CASEY ANDREWS, PT, DPT, OCS
Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many women wish they knew these tips before having babies
As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I have had many of my post-partum patients say to me “I wish I would have known about pelvic floor rehab sooner!” Unfortunately, it is far to common for women to suffer with incontinence, pelvic pain, diastasis recti, and/or prolapse for months or even years after giving birth, not knowing that physical therapy can help.
On the bright side, this is starting to change thanks to social media, increasing awareness of physicians, and word of mouth and more and more women are getting the help they need sooner so they can get back to doing the things they love without fear of pain or leaking! Now I’m here to take it one step further to share some pelvic health tips to be aware of before having children to help you bulletproof your pelvic floor for pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum.
So, if you are planning to have kids in the future, are currently pregnant, or have already had kids and are considering adding to your family these tips are for you!
Tip #1 Kegels
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sits at the bottom of the pelvis and is responsible for supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, and rectum), maintaining continence, providing stability to the pelvis, and has a role in sexual function. During pregnancy these muscles start feeling extra pressure as the baby grows. Pregnancy also causes the ligaments that support the pelvis to loosen up which can cause sacroiliac joint, low back, and pubic symphysis pain. So, you can see why going into pregnancy with a strong pelvic floor can be helpful to avoid some very common issues that arise during pregnancy!
Doing kegels (pelvic floor exercises) can help to build up your pelvic floor coordination, endurance, and strength. To do a kegel, squeeze the muscles that you would if you were trying to hold back gas or urine. You should be able to do a kegel without also squeezing your glutes, legs muscles, or holding your breath. Check out the graphic below for more information on how to do kegels exercises!
**If you are someone who struggles with pelvic pain or if you have a hard time knowing if you are engaging your pelvic floor, kegels may not be the right place to start in which case I would refer you to Tip Five below!
Tip #2 Just Breathe!
Equally important to having a strong pelvic floor is having one that can lengthen and relax when needed (think about how much those muscles need to lengthen when delivering a baby!).
Breathing has a direct effect on the pelvic floor as the diaphragm (the breathing muscle) and the pelvic floor lie parallel to each other in the body. When you breathe in, the diaphragm flattens out and lowers and puts gentle pressure downward onto the pelvic floor allowing it to relax and lengthen. When you breathe out, the diaphragm returns to a domed, raised position and the pelvic floor returns to its resting position. Practice taking a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your chest and abdomen fill with air without your shoulders raising towards your ears, then exhale slowly through pursed lips, pushing all of the air from your lungs.
Repeat this 5 times in a row, practicing every 1-2 hours.
Tip #3 Work on Your Core
Your abdominal, back, and hip muscles all attach to the pelvis and help to provide stability. Like I mentioned earlier, we need strong muscles around the pelvis during pregnancy to improve stability as the ligaments that usually help with this start to loosen up.
Exercises like bridges, bird dogs, dead bugs, and planks are just a few examples of great core exercises that target the deeper abdominals, back, and hip muscles.
Tip #4 A Squatty Potty is Your Friend
Okay we are going there…Let’s talk about pooping for a minute. If you are someone who has two or fewer bowel movements per week, has to strain to have a bowel movement, or you don’t feel like you completely empty your bowels when you go you might need to check out your toileting position. That’s right – there is a right and a wrong way to sit on the toilet!
When you sit on the toilet your knees should be elevated above your hips and you should be leaning forward slightly. This posture helps to relax your pelvic floor so that don’t have to strain as much with bowel movements.
Straining can be hard on the pelvic floor which can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction which you want to try to avoid during pregnancy. To get in the right position try using a small stool, stack of books, or you can try a Squatty Potty.
Tip #5 See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
If you are having any issues with incontinence, pelvic pain or pressure, pelvic organ prolapse, constipation, or just feel like you aren’t sure how to do a kegel properly this indicates there is a pelvic floor dysfunction and a more in depth assessment is needed to properly treat these conditions.
Apex has many knowledgeable Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists that will do a thorough evaluation and design the appropriate treatment to help you get on track.
Pregnancy and post-partum will often exacerbate these symptoms, so getting help sooner rather than later will get you on the right path to help you be as prepared as possible!
Reach out to Apex Physical Therapy & Wellness for a pelvic floor assessment before having your babies!
CASEY ANDREWS, PT, DPT, OCS