Pelvic floor rehabilitation restores a new mother’s health

Specialty clinics such as the Texas Children’s Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Wellness Clinic work to help women and their families address a unique set of health challenges and risks faced by women.

The road to motherhood is paved with the unexpected.

Women expect the joy of childbirth and even the pain.

But what’s less talked about are the changes to a woman’s body that may take days, weeks, or months to recover from.

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Jennifer Martin faced her unexpected.

Following the vaginal delivery of her daughter, Jacquelyn, she believed that all was well.

She knew she’d experienced a tear of the perineum and received required stitches. However, it wasn’t until her follow-up appointment that she understood how severe her tear was, what the long-term effects would be — and how much rehabilitation was ahead of her.  It was at that appointment when her obstetrician determined Jennifer would need more care than the initial assessment indicated, sparking a call to Dr. Francisco Orejuela, a pelvic surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Orejuela is a leading expert in the most advanced techniques of comprehensive pelvic reconstruction. He is known for his novel treatment of pelvic-related disorders and conditions.   

How critical is a perineum tear?   

“Very critical”, Dr. Orejuela said. “Small tears in the perineum are common during vaginal births, but they must be repaired to ensure a return to full health. Jennifer suffered a third-degree tear, which is not as common. A case like hers could have been much worse and I am glad we were able to provide the urgent care she needed.”

If perineum tears are not repaired, long-term complications can include pain, as well as urinary, anal, or flatal incontinence; which can persist for years afterward. A delayed return to sexual intercourse can also take place.   

The road to recovery   

Following her repair, Jennifer began physical therapy at Texas Children’s Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Wellness Clinic. This clinic specializes in the care of the pelvic floor, which consists of the muscles, ligaments, and tissues that lie at the bottom of the pelvis.

Jennifer began going to therapy once each week, completing exercises such as Kegels and hip flexors. As her pelvic floor muscles healed and she became stronger, her sessions went to every three weeks — lasting a total of nine months.

“During the process, my physical therapists became part of a village that I truly needed. We were working on my body, but our conversations were also good for my mental health. The mental and emotional part of the recovery — especially as a new mother — was harder than I could have imagined.”

Jennifer added that a procedure and recovery like this one also affects a woman’s relationship with her spouse, including physical intimacy and family responsibilities. This extra element makes the right care at the right place even more important.

Today, Jennifer and her husband, Jason, are the proud parents of a happy 20-month-old and are grateful for the role Texas Children’s continues to play in the health of their family.

“Our experience at Texas Children’s has been an exceptional one,” Jennifer said. “The doctors are experts in their field and the nurses are phenomenal. They really do put patients first.”