Your Pelvic Floor, during Pregnancy & Postpartum
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue that extends from the pubic bone to the tailbone. These muscles support the organs of the pelvis, including the bladder, rectum, and uterus. For men, the pelvic floor supports the urethra (urine tube) and the anus (back passage). A woman's pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, bowel and uterus (womb).* The pelvic floor also helps to control the flow of urine and faeces. Did you know it also plays a role in sex too, as the muscles of the pelvic floor contract during an orgasm.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is more common in women can lead to a number of problems, including incontinence, prolapse, and sexual dysfunction. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available for pelvic floor dysfunction, including physical therapy and in more serious cases, surgery.
Pelvic Floor during Pregnancy
As the pelvic floor muscles support the womb, they have a very important job during pregnancy and work harder than normal during pregnancy, as they are required to support the weight of the growing baby. They are also softened by the effects of pregnancy hormones. Whether your give birth vaginally or by caesarean, you're pelvic floor muscles will be impacted.*
During a vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles undergo considerable stretching and strain. During a caesarean, surgery through multiple muscle layers can lead to a slower recovery generally and a weakened abdominal wall.
Pregnant women can still exercise their pelvic floor, but it is always best to seek professional medical advice first, to ensure you perform them correctly. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can create an individual program of safe pelvic floor exercises as the pregnancy progresses.
Pelvic Floor Postpartum
So you've had your baby, can you start doing your pelvic floor exercises? Probably not, it is best not to try anything until you have had your 6 week check.
Things change again after giving birth, and it can be a good idea to talk to a Physiotherapist about what you should be doing to help your pelvic floor recover and regain strength.
Pelvic floor exercises done post birth are very different from those done before the birth. The state of the perineum and the length of the second stage of Labor are just two of many factors a physiotherapist considers when prescribing an individual pelvic floor exercise program after a woman has given birth.
In the first six weeks the pelvic floor focus is on recovery. Research indicates the benefit of strengthening from 6 weeks, especially if there has been any damage to your perineum.
Remember to always speak to healthcare professional for any advice, or if you have any concerns about your health or physical ability. Don't jump into any exercises postpartum without speaking to a healthcare professional.