While not talked about often enough, keeping your pelvic floor in tip-top shape during pregnancy and after birth is super important. Why? Because no mumma wants to be peezing or cough-sneezing.
Women’s healthy physiotherapist Chloe Lorback has three really easy things you can do to look after your pelvic floor during pregnancy and beyond.
It’s one of those things that we don’t really like talking about, but it’s so important, I want to scream it from the rooftops. Looking after your pelvic floor when you are pregnant or have had a baby is super important!
Two-thirds of all women who have had a baby will suffer with symptoms of incontinence – the involuntary leakage of urine. But if you don’t take care of your pelvic floor muscles, other problems can develop too, such as prolapse, painful intercourse and pelvic pain.
How to look after your pelvic floor after having a baby
What are the top three things you can do to look after your pelvic floor muscles after you have had a baby?
1. Don’t rush back to high impact exercise
Being pregnant causes the pelvic floor muscles to gradually stretch as your baby grows, and the muscles can be further stretched or damaged during delivery. This stretching takes time to recover from, and it’s important to avoid over-straining the muscles while they are repairing. So when you get back into exercise, it’s wise to choose low-impact exercise initially, especially for the first three months or so after you have your baby. Our 28 by Sam Wood postnatal program features low impact exercises that will allow you to improve your fitness without compromising your pelvic floor muscle recovery.
You can gradually start to incorporate some higher impact moves when you feel ready. But if you have any pain or urinary leakage, continue with low-impact and wait a few weeks before trying again to increase the intensity.
2. Practice your pelvic floor exercises regularly
Like any muscles, your pelvic floor muscles need regular exercise to stay strong and healthy. Get into the habit of daily practice. Try doing them while you are brushing your teeth or when you are in the shower. If you do them at the same time each day, you are likely to get into a good habit and you won’t forget to do them.
3. Take care with lifting your kids; practice the ‘knack’
Lifting your kids, coughing, laughing and sneezing all increase your intraabdominal pressure, pushing downwards on your pelvic floor muscles. If the muscles are stretched and weak, this extra pressure can be enough to lead to leakage. It might help if you consciously squeeze your muscles before you lift, cough or sneeze. This gentle pre-squeeze can provide protection for your pelvic floor muscles, and is a great habit to get into.
When in doubt, seek help…
Don’t suffer in silence. See a pelvic floor physiotherapist if your symptoms aren’t improving. They can assess your muscles and make sure you are working the right ones. They can also create an individualised home exercise program tailored to your needs.
Chloe Lorback has always had a passion for women’s health, exercising during pregnancy and the post-natal period. She combined this love with her Pilates studies to establish Fit to Deliver in 2003 and is now also the 28 by Sam Wood Pregnancy and Post Natal Expert. Chloe has three young boys and enjoys the balance of being able to teach Pilates, regularly lecture at Melbourne University, do physio and of course – be a mum!