The Ultimate Guide to Your Pelvic Floor After Babies
Your pelvic floor after babies can feel foreign and confusing. Because of its location, we rarely pay attention to this part of the body until we have problems, and then, it can be hard to know where to begin. But really, it is not that different than any other muscle group. It helps us to move and stabilize by contracting and relaxing. And it goes through a lot of changes in becoming a mother. These are important to recognize.
The purpose of this guide is to shed some light on a topic that can be hard for most of us to discuss. You can find out how the muscles work and learn what to look for when issues arise. Hopefully, it helps you feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of what exactly goes on down there.
Of course, feel free to read it through from beginning to end or skip around to find what you're looking for.
- What is the pelvic floor?
- How does the pelvic floor change with motherhood?
- Understanding pelvic organ prolapse
- How does the pelvic floor impact diastasis recti? And vice versa.
- Incontinence after babies
- Stress incontinence versus urge incontinence
- Should I be doing Kegels?
- Answers for your postpartum hemorrhoids
- Is this pain related to your pelvic floor?
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that surrounds and supports all of the openings involved in pee, poop, or sex. It exists in women, but also in men and in children of both genders.
It's more commonly known for its roles in childbirth and in urinary and fecal continence (in other words, stopping pee and poop). But actually, the pelvic floor muscles also improve sexual function.
Further, these same muscles provide an upward lift that is crucial for stability in the trunk and hip. We need this stability for optimal performance in almost all activities, but especially those of a more athletic nature.
You can read more about how the pelvic floor works here.
How does the pelvic floor change with motherhood?
You have probably heard that pregnancy and childbirth impact the pelvic floor. But did you know that this is true regardless of delivery method? In fact, pregnancy, itself, can be enough to bring on a lot of change.
Some of the factors that affect the pelvic floor during pregnancy are hormones as well as alterations in posture and in internal pressure. Then, there is the effect of vaginal deliveries versus c-sections.
And lastly, all of this may impact function of the pelvic floor after babies. So, why do some mothers recover quickly without issues, but others require a lot more time and effort?
Understanding pelvic organ prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs in approximately 30% of women, according to research. This term refers to the descent of internal organs through the vagina.
In some women, it is a trauma that occurs during childbirth. While for others, it happens because of the way they regulate pressure within their abdomens. Sometimes, a combination of these factors is responsible.
Although this can be a devastating diagnosis for many women, there is a lot to consider when it comes to treatment and outcomes. Depending on the grade (or degree of descent), different approaches may be more or less appropriate.
How does the pelvic floor impact diastasis recti? And vice versa.
Diastasis recti refers to the separation of the abdominal muscles that occurs in a mother during pregnancy. The separation, itself, is a natural occurrence. However, a problem can arise--during pregnancy or postpartum--when the woman has difficulty managing internal pressure.
This relates to the pelvic floor because of the vital role the pelvic floor plays in pressure regulation. The pelvic floor needs to contract and relax, depending on a woman's activities. It also needs to coordinate with the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles to create enough stability to safely meet demands.
When the pelvic floor is either weak OR over-recruited, it can contribute to excessive pressure outward into the abdomen. This pressure may create a greater separation of the abs during pregnancy or a decreased ability to heal postpartum.
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Incontinence after babies
Incontinence is the unintended leakage of urine, and stress incontinence is the form most common in postpartum women. We use the word, stress, to refer to the mechanical force behind the leakage.
Stress incontinence occurs with specific activities, like sneezing, coughing, laughing, or some form of exercise. The reason for this is that all of these activities involve an increase in pressure within the abdomen. When this increased pressure puts too much force down on the pelvic floor, leaking occurs.
Although this frustrating scenario is all too common for the pelvic floor after babies, there is A LOT that can be done without surgical intervention.
Stress incontinence versus urge incontinence
Although stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence in mothers, there is another type that is definitely worth mentioning. Different types of incontinence require different treatment methods, so distinguishing between the two is significant.
Stress incontinence occurs with some physical activity. On the other hand, urge incontinence occurs when you feel the need to empty your bladder but can't get to the toilet in time. Treating stress incontinence usually involves learning to manage internal pressure. But for urge incontinence, there are habits you can change as well as techniques you might want to try.
An important first step is to understand the difference and to know which kind applies to you. This article can get you started learning to differentiate symptoms. It will also point you in the right direction for creating change in your own life.
Should I be doing Kegels?
As mothers, we've generally all heard the term, Kegels. But when it comes to clarity, we're probably not on the same page.
For starters, a Kegel refers to the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. This is an exercise that makes sense for the pelvic floor after babies because there are so many changes that it endures. Returning normal strength and function only stands to reason.
Why then, do Kegel exercises work like a miracle cure for some women, while for others, it makes their symptoms worse? Well, the short answer is that we are all different. It's not that Kegels don't work, but that there can be A LOT more to the story for many women.
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Answers for your postpartum hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are an all too common frustration for pregnant and postpartum women. As with many things, there generally isn't one reason they occur. Causes can include constipation, diets low in fiber, increased pressure or weight due to pregnancy, hormonal changes, straining during childbirth, or issues with the pelvic floor.
Of course, the treatment depends on the cause, and some of these are self-resolving. On the other hand, you might need to learn how to avoid straining. This is something that can occur with pooping, childbirth, or exercise.
Or you may need to improve your understanding of your pelvic floor after babies. You may need to address the function of these muscles or of others that influence it.
Is this pain related to your pelvic floor?
A strong pelvic floor is like a house with a strong foundation. The pelvic floor works together with the diaphragm and abs to create a stable, internal core. This core provides a predictable, reliable base for ALL of your daily activities, whether your workout is chasing a toddler or performing Olympic lifts.
When this foundation is not strong or not reliable, your body MUST compensate somewhere else. This means that a different part of the body has to take up the slack for your under-performing core. Applied over time, this can result in pain in your back, hip, knee, foot, shoulder, elbow, neck, or jaw.
This is not to say that all pain stems from the pelvic floor. But if you have a pain with no known cause that has not responded well to more typical treatment, it might be time to take a look at your pelvic floor.