During pregnancy, it's no secret a woman's body changes in SO many ways; some are glamorous, like super-model hair growth, glowing skin, and thick, strong fingernails, to name a few. And some changes, are less than glamorous, like heartburn, stretch marks, weight-changes, and fluctuating hormones creating up and down mood swings.
While we grow and carry sweet babe(s), experiencing all of those changes (and more), most women can't help but fear childbirth in one way or another, and what it will do to our bodies, specifically, our pelvic floor.
"Just like it is important to strengthen the major muscles in our bodies, your pelvic floor is a set of muscles that need the same attention," says FIT4MOM Director of Pre/Postnatal Fitness, Farel Hruska.
Many moms tend to think that this attention is best made after baby is born; however, it's actually best to start that strengthening mentality during pregnancy and then, for the rest of your life!
We know that if we don’t use our muscles, we lose them. The most common symptom of a weakened pelvic floor after childbirth is "leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running" (Better Health, 2018), but here is a full list of symptoms and also a few other causes of a weakened pelvic floor besides pregnancy via Better Health Channel:
Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor include
- Leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running
- Failing to reach the toilet in time
- Uncontrollably breaking wind from either the anus or vagina when bending over or lifting
- Reduced sensation in the vagina
- Tampons that dislodge or fall out
- A distinct bulge at the vaginal opening
- A sensation of heaviness in the vagina
Causes of a weak pelvic floor
- Supporting the weight of the uterus during pregnancy
- Vaginal childbirth, which may overstretch the muscles
- The pressure of obesity
- Chronic constipation and associated straining to pass stool
- Constant coughing
- Some forms of surgery that require cutting the muscles (including prostate cancer treatment in males)
- Lower levels of oestrogen after menopause.
So what’s the best way to train these muscles to work for you? "Kegels", says Farel.
Hruska explains kegels and more in this pelvic floor Q&A -
Q: What does a kegel feel like?
A: Imagine stopping the flow of urine. That’s it!
Q: How do I know if I am doing them correctly?
A: Just like in a bicep curl, where you bend at the elbow and then extend back to starting position, you tighten your pelvic floor and then release that contraction. Both the contraction and the relaxation are critical in the strengthening process.
Q: How often should I kegel?
A: Whenever you think about it. Maybe create a game, like kegel at a red light when you are hitting Target (again!). Or kegel during the commercials of the show you are currently binge-watching!
Q: Thinking ahead here...what else can I do to strengthen my core postpartum, since that's also important to me?
A: You can try these 5 moves
"A strong pelvic floor during pregnancy will be the key to a lifetime of pelvic floor health!"