in hip flexion; an inferior and lateral glide with hip flexion movement; a hip posterior glide with or without movement; a hip lateral glide with or without muscle reeducation; a hip anterior glide with or without muscle reeducation; and, a long axis distraction mobilization. The authors conclude the efficacy of their protocol and techniques are not completely backed up by evidence yet and recommend they be implemented as an adjunct to evidence based practice, not a primary treatment approach.
Regarding the efficacy of hip mobilization in the clinic by a skilled clinician, a study by Makofsky et al, (2007) discusses the effect of inferior hip joint mobilization on hip abductor force. This study leaves little doubt that mobilizing the hip can facilitate contraction of the gluteus medius. A 17.35% increase in hip abduction torque was noted immediately after the inferior Grade IV hip mobilization; whereas, the control group without mobilization experienced a 3.68% decrease in hip abduction torque. We generally see patients much less often than our services are needed, so being able to teach patients how to mobilize on their own to supplement our work could be extremely effective in the long run.
I have the extreme fortune of being married to a manual therapist, so I do not always have to find crafty ways to mobilize my own joints, but my recent experience was encouraging to know it is more than possible to help myself. My hip pain had caused some patellofemoral symptoms because my gluteal muscles were inhibited. Performing a self-distraction close to my hip joint helped kick in the muscles required for greater stability of my knee. I cruised home with the kids without a hitch. We should all be ready to educate our patients to take potentially embarrassing measures to help themselves as well.
Reiman, M. P., & Matheson, J. W. (2013). RESTRICTED HIP MOBILITY: CLINICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR SELF‐MOBILIZATION AND MUSCLE RE‐EDUCATION. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 8(5), 729–740.
Makofsky, H., Panicker, S., Abbruzzese, J., Aridas, C., Camp, M., Drakes, J., … Sileo, R. (2007). Immediate Effect of Grade IV Inferior Hip Joint Mobilization on Hip Abductor Torque: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 15(2), 103–110.
Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD), according to Lan et al., are characterized by chronic inflammation in intestinal mucosa. There is little information available based on human studies that links nutritional support with inflammatory bowel disease. The authors of this article analyzed the available information about supplements that appear beneficial in healing the gut mucosa.
The intestinal epithelium acts as a selective barrier, and inflammatory bowel disease can disrupt this important barrier, affecting absorption, mucus production, and enteroendocrine secretion. Intestinal wound healing, according to the linked article, is “dependent on the precise balance of several processes including migration, proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of the epithelial cells.” Although there are few human clinical studies (more are animal and cell model studies) there is evidence that both macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies may exist in patients who have inflammatory bowel disease. Patients may have malnutrition of proteins, of minerals and vitamins. Following are some points from the article:
The authors conclude that the exact mechanisms by which the various dietary compounds contribute to bowel healing is still unknown. Furthermore, the ability to make clear dietary recommendations is limited by the lack of clinical studies. At a minimum, this information can alert the pelvic rehab provider to discuss the potential benefits of nutrition on bowel health with patients. Many of us are quite comfortable giving advice about drinking appropriate amounts and types of fluid, or eating more whole and less processed foods. We can take our nutritional education a step further by encouraging a patient to discuss healing supplements with a provider and/or nutritionist to best support the healing bowel. If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and pelvic health, you might love our newer course Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist Kansas City in March of next year with instructor Megan Pribyl.
Lan, A., Blachier, F., Benamouzig, R., Beaumont, M., Barrat, C., Coelho, D., & Tomé, D. (2015). "Mucosal healing in inflammatory bowel diseases: is there a place for nutritional supplementation?" Inflammatory bowel diseases, 21(1), 198-207.
Postpartum perineal injuries can cause pain and dysfunction for a short or an extended period of time. Pelvic rehab providers are in a position to educate women about the immediate and long-term management of perineal pain. A 2015 study by Manfre et al. assessed the response of cortisone cream application to the perineum in the immediate postpartum period. The study was a randomized controlled trial involving 27 subjects with each subject serving as her own control. Three different treatments were given over a 12 hour period: corticosteroid, placebo, and no treatment. (The hydrocortisone cream was at 1% in an alcohol-based cream, the placebo was a non-medicated acetyl alcohol-based cream.) The cream was applied by an investigator who placed the cream on a Witch Hazel pad. The participants and the researchers were blinded to the type of cream applied, and the applications were randomized and took place within the first 12.5 hours after birth. Perineal pain levels were assessed immediately before cream application, and at 30 and 60 minutes after application. Using a visual analog scale (VAS), the symptom of pain was assessed and compared to baseline. In the study, the authors report that in the immediate postpartum period, women in their institution were often prescribed medication ranging from ibuprofen to hydrocodone. Topical medications, ice packs, heat packs are also mentioned as available treatments. Other pain medications or cold packs were available during the study; no other topical creams were utilized.
Results indicated that the participants responded positively to both creams with significantly more pain reduction than the no treatment group. The authors propose that both creams provided a soothing effect by providing moisture to the tissues, creating a protective barrier, and preventing friction and irritation. Because the placebo emollient cream was not significantly more expensive than the hydrocortisone cream, the article suggests using hydrocortisone on the postpartum perineum due to the medication’s potential beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. Also of note was that ice packs were used by less than half of the women in the study, and when ice was used, it was only during the first four hours after birth. One reason for the low frequency use of ice was thought to be the difficulty in maintaining ice application on the perineum.Manfre 2015
Because the pelvic rehab provider is in an optimal role as educator for pain reduction strategies, this study provides some interesting information to share with other birth providers and with patients. Learn more about postpartum patient care at Care of the Postpartum Patient, available in Seattle this March.
Manfre, M., Adams, D., Callahan, G., Gould, P., Lang, S., McCubbins, H., ... & Chulay, M. (2015). Hydrocortisone Cream to Reduce Perineal Pain after Vaginal Birth: A Randomized Controlled Trial. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 40(5), 306-312.
Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominis Muscle (DRAM) is the separation of the two rectus abdominis muscles along the linea alba and is very common during and after pregnancy as the rectus abdominis and linea alba stretches and thins. Patients with DRAM are often sent to seek non-surgical management for DRAM from a physical therapist (PT). Typically these patients are either at the end of their pregnancy or adjusting to round the clock care of an infant. They can be sleep deprived, and have a full schedule of doctor’s appointments, having difficulty finding childcare, making attending PT somewhat challenging. Furthermore, they may have difficulty finding the time for a home exercise program (HEP). As PT’s we often struggle with making sure to give the patient exercises that will accomplish the goal of improving DRAM, however, making sure the HEP is not so extensive or time consuming that it becomes unmanageable. Is something as easy as abdominal bracing with exercise effective for reducing DRAM in post-partum women? A recent study published in 2015 in the International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research explores just this topic(Acharry).
Women with DRAM tend to have a higher degree of abdominal and pelvic region pain(Parker). Also women with DRAM may be more likely to have support related pelvic floor problem such stress urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse. The linea alba and rectus abdominis play an integral role in maintaining the anterior support of the trunk, these structures work together with pelvic girdle, posterior trunk muscles, and hips in maintaining stability when we shift weight (or transfer load) such as with standing, squatting, walking, carrying, and lifting. Therefore postural stability may be impaired with these daily tasks. Lastly, the abdominal muscles and fascia protect and support our organs so women with DRAM may have compromised support and protection of visceral structures.
Pregnancy is the most common cause of DRAM and studies widely range from 50-100% of women experiencing DRAM at end stage pregnancy. Natural reduction and greatest recovery of DRAM usually occurs between day 1 and week 8 after delivery. Various ways exist to diagnose DRAM. The gold standard for diagnosis is computed tomography but is sometimes considered impractical due to expense. Clinically a separation of 2.0-2.7cm or “two finger widths” of horizontal separation at the umbilicus or 4.5cm above or below while performing a hooklying (supine with knees bent) abdominal curl up is considered pathological separation.
Current guidelines for conservative treatment of DRAM are sparse with little established recommendations. The earlier referenced recent cross sectional study(Acharry) explores efficacy of abdominal bracing as a treatment for reduction of DRAM in post-partum females. The study included 30 females that were one month post-partum or more who had vaginal delivery with or without episiotomy. The average distance of the diastasis was measured before and after treatment using the finger width technique. The treatment included teaching the subject four abdominal exercises, and the subjects were encouraged to complete abdominal bracing while carrying out daily activities. The four exercises included 1) static abdominal bracing exercise, lying supine with arms crossed over the diastasis for support and then pulling abdominals inwards with an isometric contraction of abdominal muscles. 2) Head lift with bracing, in hooklying with arms crossed over diastasis, exhale, lift head and use hands (or a towel/sheet) to approximate diastasis towards midline. 3) Head lift and pelvic tilt with bracing, is the same as previous exercise only adding a posterior pelvic tilt. 4) Pelvic clock exercise with bracing, visualize a clock on the lower abdominals and complete gentle movements from 12-6 o’clock, 3-9 o’clock, 12-3-6-9-12 o’clock, in a clockwise fashion and then reverse the pattern in a counter clockwise pattern. All exercises were performed twice daily, with a repetition of 5-6 days per week, for 2 weeks duration. After completing the program for two weeks the distance of the diastasis was re-measured and the average DRAM distance decreased from 3.5 to 2.5 finger widths which was considered significant. The results of this study show abdominal exercise with bracing is effective for reducing DRAM in early post partal females.
As PT’s who treat DRAM we should encourage our patients to use abdominal exercises with bracing as well as encourage our patients to use abdominal bracing with their daily tasks such as standing, lifting, weight shifting, and carrying. A home exercise program such as the one in this study proved to be effective for reducing DRAM and included only four exercises making this a manageable home exercise program for our post-partum patients.
Herman & Wallace offers a full series of peripartum courses called the "Pregnancy Series". To learn more about diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle, join Holly Tanner, PT, DPT, MA, OCS, WCS, PRPC, LMP, BCB-PMB, CCI at Care of the Postpartum Patient in Seattle, WA this March 12-13, 2016!
Acharry, N., & Kutty, R. K. (2015). ABDOMINAL EXERCISE WITH BRACING, A THERAPEUTIC EFFICACY IN REDUCING DIASTASIS-RECTI AMONG POSTPARTAL FEMALES. Int J Physiother Res, 3(2), 999-05.
Parker, M. A., Millar, L. A., & Dugan, S. A. (2009). Diastasis Rectus Abdominis and Lumbo‐Pelvic Pain and Dysfunction‐Are They Related?. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, 33(2), 15-22.
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Sexual dysfunction is a common negative consequence of Multiple Sclerosis, and may be influenced by neurologic and physical changes, or by psychological changes associated with the disease progression. Because pelvic floor muscle health can contribute to sexual health, the relationship between the two has been the subject of research studies for patients with and without neurologic disease. Researchers in Brazil assessed the effects of treating sexual dysfunction with pelvic floor muscle training with or without electrical stimulation in women diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS.) Thirty women were allocated randomly into 3 treatment groups; 20 women completed the study. All participants were evaluated before and after treatment for pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function, PFM tone, flexibility of the vaginal opening, ability to relax the PFM’s, and with the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). Rehabilitation interventions included pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) using surface electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback, neuromuscular electrostimulation (NMES), sham NMES, or transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (TTNS). The treatments offered to each group are shown below.
|sEMG biofeedback||Sham NMES||Intravaginal NMES||TTNS|
|Group 1 (n=6)||X||X|
|Group 2 (n=7)||X||X|
|Group 3 (n=7)||X||X|
The following factors made up the inclusion criteria for the study: age at least 18 years, diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS, and a 4 month history of stable symptoms. All of the participants were sexually active and were found to be able to contract pelvic floor muscles correctly. Group 1 patients were treated with “sham” electrical stimulation using surface electrodes placed over the sacrum at a pulse width of 50 ms and a frequency of 2 Hz. Patients in Group 2 used an internal (vaginal) electrode at 200 ms at 10 Hz. Group 3 were given transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation at 200 ms and 10 Hz. All groups followed these treatments with pelvic floor muscle exercises using a vaginal sensor and biofeedback.
The authors concluded that pelvic floor muscle training alone or in combination with intravaginal neuromuscular electrostimulation or transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation is effective in treating sexual dysfunction in women who have MS. Improvements were noted in these groups in sexual arousal, vaginal lubrication, satisfaction, and in the Female Sexual Function Index. While the numbers in the respective intervention groups is not large enough to determine the best option for patients who have multiple sclerosis, the research reminds us that neurostimulation in conjunction with pelvic muscle training may be very valuable.
As pelvic rehab practitioners, it is common for our patients to ask us dietary questions pertaining to their unique pelvic floor symptoms. We often counsel on fluid consumption, bladder irritants, and fiber intake. At times, we even give our patients a bladder or bowel diary to better monitor nutritional status and habits. However, how often do we ask about vitamin D status? It is common knowledge that vitamin D deficiency contributes to osteoporosis, fractures, and muscle pain and weakness, but what is the role of vitamin D in overall health of the female pelvic floor. Is vitamin D supplementation something we as health care providers need to at least discuss? An article published in the International Urogynecology Journal (Parker-Autry) explores this topic. This interesting paper reviews current knowledge regarding vitamin D nutritional status, the importance of vitamin D in muscle function, and how vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the function of the female pelvic floor.
Vitamin D affects skeletal muscle strength and function, and insufficiency is associated with notable muscle weakness. Vitamin D has been shown to increase skeletal muscle efficiency at adequate levels. The levator ani muscles and coccygeus pelvic floor muscles are skeletal muscle that are crucial supporting structures to the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor musculature weakness can contribute to pelvic floor disorders such as urinary or fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor muscle training for strengthening, endurance, and coordination, are first line treatment for both stress and urge urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and overactive bladder syndrome. The pelvic floor muscles are thought to be affected by vitamin D nutrition status. Additionally, as women age, they are more prone to vitamin D deficiency and pelvic floor disorders.
This article reviews several studies, including small case and observational, that show an association between insufficient vitamin D and pelvic floor disorder symptoms and severity of symptoms. The recommendation from this review is that more studies of high quality evidence are needed to fully understand and demonstrate this relationship between vitamin D deficiency and pelvic floor disorders. However, the authors feel that vitamin D supplementation may be a helpful adjunct to treatment by helping to optimize our physiological response to pelvic floor muscle training and improving the overall quality of life for women suffering from pelvic floor disorders.
The Institute of Medicine has only made recommendations for dietary allowance for vitamin D and calcium for bone health. There is no consensus for adequate vitamin D levels for a condition specific goal (other than bone health), and the levels of vitamin D varied throughout the reviewed studies. It has been shown that very high levels of vitamin D are tolerated well, so supplementation of vitamin D seems to be very safe in low and very high doses.
As pelvic rehabilitation providers, it is our job to assess the whole person, however, we are not dieticians. As physical therapists we are musculoskeletal specialists and vitamin D affects muscle function. What our patients put in their bodies (wholesome nutritious food vs nutrient lacking artificial food) affects the quality of the cells they produce and tissues that are made, which can influence their healing. When reviewing health history, maybe consider discussing vitamin D status and possible supplementation with the patient, or with the patients’ primary care provider or naturopathic doctor. This team approach may provide more comprehensive health care, hopefully yielding more successful outcomes.
Parker-Autry, C. Y., Burgio, K. L., & Richter, H. E. (2012). Vitamin D status: a review with implications for the pelvic floor. International urogynecology journal, 23(11), 1517-1526.
With age, many of our patients may be at higher risk of developing dementia. Dementia has a wide range of causes and symptoms, and is most often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss, difficulty in communicating, in organizing complex tasks and in coordinating motor functions can add to the challenge of participating in rehabilitation. In pelvic rehabilitation, we are already faced with the importance task of effectively communicating about sensitive topics, obtaining clear consent, and instructing in exercise that may be difficult for the patient to “see” or appreciate in the same way as with a biceps curl or leg raise. How can we set ourselves and our patients up for success when working with a patient who has dementia or other cognitive issues?
An article with a focus on communication with older people who have dementia de Vries, 2013 summarizes practical information that can positively affect our skills in communication with patients who have cognitive dysfunction. From the impact of hearing loss on orientation and sense of vulnerability, to the types of listening skills recognized as means to improve communication, the article integrates a wide range of valuable information.
Some of the suggestions for enhancing interactions with patients who have dementia come from the work of Wilson et al., 2012, and include the following:
Other research-based advice given in the article includes eliminating distraction, such as turning off a radio or television, and avoid interrupting the person who has dementia. Sitting face to face is recommended, as is using non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and gestures. Also very interesting is the idea that using a more controlling tone of voice can lead to increased resistance to care. A terrific strategy that is recommended in the article is this “Ask a colleague to observe your practice…and make notes on how you communicate…” Although being critiqued may feel intimidating, learning how others perceive our use of the above skills can help to optimize communication with patients who have dementia.
Providing optimal communication strategies during rehabilitation is just one of the topics that is discussed in the Institute’s new Geriatric Pelvic Floor Rehab continuing education course. The first opportunity to take this new course is Tampa, Florida this January. The course is taught by Heather Rader who immerses herself in the care of people in the geriatric age range. Her expertise not only in pelvic rehab, but also in adaptations for the geriatric population, billing practices, and marketing will be shared.
De Vries, K. (2013). Communicating with older people with dementia. Nursing older people, (25), 30-7.
Wilson, R., Rochon, E., Mihailidis, A., & Leonard, C. (2012). Examining success of communication strategies used by formal caregivers assisting individuals with Alzheimer’s disease during an activity of daily living. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 55(2), 328-341.
Sleep difficulties are a common problem among women in the menopausal period, with hot flashes and night sweats commonly interfering with a restful night’s sleep. According to Baker and colleaguesBaker, 2015 , disturbed sleep is present in 40-60% of women in the menopausal transition. The authors also point out that insomnia is not well characterized, with poor identification of a physiologic basis for the sleep disturbances. In the research linked above, perimenopausal women diagnosed with clinical insomnia (n=38) were compared to women who did not have insomnia (n=34). Outcome measures included the Beck Depression Inventory, the Greene Climacteric Scale, sleep diaries, sleep studies, and nocturnal hot flashes via dermal conductance meters.
Results of the study concluded that women with insomnia, compared with controls, had higher levels of psychologic, somatic, vasomotor symptoms, and had higher scores on the depression inventory, shorter sleep duration, and lower sleep efficiency. Women with insomnia were also more likely to have hot flashes, with number of hot flashes predicting awakenings during the sleep study. Episodes of wakefulness after sleep onset, and decreased time of sleep were noted in the women who were diagnosed with new-onset insomnia.
Because untreated insomnia is associated with negative consequences including hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and depression, the authors suggest that women who are diagnosed with insomnia should be treated for their insomnia. If you are interested in learning about natural methods to manage and reduce hot flashes, among many other interesting topics, you will likely enjoy Herman & Wallace faculty Michelle Lyons and her newer course: Special Topics in Women’s Health. The next chance to hear Michelle discuss these topics is in Denver in January. Bring your skis!
Baker, Fiona C. et al. "Insomnia in women approaching menopause: Beyond perception" Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 60, 96-104 October 2015
How many of us have heard a subjective report from a patient that clearly implicates the coccyx as the problem but quickly think, “I’m sure as heck not going there!”? We cross our fingers, hoping the patient will get better anyway by treating around the issue. That is like trying to get a splinter out of a finger by massaging the hand. As nice as the treatment may feel, the tip of the finger still has a sharp, throbbing pain at the end of the day, because the splinter, the source of the pain, has not been touched directly. For most therapists, the coccyx is an overlooked (and even ignored) splinter in the buttocks.
A colleague of mine had a patient with relentless coccyx pain for 7 years and was about to lose a relationship, as well as his mind, if someone did not help him. He had therapy for his lumbar spine with “core stabilization,” and he had pain medicine, anti-inflammatory drugs, and inflatable donuts to sit upon to relieve pressure, but his underlying pain remained unchanged. Luckily for this man, his “last resort” was trained in manual therapy and assessed the need for internal coccyx mobilization to resolve his symptoms. The patient’s desperation for relief overrode any embarrassment or hesitation to receive the treatment. After a few treatments, the man’s life was changed because someone literally dug into the source of pain and skillfully remedied the dysfunction.
Marinko and Pecci (2014) presented 2 case reports of patients with coccydynia and discussed clinical decision making for the evaluation and management of the patients. The patient with a traumatic onset of pain had almost complete relief of pain and symptoms after 3 treatment sessions of manual therapy to the sacrococcygeal joint. The patient who experienced pain from too much sitting did not respond with any long term relief from the manual therapy and had to undergo surgical excision. The first patient was treated in the acute stage of injury, but the second patient had a cortisone injection initially and then the manual treatment in this study 1 year after onset of pain. Both patients experienced positive outcomes in the end, but at least 1 patient was spared the removal of her coccyx secondary to manual work performed in what some therapists consider “uncharted territory.”
A systematic literature review was published in 2013 by Howard et al. on the efficacy of conservative treatment on coccydinia. The search spanned 10 years and produced 7 articles, which clearly makes this a not-so-popular area of research. No conclusions could be made on how effective the various treatments of manual therapy, injections, or radiofrequency interventions were because of the insufficient amount of research performed on the topic.
In an evidence-based era for physical therapy intervention, sometimes we limit ourselves in our treatment approaches. What if the best interventions just have yet to be oozing with clinical trials and published outcomes? The first person to pull a splinter out of a finger did not have a peer-reviewed guide instructing one to use 2 fingers to wrap around the splinter and pull it out of the skin. Coccyx mobilization internally and externally is a legitimate treatment without a lot of notoriety. The Coccyx Pain, Evaluation, and Treatment course uses the most current evidence to expand your knowledge of anatomy and pathology and hone your palpation skills to evaluate and treat an area where you never thought you’d go.
References: Howard, P. D., Dolan, A. N., Falco, A. N., Holland, B. M., Wilkinson, C. F., & Zink, A. M. (2013). A comparison of conservative interventions and their effectiveness for coccydynia: a systematic review. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 21(4), 213–219. http://doi.org/10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000040
Marinko LN, Pecci M. (2014). Clinical decision making for the evaluation and management of coccydynia: 2 case reports. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 44(8):615-21. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.4850
Research published in a Nursing journal highlights the need for pelvic rehab providers to assess for sexual dysfunction in women before, during, and after pregnancy. 200 women were interviewed about their return to sexual activity after pregnancy and childbirth, and the results demonstrate that women can (and do) have limitations in their sexual function around the entire peripartum period.
The results of the survey concluded that before pregnancy 33.5% of the women reported sexual dysfunction, and this number increased to 76% during pregnancy, and to 43.5% following delivery. The types of sexual dysfunction included dyspareunia, vaginismus, and decreased desire and orgasm. The authors of the study correlated dysfunctions with Catholic religion, vaginal delivery without suture, dyspareunia during pregnancy, vaginismus before pregnancy, and with working more than 8 hours per day.
The information collected in this study raise important points with a variety of topics related to sexual function. How we as providers aim to address these topics with women can have a critical impact on the health of a woman and her family. Let’s look at some action items this research can lead us to:
This type of research can lead to many more questions, such as how religious beliefs impact sexual function during pregnancy, what the effect of physiologic changes versus fatigue can have on libido, or if women who have intervention for dyspareunia prior to pregnancy have decreased sexual dysfunction after pregnancy. Most of us were not instructed in how to dialog about these types of questions, and of course some topics, like religion, are potentially very sensitive to bring up with our patients.
If you would like more practical advice about the clinical implications for sexual medicine across the lifespan and among all genders, consider a trip to San Diego this November to learn from Herman & Wallace co-founder Holly Herman at Sexual Medicine for Men and Women: A Rehabilitation Perspective!
Holanda, J. B. D. L., Abuchaim, E. D. S. V., Coca, K. P., & Abrão, A. C. F. D. V. (2014). Sexual dysfunction and associated factors reported in the postpartum period. Acta Paulista de Enfermagem, 27(6), 573-578.