Pelvic Floor + Pregnancy – with Physiotherapist, 2 (+ ½) x Mum, Yoga, Pilates+ Fitness expert Rosie Dumbrell (McCaughey). Rosie is the founder of Lenny Rose Active, a pregnancy + postpartum specific range of active + support-wear that is as intelligent as it is elegant + functional. Think support-meets-street, as well as timeless pieces that transform with you from pregnancy to motherhood. (check out lennyroseactive.com.au / @lennyroseactive)
Pelvic Floor in Pregnancy
We hear a lot about how we should strengthen our pelvic floor AFTER having a baby, but what about during pregnancy? Research suggests that pelvic floor strengthening during pregnancy can help with reduction in both incidence + symptoms of Stress Urinary Incontinence in both pregnancy and early motherhood. We often hear that strengthening the pelvic floor in pregnancy can make it “too strong’ or “too tight” for childbirth, but we are yet to have any research emerge that supports this. Learning correct pelvic floor activation + breath co-ordination in pregnancy is going to stand you in great stead for the early motherhood days, assist your recovery + reduce time getting back to “normal”, even if you do have some signs of stress incontinence post birth. Great! So how do you correctly strengthen the pelvic floor?
Where is my pelvic floor?
The key to Pelvic Floor + core strengthening lies in understanding your anatomy, and in timing and co-ordination with the breath, as well as avoiding excessive load, beyond which you can control your pelvic floor and core. The pelvic floor is a sling or hammock like collection of muscles + connective tissue which supports your organs, pelvis, and assists in controlling toileting, childbirth, and sexual function. To help you visualise where the pelvic floor sits, sit upright on a chair, and placing your hands on your hips, start to rock your pelvis all the way forward, to feel the pubic bone and the front, and then roll all the way back onto your tailbone at the back, or coccyx. Then sit back upright again, and shift your weight side to side, to feel your 2 sitting bones. The pelvic floor runs from front to back, and side to side, between these bony points.
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor?
Start on an inhale breath, releasing the pelvic floor, and on an exhale draw up the muscles from your coccyx to pubis, and then add an additional lift. Think zipping up from front to back, and then up internally towards your spine. You can think of it like the muscles you would use to prevent passing wind, then urine, and then adding an additional lift. Release these muscles on an inhale breath and repeat. Start with 3 sets of 5-8 reps per day.
Once you have easily mastered this, you can build up to holding the PF contraction over several breaths (i.e. not releasing on the inhale, but holding for 2,3,4,8 breaths, and then releasing. s
It’s important to note, that overactive pelvic floor is just as common as underactive, or weak – and so we also need to work on “down training” the pelvic floor, and especially in child birth – we want a strong, but not overactive, pelvic floor. To work on Down-training, exhale to engage pelvic floor, and then release on the inhale, and then continue to release on subsequent 3-4 breaths without the contraction on exhale. Each inhale try to soften and release this area more. Try one exhale/ PF(pelvic floor) lift to 5-8 inhale/ release breaths.
Check out this instructional video with Physio + Mama Rosie – here
But.. we don’t lye down often in the day as a mother, and so we want to train our pelvic floor for the it needs to do- to support us through the functional tasks of motherhood.
Once you have mastered the PF activation, or “kegel” it’s time to think functionality, and using daily activities as opportunity to incorporate this work. When going from sit to stand for example, using an exhale breath and pelvic floor lift, when squatting, when lifting anything, exhaling on exertion (not ever holding your breath though!), and carrying this breath pattern through into motherhood. You can check out more core and pelvic floor videos with Rosie at Lenny Rose, on You Tube or @lennyroseactive on Instagram. Enjoy!