Pre & Postnatal

Pelvic Floor PT vs OB/GYN: What is the Difference?

I often get asked about pelvic floor PT. What is it? Should I go? What is the difference between what a Pelvic Floor PT does and what happens with my OB/GYN? 

What is an OB/GYN?

First – let’s break it down. A gynecologist is a physician who specializes in women’s health with a focus on the female reproductive system and organs. An obstetrician is a physician who specializes in caring for women during their pregnancies and postpartum. So actually, an obstetrician (OB/GYN) is a gynecologist, but a gynecologist (GYN) may not necessarily be an obstetrician. We see an OB/GYN for a variety of reasons, some include:
  • Pregnancy/Childbirth and postpartum care
  • Menstrual issues/concerns
  • STD checks
  • Birth Control
  • Well Woman Exams (pap smears, blood work, breast exams, urine samples, etc.)
  • Menopause related changes (ie. changes in estrogen levels)
  • Hormone disorders
  • Fertility Care (if necessary they may refer out to a Reproductive Endocrinologist)

What happens during a standard gynecological exam? 

Depending on the nature of your visit, a typical exam includes: 
  • General physical exam: height, blood, weight, and general medical information. This may also be taken by a nurse.
  • External genital exam: visually looking at the vulva
  • Pelvic exam: The Doctor uses a speculum to observe the vagina and cervix, as well as a gloved/lubricated finger to assess internal organs. You may have your legs in stirrups.

Learn more from ACOG about what to expect here. 

What about an assessment with a Pelvic Floor PT?

A pelvic floor muscle assessment with a Pelvic Floor physical therapist is very different from your experience with your OG/GYN. Pelvic Floor PTs are musculoskeletal and neuromuscular experts, and they know all about the bones, muscles and nerves, and how they all function together. The focus during a pelvic floor exam is not on the internal organs, but on the muscles, which just so happen to sit in your pelvis.

What happens during a visit to a Pelvic Floor PT?

  • External Assessment: includes looking at the quality of the tissue, position of the perineum, and looking at and feeling different areas of your body (e.g. inner thighs/adductors, glutes, and lower belly). The external assessment is also a great time to ask questions about your C-Section scar.
  • Internal Assessment: The internal assessment is NOT like a visit to your OB/GYN and only done with your OK. They are looking at pelvic floor muscle strength, endurance, and coordination, as well as your ability to contract AND relax. PT’s are also looking at the pelvic floor muscle in coordination with breath (how your core system is working together). A PT may also be assessing for any signs of Pelvic Organ Prolapse.

**Note: this isn’t a complete list – just a few items you might review. There is a lot. 

What is the difference between an OB/GYN and Pelvic Floor PT?

Your OB/GYN is an expert on reproductive health/wellness. Their focus is on the internal organs, NOT the muscles.
Pelvic Floor PTs focus on the pelvic floor muscles and coordinating and how they are coordinating with the rest of your core system and body (among other things).

An OB/GYN and Pelvic Floor PT are two big team members on your pregnancy and postpartum care team. Postpartum I recommend a new mom see a Pelvic Floor PT at six weeks postpartum, and again at three, six, nine, and twelve months postpartum (more if you are experiencing any symptoms or have anything you are working with the PT on). If you are experiencing incontinence, pain/pressure at the pelvis/hips or low back, pain with penetration, or discomfort through the belly I highly recommend a visit.
If you don’t know where to go for a referral, you can ask your OB/GYN. Most likely they will not bring this up, so I encourage you to. Below are is a great video on what to expect from Dr. Allison at Body Motion PT. I’ve also included a few websites to help you find a Pelvic Floor PT year you.

Tips from Pelvic Sanity on where to look and great resources too. 
Bonus resource. Love this visual from Postpartum Push that captures the difference so well.
Any questions? Pop them below! As always, feel good mama <3

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