Know what's happening to your pelvic floor during pregnancy and postpartum
I hope you feel empowered to keep exercising or start exercising during your pregnancy and if you’d still like some more support and advice you can download our free guide on how to adapt exercise during pregnancy.
So how can you get & keep your pelvic floor functioning at 100%?
The important thing to remember is that you want to be able to squeeze and strengthen as well as release and relax your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a set of muscles in your pelvis that act like a hammock to support all of your internal organs, including your womb, bladder & bowel. Learning how to do a kegel, what exercises help and knowing if your pelvic floor is under or overactive is the best place to start.
How do you do a kegel?
When you do a kegel you want to be squeezing from the front (as if you’re stopping a wee) through to the back (as if your holding wind in). Once your able to contract these muscles together start focusing on also ‘lifting’. You can picture an elevator and slowly take it up 5 levels and then slowly release down 5 levels. Also just a note you shouldn’t feel your glutes or core tightening if you do just take some time to refocus on your pelvic floor. It all takes practice and when you know where to fire it takes no time!
What does this mean for pregnancy & postpartum?
The growing weight and pressure from your baby adds huge stress to your pelvic floor, that’s why it’s so important to strengthen your pelvic floor from the first trimester, to help prepare it for what’s to come. And why you will hear kegels everywhere as a mum-to-be! A strong & optimal pelvic floor will help you during delivery. It will also help your muscles recovery postnatal as they have been functioning and will fire together easier than if you hadn’t done anything. Don’t forget after birth your body can feel very different and your first few kegels will feel a lot fainter than before. That’s why its super important that you do your kegels while pregnant so you know what it feels like and you know what muscles to contract.
With all the best plans and intentions in the world, you never know what type of birth you will have. And this will always affect the impact your pelvic floor has. But it is so worth spending some time each day during pregnancy to learn to strengthen and relax/release your pelvic floor.
As a new mum, your muscles will have been through a huge undertaking, even more so if you have had a vaginal delivery. It will take time for them to heal and recover but with a pelvic floor that has been strengthened during pregnancy, this will be easier for you to fire them. Our pelvic floor muscles are a ‘use it or lose it’ muscle, so this means that it needs strengthening and releasing continuously. It’s not the case of ‘I’ve got an optimal pelvic floor now I can stop and never think about it again’ thing unfortunately. So whether you are a few days postnatal or 10 years post, you can experience incontinence, prolapse or painful sex if your pelvic floor needs some focusing on.
Hypertonic & Hypotonic
The absolute best thing you can do is visit a women’s health specialist or pelvic floor physio to get personal advice about your pelvic floor. If you have already they might have told you that you have a hypertonic pelvic floor, which means it is very overactive & tight. Which after explaining the above might seem like a good thing but it’s not as you may have trouble with constipation, painful sex, urgency, and pelvic pain. So you need exercises that will also help you relax, mobilise and release your muscles.Hypotonic is the opposite where your muscles are too relaxed and not firing, so you may experience leaking, bulging, heaviness, and pain are common symptoms of an underactive pelvic floor.
'Optimal' pelvic floor muscles
A range of exercises can work your pelvic floor as well as kegels, stretching can help relax & biofeedback devices like Elvie, which can give you real-time tracking. If you want specific & personal advice I’d definitely recommend visiting a women’s health physio, you can find a local one with mummy mot.
It can sound like a lot to take in, but it truly is so important to know your body and give yourself the care and love you need. Everyone (men included) should be doing their pelvic floor exercises. And by doing your kegels, spending time to release and having a general active fit life can have a huge benefit on not only your pelvic floor but whole wellbeing.
If you’re still left with questions please feel free to send me a message, I’m more than happy to have a chat.
Lucy is a pre & postnatal corrective exercise specialist and mum. She is on a mission to empower, educate and inspire women during pregnancy and motherhood to feel fit, healthy and body confident.
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