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Postnatal rehabilitation is a good idea

Editorial Cartoon by Jason D. Cox

French Social Security has been generous enough to offer “perineal re-education” to post-natal patients.

This physical therapy is meant to help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor using two methods.

One method involves exercises to regain and build muscle control of the new mother’s lady parts, the other is the biofeedback method which uses an electronic vaginal re-educator called a “sonde.”

Slate writer Claire Lundberg is a former New Yorker now living in Paris, and after giving birth to her baby girl in November, Lundberg was informed that part of her postpartum treatment would be “la rééducation périnéale.”

In the article, Lundberg describes the initial awkwardness of the experience, but also says, “Frankly, I’m happy there’s a medical professional paying attention to what happened down there.”

The few studies available on the subject of perineal re-education show significant reduction of incontinence and pelvic pain at nine months after giving birth.

Though there are few countries that offer this service, the French government has made these downstairs workouts available for close to 30 years, which shows impressive – if not progressive – care for the health of women who have endured the pains of childbirth.

Most employers in the United States allow women in the workforce an appropriate amount of time off from work during a pregnancy and for maternity leave once the baby is born.

But the U.S. government puts forth little effort to maintain the health of a woman once the baby is delivered.

When looking at a regimen of 10 to 20 re-education sessions that involve a combination of manual and biofeedback exercises, a postpartum check-up and a pamphlet on Kegel exercises seems almost negligent.

While the health of a mother is the highest priority, France has some other concerns that motivate this government-funded rejuvenation; concerns that have everything to do with making French babies.

One of these concerns is to get husbands and wives back into the marital bed as soon as possible, with as little discomfort as possible.

Another is that this care helps reduce health risks and other complications that might arise in future pregnancies.

The French government seems eager to raise its country’s birthrates. In recent years, France has even offered incentives such as three years of paid parental leave with guaranteed job protection, subsidized day care before age three and stipends for in-home nannies.

And it is here the potential problem lies. With the world economy in its current state and world resources showing significant signs of strain, it seems impractical, if not irresponsible, for any government to attempt to raise its birthrates.

Regardless of its motivation, postnatal care for mothers is an obvious positive and seems a highly beneficial practice that should be seriously considered by Americans.

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