'What I didn't know and wish someone had told me about'... your pelvic floor.
This blog will be a frank discussion of the many ways your nether regions can be impacted by pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re squeamish, look away now.
Today, we’re going back to school to learn more about physiology and anatomy - namely, what your pelvic floor is, what it does, and how you can give it a helping hand. Most of us will have been warned by older women to do our kegel exercises at some point in our lives. Hands up if you followed that advice? No? Me neither. Well, pregnancy is the perfect time to get into a good routine of strengthening your pelvic floor, because those muscles are about to be tested in a big way.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know (and some stuff you probably didn’t) about your pelvic floor.
What Is The Pelvic Floor?
Your pelvic floor muscles run from your pubic bone to your coccyx and are essentially what holds all your bits and pieces up where they’re meant to be. Imagine it as a hammock that your bladder, uterus and bowel sit atop of. When your pelvic floor muscles are functioning properly, they help control your bladder and bowel, but when they’re not, well… you can connect the dots.
Childbirth And Your Pelvic Floor
During childbirth, your pelvic floor muscles are put under intense pressure and are stretched much more than usual. For many women, these muscles bounce back without issue, but for a large proportion (some estimates put it as high as 35%) there will be a slower recovery time. What could that mean for you? You’ll wet yourself. Laugh, cry, sneeze, you’ll be fighting a losing battle.
The medical term for this joyous side-effect of birth is stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Now, I’ll reiterate that this doesn’t happen to all women, nor is it something to be embarrassed about, but it’s a somewhat avoidable experience that we should all learn about.
How To Help Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
The best thing you can do for your pelvic floor is to start doing kegel exercises TODAY. Set an alarm on your phone and just do it. The NHS website has some great instructions to get you started.
The other thing to note is that the risk of pelvic floor damage is higher in assisted births, particularly if forceps are involved. While you might not have full control over this, staying upright during labour can encourage an easier delivery.
Finally, from personal experience, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst is a great way to approach things. No matter if you’ve stuck to your daily exercises, had the most amazing labour and not needed any intervention, you still might find yourself having to avoid trampolines for the foreseeable future. Empty your bladder regularly, invest in pants with built-in leak protection, and live your life to the fullest.
Note: If in the weeks or months following birth you’re experiencing pelvic floor problems, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor or midwife. If your quality of life is being impacted, there are specialist physical therapists available through the NHS, as well as potential surgeries for more severe pelvic floor issues. You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to just soldier on.
It can take at least three months for your pelvic floor muscles to strengthen noticeably.
Did you find this useful? Why not check out "Pregnancy: The Honesty Edition"?
Originally from New Zealand, Sarah is a mother to two boys and has lived in the UK for the past 10 years. She is a home-educator, freelance writer, Netflix-binger and has a penchant for strong black coffee.