As a new Mum or Mum to be, is the biggest question on your mind “what about my pelvic floor?”
Are you even sure you know what you pelvic floor is, what’s happened to it and how best to exercise it?
As a postnatal specialist and founder of Buggyfit Cheshire, I talk to LOTS of women ALL the time about the pelvic floor. It’s great as it’s definitely not a taboo subject anymore, but I’m always astounded by the misconceptions of how this area works, how it’s been affected and how to exercise it!
Here’s something to spark your imagination and hopefully awaken your senses!
What is your pelvic floor?
If you’re wanting to inhale the technical terms, in simple terms – it’s a hammock of muscles. Supporting all your internal organs and stopping your baby falling out whilst pregnant! These muscles attach to your pubic bone at the front, your coccyx at the back, from side to side and diagonally via your pelvis. Try to think of your pelvis like a bowl and think of the pelvic floor stretching like a trampoline net all around that bowl.
What makes it weak?
Well – lots of things, but we’re talking about pregnancy, birth and labour here.
• Weight of your baby resting on it.
• Shift and movement of your internal organs resting on it.
• A heavy bladder resting on it.
• The tearing of the pelvic floor during labour
• An episitomy (cutting of the pelvic floor to assist delivery)
• General expansion & movement of the pelvic bowl (thanks to the hormone relaxin) to make room for your baby to grow. But think of how stretched that tramploline net becomes!
• Impact exercise
• Incorrect abdominal exercise.
Does it matter if you have weak pelvic floor?
How will you know? What are the symptoms?
It’s not all about the dreaded word “incontinence” – don’t be scared by that word either! It’s just a technical term for “leakage” ANY form of leakage. To be fair, looking back at my own pregnancy, I had some incontinence towards the end.. Knickers were often a “bit damp” at the end of the day.. It wasn’t that I’d wet myself, but just I’d not had any sensation that I was “leaking” throughout the day.
URGE INCONTINENCE – the sudden desire to want to go to the toilet and the inability to hold on. It may be that you want to go to the toilet often. This is also called overactive bladder. It’s very common and you don’t have to live with it! Imagine the bladder (another muscle) like a balloon. It’s relaxed and then naturally fills with urine. About half full you get a signal to say you need the toilet, but you can hold it. It naturally fills some more and then when you decide to go. When the bladder is not functioning properly, it wants to empty and contract too early forcing you to urgently need the toilet and perhaps not quite making it. A good womens health physio can help!
STRESS INCONTINENCE – the unintentional leakage of urine due to unexpected pressure or stress on the bladder. Coughing, sneezing, running, jumping, heavy lifting.
Do you like surprises? Read on…
Any hip, back, pubic or groin pain, could be attributed to SPD/PGP (symphysis pubis disorder/pelvic girdle pain) This condition is common but will affect the pelvic floor function. If you had an episiotomy, your pelvic floor has been cut, potentially making it weaker in parts, stronger in others. The could alter the alignment of your hips, giving your symptoms of back, groin and hip pain.
If pelvic floor muscles are not balanced, if some are working harder than others, some get lazy, then potentially you will experience symptoms during one movement but not in others. Eg. Some people are happy running, but not star jumps. Our bodies SHOULD be happy doing both (not too soon obviously) but there is no reason to live with a weakened pelvic floor!
What visualisations work for you?
Follow these simple techniques to do it correctly – less than 5 minutes per day!
Imagine your pelvic floor as a jellyfish. Inhale and feel your pelvic floor expand and float. Exhale and lift the pelvic floor muscles towards the crown of your head as they contract – visualise the edges of the jellyfish coming together as it propels upwards.
Imagine stopping the flow of urine and holding in at the same time
Imagine slurping spaghetti with your vaginal muscles
Pick up a blueberry with your vagina and your anus
Imagine the four walls of your vagina like an open flower with four petals. Draw all four petals into the centre and lift the closed bud. Take a breath in to hold and exhale to fully release
Imagine you’re in a bath full of eels. Now squeeze the muscles that would stop any eels getting into places you wouldn’t want them.
Not to leave them out, nuts to guts for any guys still reading this!
It’s so important to incorporate pelvic floor exercises into everyday routine. Not only can they improve your sex life but they can also help you avoid #stressincontinence
If you’re struggling to remember, here are some tips..
- Whilst doing the exercises.
- Don’t clench your buttocks.
- Don’t use your inner thigh muscles.
- Don’t hold your breath or bear down.
- Your lower tummy should draw gently in, you should feel lift and squeeze.
- After a contraction it’s important to relax the muscles so forget about that jellyfish and visualise lying back at a nice relaxing spot instead. Combine your pelvicfloorexercises with functional movements such as squats and lunges – join us at Buggyfit to see how!
If you’re not managing to remember to do your exercises every day try using some prompts:
- Sitting at red traffic lights
- While the kettle boils
- Whilst feeding your baby