Sweaty Mommy Survival Guide Tip #8: Healing Your Pelvic Floor
Author’s note: I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer, and I can’t account for every individual’s unique health circumstances. Make sure to consult your medical provider before starting an exercise program, especially during and immediately after pregnancy!
Did you ever hear someone talk about the “pelvic floor” before you were pregnant? If you said, “Yes,” you are definitely in the minority! For most pre-pregnancy women, the pelvic floor doesn’t even qualify as an afterthought – it’s not even a thought.
However, once you grow and give birth to a baby, the pelvic floor can have a major impact on your everyday life. The pelvic floor consists of muscles and connective tissue that span between your hips and tailbone. It supports your bladder, intestines, and uterus. As a college athlete, my athletic and strength trainers always emphasized that a strong core supported your entire body and prevented injury. The pelvic floor is the same way! A strong pelvic floor enables you to be healthy, active, and comfortable.
The pelvic floor gets especially stressed during pregnancy and childbirth. The weight of a growing baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid applies consistent pressure to the pelvic floor over the course of nine months. Then, childbirth—whether vaginally or via caesarian section—pushes it to the limit. Remember all the loose skin around your belly after childbirth? The same is true of your pelvic floor; it’s just not visible to you.
Many women don’t consider their pelvic floor when they talk about “bouncing back” post-baby. Forgetting these muscles postpartum can lead to a variety of functional issues. This can range from minor inconveniences, like urine leakage or minor incontinence that many moms experience. It can also result in major pain and discomfort because your body isn’t properly supported. This can negatively impact your ability to do things you enjoy: running, hiking, yoga, weight lifting, and in extreme cases, even just walking.
The good news: the pelvic floor is just like any muscle. If you want to make it more functional, following a diligent training plan to strengthen and tone the muscle. Incorporating pelvic floor recovery into your postpartum recovery plan is essential to regaining your fitness and resuming your pre-baby activities that you love! Here’s a few tips to get you started:
Start early. You don’t have to wait until you’re postpartum, or even until you’re pregnant, to start training your pelvic floor. Basic, everyday exercises like kegels, hip tilts, and bridges are easy to incorporate into your workout routine. They are very low-impact, so even if you are dealing with morning sickness, exhaustion, or a complicated pregnancy, you can do pelvic floor work. Spend a few minutes on YouTube to learn how to do these exercises, and add them in once or twice a week at the end of your workout.
Don’t get caught up on calling it “exercising.”One of the great things about kegels and hip tilts is that you can do them ANYWHERE. You don’t need to be in the gym, wearing workout clothes to perform these exercises. Driving to work? Do kegels at every red light. Stuck on a phone call? Slide to the edge of your seat and do a few hip tilts. It’s too easy to incorporate these activities into your everyday life!
Enlist help. After giving birth to my daughter, I had no idea what to do for my pelvic floor. I decided to get professional help, and purchased Glow Body PT’s 12-Week Post-Pregnancy plan. Ashley, the certified personal training and pre/post-natal exercise specialist that wrote the program, is a fellow West Point graduate, a triathlete and Spartan Race champion, and a mother of two little boys. I connected with her background, and picked her program for that reason.
Purchasing and following a postpartum workout plan that included pelvic floor repair was possibly the best decision I made for my postpartum recovery. It included video tutorial on pelvic floor repair, and I progressed through 12 weeks of exercises that built on each other and left me with a very strong pelvic floor. I ran a half marathon at 11 weeks postpartum with no bathroom issues whatsoever. I know that this would not have been possible without following Glow Body PT’s plan. There are hundreds of similar plans available for a reasonable cost—you just have the find the one that’s right for you. You can also ask your OB for rehabilitative exercises, or for a referral to a physical therapist.
Don’t forget the supporting cast. The pelvic floor connects to many other major muscles groups in your legs, butt, core, and lower back. By keeping these muscles strong, you can provide extra support for your pelvic floor. If you just had a baby, consult your doctor before jumping into strength work, and especially abdominal work. Many women have abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, after having a baby. If your separation is more than 1-2 fingers, you’ll need to use specific rehabilitative exercises to heal that separation before resuming normal core work
Remember, it’s NEVER too late! Whether you are 2 days postpartum, 9 months postpartum, or 10 years postpartum, you need a strong pelvic floor! Don’t count yourself out just because you think it’s been too long. If you’re feeling limited by leakage or sort of pelvic discomfort, pelvic floor repair may help resolve the issue. You deserve to feel healthy and happy. Healing your pelvic floor can play a huge role and enable you to look and feel your best!