The Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy and Beyond

While perhaps an embarrassing subject to address, control of the pelvic floor can help avoid a number of embarrassing situations during and after pregnancy. The pelvic floor is a line of muscles that extend from the pubic bone at the front of the body to the base of the spine in the back of the body. The pelvic floor supports the bladder, bowel and uterus making it of utmost importance during pregnancy.

As the uterus expands and the weight of the baby increases, more and more weight must be supported by the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy. Weakness in the pelvic floor can cause an expectant mother to lose control of her bladder in sneezing, coughing and other unexpected moments not only during pregnancy, but after. One third of women experience postnatal stress incontinence.

The good news is that this particular embarrassing pregnancy ailment can be avoided through exercise.  One of the many benefits of pre and postnatal yoga is strengthening the pelvic floor.  A strong pelvic floor is relevant during pregnancy, but also at each stage of a woman’s life.  Good pelvic floor muscles may help to: 

  • support the extra weight of pregnancy
  • reduce the pressure on the pelvis during pregnancy, preventing varicose veins, hemmorrhoids and back pain
  • shorten the second stage of labor as the baby is making its way into the world
  • Assist in postnatal healing of the feminine area
  • Make intimacy with your partner more pleasurable all throughout life
  • Avoid complications during menopause later in life

The best technique to strengthen the pelvic floor during yoga practice is to lock and release with each breath.  Make sure to exercise the pelvic floor at least fifteen times with each yoga practice, if not with each breath during practice.  It is just as important to be able to release the pelvic floor as it is to tighten as your muscles will need to relax once the baby’s head crowns in labor. With each lock of the pelvic floor, be sure to release fully before the next tightening.  The best technique to exercise the pelvic floor during yoga practice is with the following steps:

  1. Lock pelvic floor
  2. Deeply inhale
  3. Release pelvic floor
  4. Fully exhale
  5. Repeat

Pelvic floor exercise will be most effective with daily practice.  The joy of pelvic floor exercise is that it can be done anytime, anywhere. There is no excuse, ladies! 🙂

On a deeper level beyond the practical physical benefits of control in the pelvic floor, ancient yogi philosophers said that when you master the badhas, you master the yoga practice. Mula bandha, which means ‘root lock’ in Sanskrit is the principal, key and primary Bandha of the Yogic traditions. Mūla Bandha is endemic to all safe, grounded workings of body and mind disciplines. This Bandha in and of itself conditions the Muladhara Chakra, simultaneously keening, rooting and engaging the systemic plethora of processes that constitute body and mind union. Awareness in the Mula Bandha is essential to channeling energy in the Muladhara Chakra, which will lead to countless benefits of smooth energy flow along the Chakras.  

It is difficult to fully illustrate the many benefits in a short article, but I hope this has scratched the surface of an intriguing topic.  The area is so very private yet so very important to all of us!

-Somer Lynn (pre/postnatal course)

Resources:

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a536339/your-pelvic-floor-in-pregnancy#ixzz2ThkP2zrp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mula_Bandha

http://www.olgaswholelife.com/?p=504