Everything You Need to Know About Your Pelvic Floor After Childbirth
28 November 2017 by - Dr Demetri C Panayi
While many people refer to childbirth as a beautiful thing, the aftermath of giving birth is not always so pleasant, as a woman’s body will go through several notable changes. Many will experience childbirth injury and other physical problems as a result of giving birth, including the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles.
Our pelvic floor is the group of muscles, tissues and ligaments which supports and keeps in place the pelvic organs, including the uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder. Without our pelvic floor muscles doing their job properly, we wouldn’t be able to control our urination.
What happens to the pelvic floor during and after birth?
It is completely normal that during pregnancy and birth, the pelvic floor muscles become stretched and weakened. This is simply the body’s way of adapting and allowing for the baby to pass out of the vagina. As a result, a woman may experience several problems due to a weakened or damaged pelvic floor, including stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse.
Leaking wee when coughing, sneezing or laughing may cause embarrassment but it is very common amongst new mums. This is known as stress incontinence and can be easily remedied over time through daily pelvic floor exercises (Kegels), which allow you to regain control of the bladder and bowel. A well-toned pelvic floor can also increase sensitivity and pleasure during sex, allowing for better orgasms.
Pelvic organ prolapse
It is also fairly common to experience pelvic prolapse following a particularly traumatic birth or after several pregnancies, where the pelvic floor is severely weakened. Prolapse occurs when the pelvic organs are not being properly supported and therefore push down or descend into the vagina, causing a heavy, dragging sensation.
Most women will not require treatment for prolapse and can resolve the problem themselves through regular pelvic floor exercises, avoiding heavy lifting for a while and making lifestyle changes such as weight loss and improved diet.
However, for some women, further action may be necessary where symptoms do not improve easily. In such people, physiotherapy or vaginal pessaries may be recommended, or even vaginal repair or reconstructive surgery in more severe cases.
When can I re-start my pelvic floor exercises after birth?
You can begin strengthening your pelvic floor again straight after giving birth, as soon as you feel comfortable doing so – it’s all perfectly safe and will make a huge difference to how quickly your pelvic floor muscles can recover after having your baby.
It’s never too late to start and can really help in decreasing the severity of incontinence, rebuilding the muscles and reducing any swelling in the area. Moreover, as we age, our pelvic floor naturally weakens, so regular Kegel exercises are important in helping to keep these as strong as possible for as long as possible!
How do I carry out my pelvic floor exercises?
You can carry out your Kegel exercises in any place and at any time, without anybody even realising. Simply squeeze your muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urination mid-pee. Try not to hold your breath or tighten the muscles in your stomach, thighs or butt at the same time. If you do these exercises 10-15 times in a row every day, you will begin to notice a difference and can help to prevent pelvic floor problems from occurring in the future.