- Try to drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water a day. This will help to reduce the likelihood of constipation. Constipation is an issue with the pelvic floor as any straining motion will cause you to bear down on the pelvic floor which could over time lead to pelvic organ prolapse.
- Don’t hold your breath when lifting. If you hold your breath this will increase the pressure within the intra-abdominal cavity which causes downward pressure on the pelvic floor which again could lead to pelvic organ prolapse. Think about how you breathe on lifting your baby/toddler, the buggy in and out of the car and those bags of groceries.
- Don’t hover over the toilet seat, sit down properly! If you hover, you won’t be able to release your pelvic floor muscles correctly and that in turn will mean you can’t empty your bladder fully. It also means that your pelvic floor muscles aren’t able to work in the correct sequence and if this happens a lot they will develop bad habits.
- Keep active! By keeping active you are encouraging your muscles to work, including your pelvic floor. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle then try to factor in some regular upright active exercise, even if it’s just walking to get your muscles back into action. Many muscles around the abdominal and upper leg region work in conjunction with your pelvic floor so all areas will get a work out.
- Don’t visit the toilet ‘just in case’. Your bladder is itself a muscle so if it is continually emptying too soon the muscle isn’t being worked to its full capacity. You can retrain the bladder to hold more urine before you need to empty it by making sure that you really need to go when you do. You should only need to visit the toilet 5-7 times during the daytime.
I wonder if any of you had even given a thought to your pelvic floor before you became pregnant. It may have become a more familiar area early on in pregnancy when there is a massive surge in hormones that make you visit the loo more!! For others it may have been later in the pregnancy when the baby is getting bigger and it seems to be squashing your bladder or even bouncing on it making your visits to the loo more frequent again.
It really doesn’t matter when you first became aware of it, what matters now is that if your pelvic floor is an issue for you, you can do something about it and you are not alone in having this problem.
For those of you that haven’t noticed any symptoms, that’s great but it is also worth being aware that your pelvic floor has been through a lot. Even for those of you that may have had a c section, you have still had all the hormonal changes of pregnancy that affect tissue quality and activity and you have still had the increasing weight of a baby sitting on the pelvic floor making it harder for it to function as every week of pregnancy goes by.
The pelvic floor should be treated like other parts of the body that are out of action for a while due to for example injury or inactivity. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that have to work together to function and therefore need to rehabbed just like any other muscle in the body. Just because we can’t see it, we shouldn’t ignore it and just because it’s ‘down there’ we shouldn’t be embarrassed!
As already mentioned, changes occur in the pelvic floor during pregnancy due to big surges in hormones. Changes also occur due to big changes in posture that happen over the course of your pregnancy due to the baby growing. Abdominal muscles stretch and weaken as do the gluteal muscles (the bottom muscles), the lower back can become very stiff as can the muscles in front of the hips. These changes cause a change in the position of your pelvis and as a result of this, the pelvic floor ends up sitting in a relaxed position most of the time. When muscles are in a relaxed position they are not in their optimum position to function and are therefore not working as well as they could be and hence problems develop. Quite often these changes in posture continue post-delivery and therefore below optimum function of the pelvic floor continues.
Other changes can occur if you have a vaginal delivery. As you know the pelvic floor muscles will have stretched a lot, with some assistance from hormonal changes. As a result the muscle again is not going to be able to work optimally for a while and if it is not encouraged to work, it will continue to be lazy. If there is any tearing of the pelvic floor muscles or if you have had an episiotomy then scar tissue will have formed. Scar tissue that isn’t managed well during its recovery, will become thickened and then make any surrounding tissue difficult to function well.
All of these issues can be addressed and symptoms of the pelvic floor improved, with corrective posture exercise, functional corrective exercise and sometimes some soft tissue massage work on any of the muscles that changed during pregnancy.
If you are concerned that your pelvic floor isn’t working as it should be then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
You could also come along to a relaxed and informal evening that I am running with a Specialist women’s health physiotherapist at The Strand in Cheltenham Wednesday 12th July 7.45pm and find out all there is to know about looking after your pelvic floor. If you would like to come along then book a ticket here http://www.mumsfit.co.uk/shop/pelvic-floor-with-pimms