For anyone who has given birth, a strong and supportive pelvic floor is crucial to overall health and vitality.
Your pelvic floor is a thin layer of muscles that run from the pubic bone to the Coccyx. The pelvic floor plays an important role in many things, like supporting your body’s internal organs (bladder, intestines, uterus, etc.), enabling you to maintain urinary and bowel control, and providing support vital for reproductive and sexual functioning.
Your pelvic floor supports your organs during activities that stress them physically, such as laughing, sneezing and coughing and also plays a vital role in supporting the spine.
Unfortunately, many new moms are not aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy pelvic floor. Strong pelvic floor muscles are a crucial part of your body’s internal core stabilizers, so if you want to strengthen your core, you can’t ignore your pelvic floor.
In addition, weak pelvic floor muscles cause serious issues for mothers. Many moms think that it’s normal to leak urine while laughing, sneezing or coughing. This is NOT normal, and it’s a sign of a serious issue.
After pregnancy, weakened pelvic floor muscles often cause Urinary Stress Incontinence. Signs of this issue include the accidental release of urine while laughing, sneezing or coughing. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also contribute to uterine or bladder prolapse, which is a very serious condition where one or both organs drop down and sag into the vaginal wall. Unless you adequately strengthen your pelvic floor muscles after childbirth, these types of problems will worsen with subsequent vaginal deliveries, weight gain, and aging.
Here are 4 things every mom must know about their pelvic floor and ways to keep it strong for optimal health and well-being.
1. Stretch: Pregnancy Stretches Your Pelvic Floor
During pregnancy, your abdominal wall slowly expands over 9 months. But that’s not the only thing that stretches.
When it comes time to deliver, your pelvic floor muscles also have to stretch to make room for your baby. But their stretching isn’t done slowly over the course of 9 months. They stretch and often tear in just a matter of hours as your body prepares for childbirth.
In many cases, pelvic floor muscles do not automatically rebound after childbirth. To prepare for delivery and help you recover faster, you need to strengthen them through kegel exercises, comprised of repeated contraction of your pelvic floor muscles, as well as other exercises like squats and bridges that engage your core as well as your pelvic floor.
2. Strengthen: You Can Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor muscles are no different than any other muscle on your body. When your pelvic floor muscles are well conditioned, they have greater flexibility than they would if they were weak. Muscle weakness and atrophy decreases flexibility in your pelvic floor just as it would any other muscle. If you fail to strengthen your pelvic floor, you greatly increase your risks for the problems mentioned above.
It’s important for all women who are pregnant or postpartum to be consistent with pelvic floor strengthening through a program that’s designed to prevent weakness and protect these important muscles. In addition to kegel exercises, women should engage in core and pelvic floor strengthening that involves full-body movements to retrain these areas. Yoga is an excellent way to maintain pelvinc floor strength after childbirth, specifically postnatal yoga.
3. Contract: Kegel Exercises and Yoga Can Help after Childbirth
As mentioned above, you CAN strengthen your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises alone are generally not enough and should be combined with other exercises designed to strengthen the core and pelvic floor. Prenatal and postnatal yoga helps maintain a strong pelvic floor also. Kegel exercises are contraction exercises that can be helpful in increasing blood flow to the pelvic floor and helping to speed healing after childbirth.
The proper starting position for kegel exercises include any comfortable position that isolates your pelvic floor muscles from the inner thigh and buttocks muscles. It’s best to avoid doing kegel exercises while crossing your thighs, or while standing, as this also engages the large muscles of the hips and thighs and does not isolate the pelvic floor. Try doing your kegel exercises while sitting, lying on your side, or on lying your back with your knees bent.
How to Perform Kegel Exercises Properly:
Squeeze the anal sphincter (not your butt cheeks) as tightly as possible, then squeeze the vaginal sphincter as tightly as possible.
Slowly increase the intensity of your squeeze. Imagine an elevator rising up higher and higher as you intensify your effort.
Hold the contraction as tightly as you can for five or six seconds – no more than 10 seconds.
Completely relax your effort, allowing your muscles to soften.
Rest and repeat 10 times.
For optimal recovery after childbirth, experts recommend that you perform 5 sets throughout the day.
4. Connect: Connection to Your Core Matters
As you are performing your postnatal yoga or kegels, you may notice that you feel your deep abdominal muscles contracting simultaneously with your pelvic floor muscles. This is because your pelvic floor and core are so closely connected. You may notice your belly button move, waist narrow, or abdominal muscles tense during your practice. Your deep abdominals (transverse abdominis), pelvic floor muscles, and deep spinal muscles are all designed to work together to provide internal support and stability for your torso.
That’s why core-conditioning programs that strengthen the pelvic floor simultaneously with the deep abdominals are such powerful core stabilization techniques.
Keep a consistent practice to repair your body and maintain optimal health after expanding your family.
By Brooke Nally
Brooke is a freelance writer who has been traveling the world for about two years, teaching yoga everywhere she lands.
Find her on instagram @brookenally
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