Harnessing the power of the pelvic floor after birth

The pelvic floor muscles are the powerhouse of a woman’s body. Strengthen them today, for a healthier tomorrow.

The pelvic floor muscles are powerfully glorious and play such an important role in women’s physical, mental, emotional, social, and sexual well-being. From pregnancy to birth, bladder health to bowel health, spinal support to sexual pleasure, these muscles need to be functioning properly for optimal health.

Your support system

The pelvic floor muscles function as part of the core canister, and provide support, stability, and strength to the spine and pelvis. The diaphragm, the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis (deep abdominal muscle) and multifidus (deep back muscles) make up the core canister.

The pelvic floor muscles behave like a hammock at the base of the pelvis and also support the pelvic organs: the bladder, uterus, and bowel. During pregnancy and in conditions like pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, the pelvic floor may become weak and fatigued. This is due to the extra load of the organs on the pelvic floor muscles and the stretching of the connective tissue within the pelvis.

Prolapse & incontinence

Pelvic organ prolapse is linked to bladder and bowel dysfunction including incontinence. Prolapse occurs when there is an overstretch of the connective tissue and ligaments that hold the pelvic organs in place, causing them to sag lower in the pelvis. Symptoms of prolapse include a vaginal bulge, dragging sensations, heaviness or pressure within the pelvis, incomplete emptying, lower back pain, and lower abdominal pain.

Prolapse and incontinence are incredibly common after birth. Here are the statistics:

  • 50% of women experience pelvic organ prolapse
  • 37% of women experience urinary incontinence
  • 13% of women experience faecal incontinence

There is hope

Despite prolapse and incontinence frequency among mothers, it is important for women to understand that these issues are not normal, and are treatable. Research shows that 84% of women who suffer from incontinence can cure themselves with pelvic floor exercises.

Women need to take a holistic approach to their postpartum health. This includes establishing healthy bladder and bowel habits, nourishing their bodies with wholefoods, and strengthening their core muscles with functional exercises.

The rates of prolapse and incontinence escalate once a woman enters menopause. Taking a proactive approach, and staying healthy prenatally and postnatally will ensure a healthy and happy mind and body as she ages.

Healthy bladder & bowel habits

Women can maintain a healthy bladder by ensuring that they take their time to empty without forcing the urine out. It is important for women to empty regularly, every 3 hours or so, to minimise urgency and urge-related incontinence.

Emptying the bowel on a daily basis without straining is equally as important. Bowels should be emptied in a position where the feet are elevated on a stool with the knees above the hips, leaning forwards with the back straight. This allows the pelvic floor muscles to relax so that the bowel motion can come out smoothly.

A nourished gut & pelvic floor

In prolapse and incontinence, the connective tissue in the abdomen and pelvis becomes overstretched. Women should add amino acids and collagen-rich foods to their diet. Collagen is the main protein in connective tissue.

Slow-cooked stews, bone broth, and jellies are great sources of amino acids, collagen, and gelatin. Combining healthy fats and fibre into meals will allow for maximum absorption of these vital nutrients, and optimise bowel health.

Pelvic floor training

Kegels are not enough. Women need a functional approach that incorporates pelvic floor strengthening. Pelvic floor muscles work together with other muscles, and this activation needs to be optimised. Many women will engage their pelvic floor muscles during inhalation. However, the pelvic floor muscles should squeeze and lift during exhalation and drop and relax during inhalation.

The pelvic floor also co-activates with the deep abdominal muscles, the deep back muscles and the gluteal muscles. A great way to activate the entire core system is:

  • Breathe in deep, wide, and low.
  • Squeeze and lift the pelvic floor muscles, and gently draw in the lower abdomen towards the spine. Hold this contraction as you breathe out.
  • Relax the pelvic floor and the abdomen, and breathe in deep, wide, and low.
  • Repeat.

This co-activation should then be integrated with movement and exercise, with an active pelvic floor through the exhale. This breath and co-contractions can be integrated into gym exercises, yoga, Pilates, or any exercise that a woman prefers.

The pelvic floor muscles are the powerhouse of a woman’s body. Strengthen them today, for a healthier tomorrow.

As published in living now-> https://livingnow.com.au/harnessing-power-pelvic-floor-birth/

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