The results of a study, reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology (September 2004), suggest that physical therapy targeted at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles may help women with lingering incontinence a few months after giving birth. The current study is the first to assess supervised pelvic floor conditioning for lasting postpregnancy incontinence. The study included 64 women with stress urinary incontinence. The condition occurs when urine leaks during a physical stress. All the participants still had symptoms at least weekly, 3 months or more after giving birth.
For the study, the women were assigned to 1 of 3 groups: a group that received 8 sessions of pelvic floor conditioning with a physical therapist; a group that received the same treatment plus deep abdominal exercises; and a control group that received 8 massage sessions. For women in the exercise groups, each weekly session also included therapy that electronically stimulated the pelvic floor muscles, and both groups performed exercises at home.
The results indicated that, after 8 weeks, >70% of the women in the exercise groups were no longer incontinent; in comparison, no one in the control group was cured. The researchers found that most of the other exercisers had at least a considerable improvement in their urine leakage.