You and your pelvic floor after childbirth
By Sally J. Hall
Make friends with your best muscles ever
You’ll hear a lot about your pelvic floor when you get pregnant. If you’ve never given a thought to this group of muscles before, you need to now, as keeping them in tip- top condition can make all the difference between having a great birth and having problems later on down the line.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
These are the layer of muscles that surround not just your vagina but your whole ‘down below’ area, around your anus and urethra too. They are the muscles that support your bladder, bowel and your uterus and they are located at the bottom of the pelvis. They can be likened to a trampoline that stretches from your tailbone to the pubic bone at the front and from side to side across your ‘sit’ bones. They are able to move like a trampoline,
up and down and they have passages through them to allow for the exits of the urethra, bowel and vagina. They are a thick and springy layer of muscles when they are healthy.
Why are they important?
The pelvic floor muscles can be exercised, just like any other muscle in the body
and they are used when we control our bowels or bladder and when we are giving birth too. If the muscles become weakened or damaged, you can experience problems with incontinence (you might not be able to stop yourself from passing urine or faeces). They are also very important for sexual pleasure, so it pays to know what they are and how to care for them!
What can damage my pelvic floor?
There are everyday things that can lead to harming the pelvic floor such as straining on the loo, perhaps due to constipation, coughing, heavy lifting and even some high impact exercise like aerobics.
But for women, the biggest danger to your pelvic floor is childbirth. The stresses and strains of carrying a heavy baby to term begin the damage and this is followed by the pressure the area is put under during labour and birth, which can mean that the muscles end up weaker than before you had a child.
If you end up having an instrumental delivery (perhaps with forceps or a ventouse), if you have more than one baby or if you have a very heavy baby (over 4kg) you are more at risk. It is also worse if you have bad perineal tearing.
What are the benefits of doing pelvic floor exercises?
◗ You can recover more quickly from birth
◗ You can help or prevent incontinence
◗ You can help or prevent prolapse
◗ You’ll be more con dent if you have good muscle tone
◗ Your sex life can improve!
There are lots of myths about your pelvic floor; we tell you which ones are rubbish
◗ It’s easy to find your pelvic floor muscles
Many women find it quite difficult to locate their muscles and to isolate them. Practice is needed! You can get specialist help from a continence advisor or physiotherapist.
◗ Exercises don’t work Exercising your pelvic floor muscles really will help
you, especially if you have slight bladder or bowel incontinence. However, if the underlying cause of incontinence is an infection, this will need treating.
◗ Having a baby has ruined my pelvic floor Even if you have had perineal tears or had a big baby, exercise can really help you get back to normal ‘down below.’
◗ There’s only one position you should do the exercises in You can do your pelvic floor exercises standing, sitting, even lying down. Do them wherever you are and whenever you remember.
◗ I had a Caesarean; I’m not at risk Having a heavy baby and just the stresses put on your pregnant body can weaken your muscles.