Exercises for Your Pelvic Floor
Once you know you are pregnant your Health Care Professional (HCP) will recommend exercises for your pelvic floor. These exercises are sometimes called as Kegels. They are vital in strengthening the pelvic floor, because these muscles come under so much strain during pregnancy and birth.
You may not know this, but the number of people suffering from pelvic floor issues is on the rise. Why? Simply put; out of sight, out of mind. The pelvic floor is a collection of unseen muscles, which we often take for granted. Generally, we give it very little consideration until that very group of muscles start to show signs of weakness.
Adore Your Pelvic Floor
Being specialised in training Mums, I knew I would need a deeper understanding of the pelvic floor and pelvis. So I did an Awareness Workshop with the wonderful Louise of Adore Your Pelvic Floor. A lot of the facts I am writing today come from my continuing education with her. It has in turn changed the way I train my clients today… both pre and postnatal.
The increasing number of adverts on TV, selling bladder pants/protection sadden me. Instead I feel that there should be greater awareness on how to practise and maintain pelvic floor health. Many new Mums today think it is natural, after childbirth, to leak following a cough or sneeze. I know of some Mums who have continued to do this 2 years or more after the birth of their child. Such moments can be embarrassing! So Mums put up with it in silence, choosing to buy said protection products. The adverts show women living carefree lives, problems solved by the product. But the products are a quick fix, not a solution.
Don’t Suffer In Silence
I had this after the birth of my first child. Like any other Mum knows, it wasn’t a carefree life simply because I had added protection. I was embarrassed and realised I hadn’t done my exercises properly. So from that very first time I leaked during an exercise class, I immediately set about strengthening my pelvic floor. I wasn’t in the industry at the time, so I started revisiting the exercises my HCP had recommended when I was pregnant, plus doing some of my own research. Happily Mums aren’t alone today. This is changing and there are many professionals Mums can go to to get advice and help. For example, Adore Your Pelvic Floor or The Mummy MOT are highly trained and can provide advice on how to deal with weakened pelvic floors and complications.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
I would take me ages to describe the function of the pelvic floor and how it’s affected during pregnancy and childbirth. So I will keep it on point – after all this is a blog! However, if you do have the time or are curious, google the pelvic floor. Trust me you will marvel at the creation of its make-up and function. But for ease of reference; the pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles that stretch like a supportive hammock from the pubic bone (in front) to the end of the backbone.
Why is it so Important?
Being pregnant and giving birth stretches the pelvic floor muscles. Stress incontinence can occur when weakened pelvic floor muscles cannot stop the bladder from leaking. Some Mums also find that they cannot wait when they want to pass urine. During pregnancy the increased weight of the baby, suspended by lax ligaments, exerts additional progressive force on the pelvic floor. This has already undergone key changes due to the production of that wonderful hormone relaxin. During birth all the layers of the pelvic floor must stretch in order to allow the baby to descend.
Following delivery, a staggering 50% of Mums have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse, accompanied with symptoms of bladder and bowel dysfunction. Mums who have had C-sections also need to realise the importance of pelvic floor exercises. Although these muscles haven’t experienced the stretching and trauma of a vaginal delivery, relaxin has still had a part to play. Coupled with an active labour, the pelvic floor may still incur some damage. So the case for doing pelvic floor exercise is strong. Other contributing risk factors include constipation, heavy lifting, inappropriate exercise, obesity, pelvic surgery, and ageing. If a Mum is not informed of the importance of pelvic floor exercises, the risk of short and long-term problems increases.
So when should I start pelvic floor exercises?
Once you know you are pregnant you can start straight away. If you are unsure how to go about it, seek assistance. Ask a Women’s Health Specialist or someone like me, trained in the understanding of the pelvic floor.
Once you have hit the postnatal period, I recommend your first port of call is a Women’s Health Specialist. I have a wonderful lady who works near me, and I think it is vitally important that we collaborate. Jenny Gillespie is part of The Mummy Mot movement, who is working fearlessly to bring women’s health to the fore. As a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, during her assessment she will assess your posture and muscle function, whether you have a ‘tummy gap’ (diastasis recti) and pelvic floor muscle function. Our GPs are brilliant but they are overworked and usually only have 10 mins to advise you or carry out a check up. We have both seen the fallout of this, particularly for postnatal Mums going straight back to exercise even before they have had a comprehensive assessment.
We believe it is important mums get as much care and attention as their babies do in those first few weeks. Did you know that 45% of all new Mums leak after birth? 25% suffer pelvic girdle pain. 36% have a tummy gap. And you would risk hurrying back to exercise they way you did before you were pregnant? Foundational work is the key for the pelvic floor and for some Mums that means rehabilitation first. Particularly, if that Mum wasn’t great at training her pelvic floor during pregnancy. I am mindful of this, so I will be asking for the following from any postnatal Mums that want to train with me:
- GP sign-off letter of the post 6-8 weeks after birth
- Completion of a Mummy Mot or Adore Your Pelvic Floor with a Women’s Health Specialist
We take your Health Seriously
I am trained and have an in-depth knowledge of the pelvic floor. But if there are deeper underlying issues, then I would prefer to refer a Mum to a specialist before she can start training with me. For a professional like Jenny this is her area of expertise, her true calling. It is my job to take over, once a Mum has been given the all-clear to exercise. We want to ensure that any complications that have arisen during or after birth are addressed correctly, so that Mum isn’t dogged with them for years to come. Many suffer in silence and will sometimes only deal with their symptoms because the pain has become too intense.
Don’t let this be you.
On my website there is a page call ‘Meet the Team’, as I only hold one piece of the jigsaw. It is my mission to bring all the ‘pieces’ together, bringing in colleagues so that Mums get the comprehensive, holistic care they rightly deserve… before conception, during pregnancy, after birth and beyond.
So with that we have finished my latest series; Posture, Core and Pelvic Floor! There is lots of excellent, professional advice and help available to all Mums today. You just need to know where to go (that’s my job). If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Happy Body, Happy Pelvic Floor, Happy You!