5 Exercises To help Strengthen your Pelvic Floor After Having a Baby
Oh motherhood. You bring so much joy and happiness to my life and I often forget what life consisted of before having babies….until I sneeze and pee my pants.
Oh yes, I remember what it was like to be able to run, jump, sneeze, cough and not worry about the chance of urine spilling down my legs.
The love we have for our babies is indescribable. There is absolutely nothing we wouldn’t do for them. However, that being said, this does not mean we have to love every battle wound pregnancy and childbirth leaves behind.
The female body’s ability to create human life is amazing! However, most of us are left with unpleasant side effects that can not only be embarrassing but actually cause chronic pain if left untreated.
After having three babies, I firmly believe that EVERYONE should work toward rehabbing and strengthening their pelvic floor and core both during and after having a baby!
What is the Pelvic floor?
Think of your pelvic floor as a hammock that supports three female organs: the bladder, the uterus and the rectum.
This “hammock” is designed to have some buoyancy to support and rebound back up like a trampoline.
However, if this hammock is damaged or weakened, like from the extra weight of carrying a baby, it may lose strength and support.
This weakened “hammock” (aka, your pelvic floor) cannot support these organs well and they may start to collapse into or through the walls of the vaginal canal.
The collapse of these organs is referred to as “Pelvic Organ Prolapse”
Have you ever heard of pelvic organ prolapse?
I had not. Grrr!
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is an incredibly common health condition for women yet it is often overlooked and not discussed. It would have been nice to have a little warning that my bladder, or other organs, could actually fall out of place during pregnancy and/or delivery.
So here I am, sharing my own personal experience with Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
At first, this felt like an extremely embarassing topic to write about. However, I truly think others need to be informed and aware. Let’s face the facts, I birthed an 8.5 pound baby. Things definitely do not jus “bounce back” after that!
Again, this is my own personal experience with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. If this is something you think you may be suffering from, I encourage you to see your doctor.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a disorder in which one or more of the pelvic organs drop from their normal position.
It is caused by injury to the muscles or tissues that support the pelvic organs.- ACOG The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists About one third of women are affected by prolapse or similar conditions over their lifetime.
This refers to the prolapsing or drooping of any of the pelvic organs, including:
- Small Bowel
These organs are said to prolapse if they descend into or outside of the vaginal canal or anus. Web
What are the causes?
The main cause of this injury is pregnancy and childbirth, especially vaginal childbirth. ACOG
What are the symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
From personal experience, I felt a “bulge” in my pelvic area. Something just did not feel “right”.
Symptoms vary somewhat depending on which organ has prolapsed:
- A feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area
- Feeling of something actually falling out of the vagina
- A pulling or stretching in the groin area or a low back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Spotting or bleeding from the vagina
- Urinary problems such as incontinence or a frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Problems with bowel movements, such as constipation or needing to support the back (posterior) of the vaginal wall to have a bowel movement.
Symptoms are typically worsened by standing, jumping or lifting. They are usually relieved by lying down.
How is it Diagnosed:
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is diagnosed during a pelvic exam. It is classified using the location (bladder, rectum, or uterus) and the degree or grade of prolapse. There are five degrees and is graded from 0 (no prolapse) to 4 (maximum prolapse)
How I Discovered My Prolapse
About two weeks after my daughter was born, I felt a small “bulge” in my pelvis. Because I had no knowledge of pelvic organ prolapse, I was TERRIFIED!
I was even a little angry at my doctor for not warning me about these things.
Long story short, I was referred to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.
The exercises that I share below were prescribed to me by a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.
Having an exercise science background, I understand the importance of physical therapy to help the body function more optimally without pain or discomfort.
I believe that EVERYONE who has a baby should do some kind of pelvic floor physical therapy or be given exercises to help strengthen the muscles after childbirth.
Even though our bodies are designed to have babies, this does not mean that we don’t suffer from injury as a result of childbirth.
Why do I need to Strengthen my pelvic floor?
I like to think of it like this.
If you were to rupture your bicep muscle lifting something heavy, you would likely be sent to physical therapy to rehab your arm.
We need to think of childbirth this same way.
Muscles, tendons and ligaments can get very stretched and even torn during labor and delivery leading to pain, incontinence and or pelvic organ prolapse. Taking the time to rehab the core and pelvic floor can prevent long term discomfort from pregnancy and childbirth.
During delivery, my daughter had gotten stuck in the birth canal. Here heart rate was rapidly descending and they had to rush to get her out. This caused a great deal of trauma to my pelvis.
Miraculously, there was no tearing however my bladder had prolapsed. The prolapse was minor but still causes discomfort and could worsen without awareness and caution.
How can strengthening the pelvic floor help?
During pregnancy, our bodies release a hormone called relaxin which increases laxity in our joints. This increase in laxity can cause injury to the pelvic floor. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help expecting women prevent or recover from pregnancy related pain or dysfunction.
They can teach women how to coordinate their abdominal and pelvic floor muscles properly. It is very important to re-learn how to coordinate the pelvic floor muscles to prevent or worsen incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
4 Exercises to Strengthen The Pelvic Floor Postpartum
These exercises are from my own experience with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. These were the exercises I was given to strengthen my pelvic floor.
The muscles in my pelvis were so damaged and weak after pregnancy that I was unable to hold a proper Kagel during my first visit. Pretty embarrassing!
They are not meant to cure prolapse but they have helped me gain more strength and control in my pelvis and with urinary incontinence.
It doesnt matter if you are 5 weeks, months or years postpartum, keeping our pelvic floor strong is very important. I also strongly encourage these exercises during pregnancy as well.
Before you begin, locate your pelvic floor muscles.
Lie down with your knees bent.
Imagine you are trying to stop your urine. Squeeze and lift the vaginal area without tightening your buttocks or abdominal muscles.
Do not actually attempt to stop the flow of urine. This can lead to infection.
Next, imagine you are squeezing someone’s fingers and lifting at the same time. This is a little awkward but that’s how I figured it out.
You should have a sense of pulling up or squeezing.
Another way to think of it is imagine you are drinking something through a straw in your vagina. Awkward, I know! But this is what it should feel like.
Pelvic Floor Contractions or holds:
This works the muscles ability to hold.
- Slowly tighten and hold using the technique above. Imagine squeezing and drawing up without using your abdominals or clenching your buttocks.
- Hold for 5 Seconds
- Relax 10 seconds
- Start with 5-10 reps 2-3 times per day.
*Gradually work your way up to 10 seconds per rep.
*I could not hold this for 5 seconds when I first started. It takes a great deal of concentration. I was very embarrassed and discouraged but it got much better!
1. Quick Flicks
A series of rapid contractions and releases.
Quickly tighten, lift up and release.
Start with 5 reps, 2-3 times per day and work up to 10 reps.
2. Roll Ins
- Lay on your back, knees bent
- Place a small ball between your knees
- Squeeze the ball as you perform your contraction exercises above
Start with 5 reps 2-3 times per day.
Gradually work your way up to 10 seconds per rep
Repeat for flicks
3. Roll Outs
- Lay on your back, knees bent
- Place a loop band around your knees.
- Separate your knees, pushing against the band as you perform the contraction exercise above
- Start with 5 reps 2-3 times per day.
Gradually work your way up to 10 seconds per rep
Repeat for flicks.
- Lie on your back
- Engage your pelvic floor (think kegals) and draw in your core (think pelvis to ribcage)
- Push through your heels and squeeze your bottom to push your hips off the ground
- Contract pelvic floor while holding the bridge position.
The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold
Avoid hyperextending your hips by lifting too high and keep abs engaged.
Hold 5-10 seconds
Relax and repeat 10 times
5. Standing Plies
- Place Feet shoulder width apart, toes turned out
- Slowly bend your knees while contracting your pelvic floor over 5 seconds
- Slowly stand back up, relaxing your pelvic floor over 5 seconds.
- Perform 10 reps, 2 times per day
6. Standing Pelvic Floor Contraction
- Hold pelvic floor contraction for 5 seconds working your way up to 10-15 second holds
- Relax 5 seconds
- Repeat 10 Reps 2-3 times a day
My hope is that more women start talking about this issue because chances are that you, family or friends are dealing with this and may not know there is help available.
The more awareness that is brought to this silent epidemic, the more women who will be spared from feeling alone, helpless and too embarrassed to help improve their symptoms.
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