Bonjour les femmes et les hommes! Did you know that in France, after you have a baby, you get government sponsored pelvic floor physical therapy? That’s right, the French send their new mothers to pelvic floor reeducation, La Rééducation Périnéale. It is free of charge and this type of physical therapy has become the standard of care for postpartum mothers.
We all know childbirth can cause things “down there” to need a little TLC and that after childbirth, things like sex and maintaining continence may become more difficult. Women in France as well as in all countries, including the US, regularly benefit from programs of pelvic floor physical therapy, to address restrictions and areas of tightness in the vagina, vaginal muscle tone changes, and teach the muscles of the vagina to work properly again. What makes France standout is that for women in France, these postpartum physical therapy sessions are free.
The French healthcare system is a little different than ours. The people of France receive government insurance (which draws its financing from a 5.25% of earned income, paid into social security by every French worker), but they also may pay for private insurance to cover any costs that fall outside of what is covered insurance. In France the entire cost of pelvic floor physical therapy is covered by the government.
For new mothers, 10 weeks of pelvic floor physical therapy are provided after giving birth. There are a bevy of think pieces (many cited below), that recount the experience of American- expats’ feeling like they had been magically gifted some strange and exotic European vagina personal training. In these pieces, the explanations for why France foots the bill to rehab your pelvic floor are varied and not all in agreement. Some of the authors cite that because of the European Union’s already dwindling population, and that rehabbing their pelvic floors allows mothers to return to baby-making more quickly than they would have had they only received the 6 week post-partum OBGYN checkup, which is common practice in the United States.
Another more practical explanation is, that because France’s healthcare system is largely funded by the French state. It behooves the French to foot the relatively small bill of pelvic floor physical therapy, versus paying for more expensive problems like incontinence and prolapse, which can occur if pelvic floor issues are ignored. It really is a wise investment for both the French government as well the new mothers, who are investing their time in treatment.
Regardless of the rationale, French women are given a great service. The benefit of Pelvic floor physical therapy has been shown over and over again in many different studies. Rehabbing your pelvic floor after a traumatic event like childbirth, both cesarean and vaginal, can help relieve troublesome symptoms like pain, incontinence, and symptoms of prolapse. It is important that if you feel you need some extra help after your birth, that you seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist. The rewards can be great, and they are much easier to obtain the sooner you enroll in physical therapy! To read more about the benefits of pelvic floor physical therapy, check out these blogs from our archives!
Sex After Pregnancy
The Pain No One Wants to Talk About
Giovanni J. We will teach you to make love again. The Guardian. Wednesday 25, March 2009
Lundberg C. “The French Government Wants to Tone my Vagina”. Slate. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/02/postnatal_care_in_france_vagina_exercises_and_video_games.2.html
Rochman B. “Why France pays for postpartum women to “re-educate” their vagina. Time. Feb 22, 2012