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Taking Care ‘down there’ During Pregnancy

Written by Melissa Robertson

Pregnancy is a time to focus on your health. You are eating for two, exercising for two and resting for two, but what about your undercarriage? PLN takes a closer look at the benefits of focusing on your pelvic floor before delivery.

The thought of going without prenatal care is unthinkable for most pregnant women and yet going without prenatal pelvic floor physiotherapy is commonplace despite the fact that it can help prevent organ prolapse, postpartum incontinence, and reduce injury to the pelvic floor during labour.

What is a pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is the hammock of muscles that stretch from your pubic bone to your tailbone. These muscles are responsible for supporting your pelvic muscles and the strength of your pelvic floor will determine your ability to control your bladder and bowels.

The impact of pregnancy on your pelvic floor

Pregnancy and labour can weaken pelvic floor muscles. Even women who have a cesarean birth can still experience trauma to their pelvic floor.

Stress incontinence occurs when you leak a little urine when laughing, exercising, or sneezing. Some pregnant women may also experience an inability to control their gas or bowels as well. While these ailments are common, it doesn’t mean they are something pregnant women shouldn’t address.

While many consider pelvic floor therapy to be all about the ‘kegels’ (the contracting of your pelvic floor muscles), Registered Physiotherapist Laura Apps says that there are many other areas that are addressed.

“Breathing and posture are areas we address in all patients pregnant or postpartum before even delving to the pelvic floor,” she says.

It’s also not always about strengthening the pelvic floor. In some cases, the pelvic muscles can be in constant contraction and unable to work properly.

“Muscles in the pelvic floor are just like all other muscles and need to be able to contract and relax. We don’t know what they are doing until we check.”

Pelvic floor physio can also be useful to address pain and limited mobility during pregnancy, as well as to prepare your body for birth.

This is a powerful tool for women during childbirth because 50% of all women who deliver a child will develop pelvic organ prolapse and there are steps you can take to decrease the possibility of trauma/tears to the pelvic floor during delivery.

Addressing pelvic issues before delivery is always beneficial so women know what to do after delivery,” Laura says. “A six week check up after delivery can help women get on the right track to treat or prevent issues, and return to exercise safely,”

How to do a Kegel

  • Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine. (This is something you can try while on the toilet.)
  • Once you have isolated the muscles you need to use, start holding the muscles for eight seconds and then relax for eight seconds.
  • Repeat in groups of eight to 12 several times throughout the day.

Best ways to avoid weakened pelvic floor muscles

  • Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles when you cough or sneeze
  • Don’t do any bouncing exercises
  • Avoid emptying your bladder ‘just in case’ as it will train it to want to be emptied more often
  • Don’t lift heavy loads too often
  • Make sure you empty your bladder completely when you go to the washroom
  • Avoid constipation by eating fibre-rich foods and drinking plenty of water

So PLN, let’s focus on keeping your whole body healthy during pregnancy. After all, you are doing some of the hardest physical work possible, why not take the time to prevent injury and embarrassment? Let us know if you have done pelvic floor physio in the comments!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.