Whether you’ve had a natural delivery or a caesarean, the pelvic floor would have been placed under additional pressure during pregnancy that can cause a degree of weakness. If you endured a tough labour, a forceps delivery, an episiotomy, or a tear, regaining pelvic floor function will be key to living a life full of pee free laughs and sneezes!
The pelvic floor muscle is made up of layers that stretches from the pubic bone to the coccyx supporting the bladder, uterus and bowel. It wraps like a figure of eight around each entrance (uretha, vagina and anus) allowing multiple muscles to provide different functions. There are slow twitch muscle fibres that provide strength and endurance as well as fast twitch fibres that fire more quickly when we sneeze or cough.
When we breathe our pelvic floor naturally pushes down on an inhale and lifts on an exhale. If you were to focus on your breathing and emphasise your out breath, you would feel a greater awareness of the pelvic floor lifting and contracting. Do this focussed breathing a few times a day as soon as you’ve had your baby. Be sure to allow your pelvic floor to relax as well as contract to ensure the muscles take full advantage of contracting and de-contracting.
If at your 6 week check you don’t feel like the pelvic floor is functioning as it should, ask for a referral to a Women’s health physiotherapist (NHS or private if you can afford it). They can give you a detailed assessment of your pelvic floor and provide you with some exercises.
Once you are ready for exercise ensure you are keeping impact to a minimum. If you could imagine your pelvic floor like a trampoline and a few springs were loose, you wouldn’t want anyone jumping on it. Start with exercise that allows you to engage your pelvic floor such as performing a lunge or a squat and add some resistance using bands to increase the pelvic floor and core activation. Use your breath to create a deeper core reaction by emphasising the exhale on effort. This is when you stand, push or pull. Once your pelvic floor starts to function optimally you can then up the intensity knowing you have a strong foundation to build on.