I know some of you are probably thinking “ya right, there’s no hope for my pelvic floor.” Well, I’m here to tell you that there is and there are things you can do during your pregnancy to help your pelvic floor and even set you up for better success after delivery. The pelvic floor is so important in giving you stability and with all of the changes that occur during pregnancy, the pelvic floor undergoes a lot of stress. Here are my top 4 tips on how you can keep your pelvic floor happy! 🙂
Exercise it. Your pelvic floor is working so hard because your body has gained roughly 30 pounds of weight very quickly over the course of your pregnancy. And all of that weight rests on the pelvic floor. So you can imagine why it seems to be common during (and after) pregnancy to experience incontinence. If you had to hold 30 pounds all day long you would probably be tired too. To help with this, it’s important to do specific pelvic floor exercises, ie: kegels. Now, I’m going to put a disclaimer in here and tell you that this is not for everyone because sometimes women have an overactive pelvic floor and kegels will make this worse. And I’m also going to tell you that the advice you read on the internet that tells you to do like 50 kegels is absolutely ridiculous since most women struggle to do 10. It’s best to work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to do what is right for you but if you can’t find one close to you, it’s important to only do an appropriate amount of kegels. Try doing several in a row and count how many you can do before you feel as if you are not getting a full contraction. This might only be 4-5 reps (or less). But this will be your starting point for reps during the day. Squats are also a great exercise for the pelvic floor.
Take it easy with all the jumping. Since your pelvic floor is working really hard to give you support, jumping makes it work even harder! Simply put, high intensity exercises such as running and jumping puts a lot more stress on the pelvic floor and can make it fatigue quicker. It can also create the issue where the pelvic floor is overactive, ie = spasm, because the muscles are really tense trying to work really hard. This will make your delivery much more difficult and long since the muscles have difficulty relaxing. If you enjoy doing these types of exercises, work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to make sure your pelvic floor is functioning properly so you can have a quicker and easier delivery.
Stay hydrated. Consuming an adequate amount of water is important to stay hydrated and minimize the risk for incontinence. It may seem counter-intuitive to drink more water to stop leaking urine but the rationale behind this is because when you are dehydrated, your urine becomes very concentrated. This irritates the bladder and makes incontinence more likely because the bladder will be trying to expel the irritating contents within it. Hydrated muscle tissue also allows it to work properly so if you’re well hydrated, your pelvic floor muscles will be able to get everything it needs to function.
Practice good breathing techniques. Have you heard of diaphragmatic breathing? You’ve most likely read something about it at some point or another. Well, it’s important for SOOO many reasons. When you breathe correctly, meaning the belly expands out rather than the chest and shoulders rising upward, this helps the pelvic floor to relax properly. If you are breathing with your upper chest more, like so many of us do, it causes the pelvic floor muscles to tense up more and become overactive (like we talked about above). The diaphragm also completes the cylinder along with the pelvic floor, ab muscles and back muscles. All four need to be strong and work properly in order to give you the support you need. When one (or more) is not, there are issues such as pain, incontinence, or instability. And as you move along in your pregnancy, there will be less room for your diaphragm to expand so practicing these breathing techniques will help keep everything healthy.
If you ever have questions about anything we talked (or didn’t talk about), please feel free to reach out to me at Brenda@Revitalize-PT.com and I would be more than happy to talk with you. Did you also know that we offer the Revitalize Bump Package and Revitalize Body After Baby Package that addresses some of the things we talked about today? Check them out on our website and please pass it along to any friends that you have that are pregnant.