Exercise + Pregnancy Top Tip #6
PELVIC FLOOR - a term you will become very familiar with once you fall pregnant and give birth, below is the importance of PF exercises during pregnancy and after baby.
First of all, here are some quick stats you might be interested in. ◾ 1 in 3 women experience pelvic floor dysfunction ◾ Half of women who have had a baby will experience prolapse ◾ Statistically 85% of women will become mothers
It can be really overwhelming when learning about the pelvic floor, so let’s keep it simple.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is like a sling or hammock from the pubic bone to the tail bone and is responsible for supporting the organs that sit within the pelvis: the bladder, uterus and rectum. The pelvic floor muscles also help maintain bladder and bowel control and play an important role in sexual sensation and function.
🤷🏼♀️How does the the Pelvic Floor function?
When the PF contracts, the muscles will lift the internal organs of the pelvis and the tighten around the opening on the virginia, anus and urethra, then when you relax these muscles it allows passage for urine and faeces. The pelvic floor muscles in women also provide support for the baby during pregnancy and need to be relaxed during the birthing process.
The Pelvic Floor during pregnancy
It’s important to look after your PF during pregnancy as it can have lasting effects on your PF muscles. When you're pregnant the hormone ‘relaxin' is released throughout your body. This softens the tissues in your body, allowing it to expand as your baby grows. It also allows your pelvic floor to stretch during birth. As your baby grows this is an increased weight on your PF muscles, stretching muscles and ligaments. Research shows that doing PF exercises during pregnancy can assist in a quicker PF recovery after birth and reduce the risk of prolapse during or after pregnancy.
There are some women who may have a higher chance of PF complications during pregnancy and birth due to ◾ multiple births ◾ instrumental births (using forceps or ventouse) ◾ long second stage of labour (over 1 hour) ◾ severe perineal tearing ◾ large babies (over 4Kg)
At FlickPT we recommend seeing a Women’s Health Physio around the 20 week mark during your pregnancy to check you're doing your PF exercises correctly (not bearing down), ensure you don’t have a hypertonic PF (overactive PF) being able to relax your PF and address any incontinence or discomfort you may be starting to feel as your belly grows.
A lot of women assume that if they give birth via a caesarean they may not experience any PF dysfunction, but in fact any load on your PF can cause dysfunction if not trained correctly
Heavy loads include: ◾Being pregnant ◾Being overweight ◾Straining to use your bowels ◾Carrying/lifting heavy weights ◾Coughing for a long period (eg asthma)
Pelvic Floor exercises during pregnancy:
✅Safe and friendly: ▪️Mini band glute exercises ▪️Seated exercises (bicep curls, shoulder press etc) ▪️Narrow squats ▪️Small step-ups ▪️Resistance bands (rows, curls, squats) ▪️Good mornings ▪️Gentle balancing exercises
❌Avoid: ▪️Running (after 20 weeks) ▪️High Impact exercises (eg jumping jacks, jump squats, box jumps, skipping etc) ▪️Full pushups ▪️Abdominal exercises (e.g. sit ups, full planks, crunches, double leg lifts, med ball rotations) ▪️any exercise where there is direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor
Pelvic Floor after baby
After baby, we recommend seeing a women's health physio 6-8 weeks post birth (this does not mean just your 6 week check up with you GP - very different) At FlickPT we think it’s best to wait a minimum of 6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 8-12 weeks after a cesarean to exercise IF you have been the green light from your GP AND WHP!✅✅✅
It’s about rebuilding from the inside out not "getting your body back”
Just because you “feel” okay doesn't mean you can go back to doing what you were doing before falling pregnant. The PF is an internal muscle, we as personal trainers cannot see or feel how your PF is functioning (or not functioning)
Common signs and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction: ▪️Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze ▪️Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowel ▪️Accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel ▪️Accidentally passing wind ▪️Prolapse to : Vaginal Prolapse/Uterine Prolapse/Bladder Prolapse/Bowel Prolapse. ▪️Feelings of as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping
In short, it’s important to ensure you are doing your PF exercises currently during pregnancy (along with safe exercises) and after baby to visit your local women's health physio before returning to exercise.
***it's recommended you seek the advice of your health or medical professional before commencing any NEW physical activity during your pregnancy. We also recommend if training in group a class or with a PT they are a fully qualified and registered pre + post natal exercise professional.
Stay tuned for more pregnancy and exercise tips and if you have questions, feel free to contact me.