The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and tissues that are located at the bottom of the pelvic region and stretches from the pubic bone in the front of your body to the base of your spine at the back.
The pelvic floor muscles are sometimes described as a trampoline, as they stretch due to pressure 9or weight, and bounce back. During pregnancy though (and delivery) they are exposed to many months of pressure and added weight which can lead to weakened and overstretched pelvic floor muscles. If you have an assisted delivery with forceps for example, you are at higher risk of having some damage done to your pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor muscles’ main functions are:
- to control the emptying of the bladder and rectum (so peeing and bowel movements)
- to deal with extra pressure (when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy weights…
- to support the weight of your internal organs (bladder, intestines, uterus…).
As you can see, these muscles’ functions are very important and having strong pelvic floor muscles could potentially save you from some embarassing moments (or more serious conditions).
Training your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and especially after giving birth is one of many very important tasks for the future/new mom.
It is a good idea to start strenghtening them during pregnancy and then continue after delivery. It is advised to start training them again as soon as possible after delivery (or as soon as it feels comfortable). You should train your pelvic floor muscles even if you had a C-section because of the weight of the baby during the last few months of pregnancy which was putting a lot of pressure and will have weakened your pelvic floor.
To locate the pelvic floor muscles, you can squeeze your private parts as if you were trying to stop yourself from peeing. Don’t squeeze the glutes (your buttocks) or the abs, try to really isolate the pelvic floor muscles when you do your exercices.
You can work your pelvic floor muscles silently anywhere or anytime. The important thing here is to learn how to tense them but also how to relax them. You don’t want to overstrain these muscles so they become stiff, you want them to be strong but resilient, just like a trampoline.
So how do I do it?
Start on all fours in a table-top pose. Inhale and exhale, while you exhale, squeeze and lift the pelvic floor muscles towards your navel (around your private parts), hold for a few seconds (5 to 10s) and relax. Don’t hold you breath. You might feel a little tension in your lower belly but you shouldn’t feel anything above the navel. When you relax, feel the difference around the pelvic floor when you squeeze them and when you release to familiarize yourself and become more aware of them. Complete a few rounds, and do that 3 times a week, you will go a long way!
Once you have the awareness of the muscles and you can locate and squeeze them easily, you can do this exercice sitting in your car or standing in the bus.
Remember, it is as important to tense them as it is to learn how to completely relax them.
If you have any doubt regarding your pelvic floor muscles, how to train them or even how to locate them, please consult a specialist and make sure you get the help you need.
Kali – Prenatal/Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training – June 2015