The other day I made a post on my IG stories telling people to ask me questions, so I could answer them with the IG story feature. One question really stuck to me, and this was it:
‘’Nathalia could you please record some videos of yourself exercising your pelvic floor muscles?’’
If you know where your pelvic floor muscles are, you would see how awkward this video would actually be!
But, that is the thing… A LOT of women don’t know where the pelvic floor muscles are, what they do, and how they can change during and after pregnancy.
So, today we are gonna talk everything pelvic floor.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
First, we’ve got to talk about what these muscles are. The pelvic floor muscles are a layer of muscles that support your pelvic floor organs, which for women are the bladder, uterus, and bowel. Important stuff, ladies!
These muscles stretch from the tail bone to the pelvic bone and from one sitting bone to the other. They are normally firm and thick – imagine a taut hammock or trampoline – stretched across the bottom of your pelvis. That’s how you want them to be…and, even if they’re not there right now, you CAN get them there!
What Do Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Do?
Your pelvic floor muscles have many important functions, making it even more important that you fully understand them! These muscles provide support to the abdominal and pelvic organs that lie on top of them, give you control over your bladder and bowel and play an important part in sexual activity. Serious stuff, right?
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles help to support the baby and to assist with the birthing process. And perhaps its most often overlooked function, the pelvic floor muscles work together with your abdominal and back muscles to stabilize the spine.
Obviously, these muscles play a big part in your everyday health and quality of life, so keeping them healthy and strong matters!
How Does Pregnancy and Giving Birth Affect Them?
For the moms out there, this is usually the first question you have when we start talking about the pelvic floor. During pregnancy, your pelvic muscles are stretched due to the additional weight and shifts in your body. Plus, the release of hormones during pregnancy causes pelvic joints and ligaments to loosen, further stretching these muscles.
After childbirth, stretched and weakened pelvic muscles can lead to stress incontinence, where you leak urine when you cough, strain, sneeze or laugh. This is nothing to be embarrassed about, this is something very common that a lot of women experience.
The problem is…so many women come to think they have to live with this, or that it’s an unusual side effect of pregnancy or giving birth. But I’m here to tell you it does NOT have to be something you HAVE to live with!
You can strengthen these muscles and prevent (or at least minimize) stress incontinence with regular exercises like Kegels, squats and bridges. Also, there are adjustments you can (and should) make to your training, exercise routine and everyday life. These are changes that can make a huge difference on your performance and, more importantly, on your self-esteem and confidence.
It is important to find a coach who knows how to make the correct adjustments to your exercise routine rather than just telling you that these issues are “normal’’. You need to be heard and to feel comfortable doing something you love: exercising. So hear me now: this is not normal (common? Definitely!) and it’s not something you have to just live with.
We take this VERY seriously in the Mother Strong League!
What are Signs That You Might Have Some Issues with Your Pelvic Floor?
Now that you know where these muscles are and what they do, it’s important to be able to identify issues or problems with them. Don’t shy away from these issues, especially the new moms out there!
Many of you might’ve experienced the stress incontinence that we talked about above, which is a sign that your pelvic muscles might have weakened. Other things to look out for are constipation, an inability to make it to the toilet in time, reduced vaginal sensation, a feeling of heaviness in the vaginal area, muscle spasms in the pelvis or a bulge or sensation of something inside the vagina. I know, yikes!
Any of these things could mean that your pelvic muscles are weakened or damaged. Don’t let this stress you out…instead, let it empower you to do something about it! (If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please make sure you get checked by a Women’s Health Physical Therapist)
Remember…none of these things are “normal”. No matter how many of your mom friends might share memes about or joke about peeing themselves laughing or whatever. You’re not alone, BUT, just because it happens to many women does not mean you can’t do anything about it. (Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal.)
And, ALL of us can benefit from doing regular pelvic exercises, so just make them a part of your routine. Many moms have kid number one or two with no issues, then suddenly things take a turn with subsequent kids. NOW is the time to strengthen before this problem becomes more serious and becomes more difficult to resolve.
Kegels, bridges and squats are an easy way to keep these muscles strong and to get you feeling strong.
If you’re worried that you might have issues with your pelvic floor, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about it. As always, you’ve got to be an advocate for yourself because there are lots of things that you can do to keep these muscles strong and healthy!