Have you checked on your pelvic floor lately? The pelvic floor is a group of hammock-like muscles that support the bladder, rectum, and reproductive organs. These muscles help contract and relax the bladder and rectum as needed. They also help to stabilize and support the spine and during pregnancy, they support the baby too.
Strengthening the pelvic floor is important during pregnancy and postpartum as your body is going through tremendous changes.
When the pelvic floor is too weak it can cause urinary incontinence, bowel leakage, discomfort, lack of sensation during intercourse, unusual pain during childbirth, premature flexion of the baby’s head, and organ prolapse (when pelvic organs begin to slip out of place, sometimes moving into or out of the vagina or anus).
Tension can also be a problem: An overly tense pelvic floor can cause difficulty emptying the bowel and bladder, weak urination, constipation, and painful intercourse.
Pay special attention to your body when learning to strengthen and relax your pelvic floor. Here are a few tips to keep your pelvic floor in good condition through pregnancy:
8 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Protect Your Pelvic Floor
8. Give birth safely
Avoid forceps and episiotomies, tearing naturally is safer. Epidurals numb everything, leaving you to push for a long time and adding extra pressure on the pelvic floor. Wait for the urge to push, don’t just push because you are fully dilated. Inhale, exhale and push as your body directs you.
7. Don’t smoke
Smoking puts you at risk for prolapse and incontinence. Nicotine is also a bladder irritant.
6. Exercise safely
Increased abdominal pressure can damage your pelvic floor. Crunches and sit-ups should be avoided, especially if you have a prolapse. High impact (running/jumping) can also damage the pelvic floor. Lifting heavy weights increases your risk of prolapse.
It is important to learn how to relax your pelvic floor. Meditation and guided relaxation can help release any built-up tension. You can also try yoga, warm baths, and acupuncture.
4. Avoid bladder triggers
Bladder triggers make incontinence worse. Caffeine, nicotine, acidic foods/drinks, sugar, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners can irritate the bladder. Decreased water intake concentrates urine which can also irritate the bladder so be sure to stay hydrated!
3. Don’t get constipated
A full rectum presses on the bladder and makes it harder to control urine. Prevent constipation by staying hydrated and eating a diet rich in fiber. Avoid straining during bowel movements and when urinating.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
This will keep excess pressure on the pelvic floor to a minimum.
1. Kegel exercises
Kegels can help reduce or eliminate prolapse, control your bladder, and improve your sex life (better control and blood circulation).
Just remember: Not all Kegels are created equal! Make sure you are doing them correctly. Try the following visualization to get a feel for a quality Kegel:
Close your eyes and pretend like you are trying not to urinate and pass gas at the same time. Gently pull the pelvic floor up into a contraction. Hold the squeeze then relax completely. Be sure to fully relax your muscles before trying to contract again.
Start out doing 10 contractions 3 times a day. Work your way up to holding each contraction for up to 5-10 seconds each.
**If you are having pelvic floor problems be sure to meet with a professional who is trained in pelvic health.
Do you have any questions regarding Kegels or pelvic health in general? Send me a message or drop a comment!