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So, You’ve Just Had A Baby: Five Tips for a Healthier Pelvic Floor, Part 1

Congratulations on your new baby! It’s amazing how powerful our bodies are to be able to grow this little human inside of us, get them out, and then somehow still continue to function like a regular human being.

Sometimes though, our bodies just need a little more guidance with recovering. Did you know that in France, all women receive free pelvic floor physiotherapy? They believe in providing pelvic health physiotherapy before and after your babies birth, which helps you prepare for birth and recover more efficiently in the postpartum period.

Follow us over the next few weeks as we share five tips for a healthier pelvic floor.

Tip #1: Manage Constipation

Constantly straining to have a bowel movement puts a lot of downward pressure on the pelvic floor. The pressure you’re putting on the vaginal wall can weaken the vaginal wall putting you at a higher risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse and it can affect the pelvic floor muscles making it more difficult to empty your bowels.

What are some things you can do to manage constipation?

1. Increase fiber intake: Do you get the recommended 25 – 40 grams of fiber/day? If you fall below this, try SLOWLY increasing your fiber intake (increasing slowly will help to minimize gas or bloating). More Information .

2. Drink enough fluids (preferably water): Being dehydrated may cause dry feces. Don’t worry too much about 6-8 cups of water/day, just make sure you’re drinking enough fluids so that your urine is a light yellow colour (rather than dark and strong-smelling, which indicates that it is more concentrated).

3. Poop in a bowel-friendly position: Use a stool to keep your knees above hip level while pooping. This mimics the position we were designed to be in when having a bowel movement: a squat. Check out this 3 minute video for more details:

Tip #2: Pelvic floor relaxation and opening exercises (“reverse kegels”)

“Reverse kegels” are the opposite of “kegels”. When doing “kegels”, you are contracting your pelvic floor muscles. When doing “reverse kegels” you are relaxing and opening up your pelvic floor muscles further. Think of strengthening vs. stretching.

Pelvic floor opening exercises can be really great if you have pelvic pain, constipation, or any sense of tightness in your pelvic floor. Pain and tightness are both automatic protective responses. In fact, your pelvic floor muscles automatically tense up when you are stressed or in a threatening situation.

In the beginning, this pain and tightness is helpful to allow the tissues to heal after giving birth. When this pain sensitivity and tightness persists, even after the tissues have healed (e.g. 3 months postpartum), that’s often a sign that your protective alarm system has become overprotective. Think of a smoke detector that goes off when you’re just making toast. Allowing your pelvic floor to relax can be very helpful as part of retraining your alarm system.

Here are 3 exercises to help open the pelvic floor:

1. Cat-Cow

- Start on hands and knees, with hands shoulder-width and knees hip-width apart

- Drop belly button down towards the floor as you breathe in (cow)

- Arch back up towards the ceiling as you breathe out (cat)

- Keep elbows straight throughout

- Notice how your tailbone and pubic bone move away from each other slightly as you breathe in and drop your belly button down towards the floor, opening up your pelvic floor

2. Child’s Pose

- Drop hips back towards heels. Place arms straight in front of you or rest your forehead on your forearms.

- Hold this position for 3-5 breaths, making each breath longer, calmer, softer.

- Notice your pelvic floor ballooning open as you breathe in

- Place a pillow between groin and heels for extra sensory feedback

3. Deep Squat

- Keep heels on the floor, or put a wedge under heels if you need to

- Feet should be comfortable width apart for you so that you can get to a deep squat position

- Hold onto something sturdy in front of you (e.g. rail, kitchen sink) if needed

- Hold this position for 3-5 breaths, making each breath longer, calmer, softer.

- Notice your pelvic floor ballooning open as you breathe in

This above information is provided as general information and not specific medical advice for you. If you have specific concerns about your pelvic health and would like more guidance, contact your pelvic health physiotherapist for an assessment today.

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