What are pelvic floor muscles and why should you care?
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissue located at the base of your spine and across your lower abdomen. And they have a very important job. Together, the pelvic floor muscles work to support your bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, and rectum. Yup, important job.
Pelvic floor disorder is commonly associated with childbirth. Many women will experience it in a minor way, at least (hello, sneeze pees!), but it isn’t uncommon to experience other side effects: pain during intercourse, urinary or bowel incontinence, prolapse of the uterus or colon, and urinary tract infections.
Needless to say, Pelvic floor disorders can be embarrassing, at the least, and, at the most, expensive, time-consuming and very disruptive to your quality of life.
What can you do during pregnancy and postpartum to maintain healthy pelvic floor muscles?
First, let’s acknowledge that many factors leading to pelvic floor disorders are outside of your control including: family history, chronic coughing, and how you deliver your baby (vaginal birth is most often a cause). But, you can take steps during your pregnancy to protect your pelvic floor health.
Steps you can start taking today:
- Maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and return to a healthy BMI post pregnancy.
- Don’t smoke.
- Avoid exercises and activities that build too much abdominal pressure in the second and third trimesters. For example, heavy lifting, crunches, sit-ups and planks.
- Take time to rest.
- Get into health habits now – especially with the foods you are eating – to nurture your body. During pregnancy and after baby, especially if you breastfeed, you will need more calories and fluid. But remember to be mindful of your intake and mix it up with a variety of fruit, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains to balance the nutrients your body needs. It can be tricky to ensure regular meals, so supplements and pre and post-natal vitamins can help round up nutritional gaps.
you can take steps during your pregnancy to protect your pelvic floor health.
Steps to prepare for after baby:
- Once cleared for exercise, your stomach and pelvic floor muscles don’t self-heal. They will need extra attention in the first year postpartum. A few minutes a day goes a long way towards rebuilding the muscles most affected by pregnancy and delivery. Check out the Matriarc app for easy, quick exercises to help restore your pelvic floor and core.
- In the first six months postpartum, low impact cardio is preferred over running, jumping and heavy weights. Your body has lingering elevated levels of relaxin which keeps your muscles more pliable and susceptible to injury. It’s ok to move and get your heart rate up to burn calories, but be cautious of your joints.
your stomach and pelvic floor muscles don’t self-heal. They will need extra attention in the first year postpartum.
Pregnancy and childbirth put an enormous strain on your body. As with most things in pregnancy, some changes are not always within our control, but it helps to take some time to care for our own bodies at this moment too. Paying extra attention to your and pelvic floor muscles early can and being attentive to the points above will help you avoid pelvic floor disorder issues later.
Here is one simple, and safe, core strengthener to get you started:
Start in the supine position with your knees bent and your feet flat. Tilt your hips slowly towards your feet and then tilt your hips back, pressing your lower back into the mat.
For more exercises, be sure to check out the Matriarc app. It’s free!