Postnatal A-Z: I for Involuntary leakage (aka pelvic floor)
Most mums know what it feels like to have an unintended leak. Whether you had a vaginal or C-section delivery, the pelvic floor muscles would have taken a beating. If an instrument such as forceps or ventouse was used during birth, the muscles would have been stretched and weakened even further.
My firstborn's shoulder got stuck during birth so the midwife had to really yank her out. But it didn't occur to me until I was out for a horse ride 4 months later that my pelvic floor had far from healed! Some mums also believe their pelvic floor to be fine until they cough or suddenly jump over a puddle!
The pelvic floor muscles run like a hammock from your front to your back passage and support the pelvic organs. This means that they’re used constantly. 70% of the muscles are slow-twitch and the other 30% are fast-twitch. In the mums that I see, it's often the latter that need some attention.
Hopefully you did your pelvic floor exercises throughout pregnancy but it’s never too late to start. In my previous postnatal A-Z post about breathing I talked about the importance of relaxing the pelvic floor on an inhale and gently contracting it (using a 20-30% effort) on an exhale. Try to relax your glutes as well.
Work up to 10 slow ones (holding for 10 seconds) and 10 quick ones three times a day. If you do them while brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil they eventually become second nature. There are many great analogies out there to help you; one that I like is: 'pull a tissue out of a tissue box' as this implies bringing the four corners of your pelvis together and gently lifting up.
If you have a tight pelvic floor, focus on the release rather than the contraction. A women's health physio can do an internal examination and help you further.
How you breathe, how you activate your TVA (your inner corset), any diastasis (abdominal separation) and the state of your pelvic floor are all connected so a holistic approach should always be taken.
Tune back in on Monday when I continue with J for Juggling the demands of motherhood. Happy Friday! 😀
Photo credit: Continence Foundation of Australia