Most women don’t think about their pelvic floor until after they’ve had a baby or two and are having trouble with urine leaking. But waiting until after your baby is born isn’t the right time to start thinking about the health of your pelvic floor.
What is the pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue that surround the vagina and rectum. These muscles stretch from your pubic bone to your tailbone and support the organs in your pelvis, including your bladder, uterus, and bowel. We use our pelvic floor muscles during urination and vaginal intercourse and of course, during childbirth. The pelvic floor is designed to stretch under pressure and bounce back to provide continued support.
How does pregnancy affect my pelvic floor?
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor is under remarkable pressure. It has to stretch in order to make room for the growing baby. Over time, the muscles become weak from being weighed down. Instead of bouncing back to provide support, the weakened muscles may not return to their optimal condition, strength or location.
You may notice it becomes harder to control your bladder, especially as your pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimesters. Or you may notice leaking urine when you sneeze during pregnancy or after. This is because a weakened pelvic floor makes it difficult to contract the muscles necessary to prevent urine from escaping your bladder.
Why is pelvic floor health important for my health and my baby’s health?
It’s important to keep your pelvic floor as healthy as possible before, during, and after pregnancy. Starting out your pregnancy with strong pelvic floor muscles helps decrease the damage these muscles experience under the strain of carrying a growing child. A healthy pelvic floor also makes labor and delivery less risky, as you’ll be better equipped for labor, which means less stress for your baby.
And whether you give birth vaginally or through a C-section, the muscles of the pelvic floor undergo quite a bit of stretching and strain. Having a healthy pelvic floor means faster recovery after childbirth.
In addition, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where your pelvic organs moving out of place and into your vagina, making sex and normal activities uncomfortable and even painful.
What can I do to improve the health of my pelvic floor?
Pregnancy and childbirth put an enormous amount of strain on your body, but there are steps you can take to improve the health of your pelvic floor, whether you’re pregnant now, thinking about becoming pregnant, or already have children.
Here are some of the ways you can protect your pelvic floor health:
- Maintain a healthy body weight and healthy weight gain during your pregnancy.
- Avoid exercises and activities that exert excess pressure on your abdomen — especially during the second and third trimesters.
- Give yourself time to rest and recover after exercise or exertion.
- Engage in safe pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your muscles.
When it comes to pelvic floor exercises, waiting until there are issues does little to set you up for success. It can be tricky to know which muscles to squeeze and when, and some women make the common mistake of holding their breath during the exercises or using additional muscles incorrectly. Our Pre & Post Natal classes make it easy to understand your body and we guide you into exercises that are simple and effective.
Depending on your needs, our Instructors can provide additional exercises to help you based on the current health of your pelvic floor, your pregnancy, and your health history.