Options: Pelvic Floor
What factors can help or hurt my pelvic floor while giving birth?
What does it mean to give "informed consent" or "informed refusal" about these and other practices?
What is likely to be the safest and most satisfying approach to giving birth?
How can I have this type of birth?
You may have concerns about effects of giving birth on your pelvic floor, and about developing pelvic floor problems such as urinary or bowel incontinence. Fortunately, you can influence most factors that affect the strength and integrity of your pelvic floor. This Pregnancy Topic helps you understand these factors and take steps in pregnancy, while giving birth, and at other times in your life to help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction and promote good elimination, pelvic support, and sexual functioning.
Research has found that a number of childbirth procedures including some that are widely used can harm your pelvic floor. Your choice of caregiver, choice of birth setting, and decisions that you and your caregivers make impact your pelvic floor health.
And to help prepare for a safe and healthy birth, see pages on how the following practices relate to pelvic floor health:
You will want to talk over these issues with your care provider ahead of time, of course. You should also know that few situations involving interventions that can harm your pelvic floor will be emergencies. This means you will almost always have time to learn about them in advance and discuss them when they are proposed. (Learn more about informed consent.)
Planning cesarean surgery simply to avoid the possibility of pelvic floor problems is unlikely to be in your self-interest. Cesarean surgery involves numerous extra risks to you and your baby. By contrast, the likelihood of continuing to experience bothersome symptoms after the postpartum recovery period with a vaginal birth is small. Moreover, some women with continuing problems can obtain relief or cure and avoid a corrective operation by an intensive regimen of pelvic floor exercises (kegels). It makes much better sense to avoid the procedures and practices that are known to cause problems in the first place.
Good labor support is another important element. You and your partner may wish to arrange for a birth doula, friend or relative to provide continous supportive care during labor. Studies show that women who are accompanied in labor by non-medical female companions trained or experienced in labor support are less likely to have an epidural, an assisted vaginal birth, a cesarean, and dissatisfaction with their labor experience.
Most recent page update: 3/10/2006
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