Supporting your Pelvic Floor Through Pregnancy

“Pelvic Floor” is a phrase that comes up a lot during pregnancy.  Whether it’s in reference to the kegels (the exercises we are all told to do but rarely get around to doing), the fact that you just peed your pants while laughing at a video on YouTube, or the strange discomforts that arise as your baby gets bigger, your pelvic floor is a key player in supporting your pregnant body.

I’m someone who did kegels somewhat regularly before I was pregnant, so when I read that doing kegels brings blood and oxygen to the PF and makes it more elastic (as in stretches easier AND returns back to original size and shape easier), continuing to do them was a no-brainer.  I didn’t give it much thought beyond that; it wasn’t until after I had my son (via unplanned c-section) that the importance of a strong pelvic floor really sunk in.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that since I didn’t have a vaginal birth, kegels weren’t all that important to do after my baby arrived. After all, there was nothing to shrink back into place, and I knew those muscles weren’t compromised since I didn’t even get to push… Wrong!  About 6 kegel-free months later, I decided I wanted to start my practice up again… and I couldn’t.  I was in total shock.  I could not feel myself squeeze my PF muscles at all.  How was this possible?!  I had to do some more research.

Your pelvic floor sits like a net across your pelvis – think of it like a hammock.  The teeny tiny 9-week old fetus swimming around in the placenta doesn’t put much of a dent in the net, but by the time you are 30, 35, 40 weeks pregnant, your PF is heavily weighed down by the weight of your baby and the fluid surrounding her.  So that means that no matter what kind of birth your have, your pelvic floor is compromised simply by being pregnant.  And it means that doing pelvic floor exercises are important to do while pregnant and after you have your baby.

Why are our pelvic floors so taxed? I wondered.  It’s the price we pay for walking upright: picture a four-legged mammal.  The weight of their baby/babies is supported by their abdominal muscles, and their pelvic floors are virtually unaffected until they deliver.  As we evolved and shifted our bodies to upright, our abs moved from below us to in front of us, and our pelvic floors moved from behind us to under us, taking on the responsibly of bearing the baby’s weight.  It’s no wonder pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence and even prolapse is so common, especially in moms of multiple children.

So how do we protect out pelvic floors?  Here are 5 simple, effective exercises that you can do to tone, strengthen and prepare your pelvic floor for birth and recovery.

  1. Pelvic Scoops – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, your shoulders rolled back, your hands on your hips, your head nice and tall and your chin slightly tucked under.  Inhale through your nose as you exhale, scoop your hips down and forward in a tilting motion.  Inhale as you release back to neutral.  Do 10 -20 Pelvic Scoops.
  2. Pelvic Scoops w/ One Heel Lifted – Starting in the same position as above, lift one heel off the ground, keeping your toes on the ground and your knee facing forward (the tendency is for it to turn out).  Inhale and as you exhale, do the same scooping motion as above, inhale as you return back to neutral.  Do 8-10 pelvic Scoops w/ One Heel Raised and then switch heels and do 8-10 more.
  3. Pelvic Rocks in a Squat Position – Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out slightly.  Place your hands at the tops of your thighs and begin to slowly slide then down your thighs as you bend down and lean forward into a squat position.  Pause at the bottom of the motion with your hands resting on your thighs, and begin to rock back and forth, tilting your pelvic under and releasing it back out.  Allow yourself to get into a natural rhythm and movement with this exercise.  Do 8-10 Pelvic Rocks in a Squat Position, then slide your hands back up your thighs, straightening your legs and rolling your back up vertebrae by vertrebae.  Roll your shoulders back at the top of the motion.
  4. Pelvic Circles on Hands & Knees – Get into a hands and knees position on a mat on the floor or on your bed.  Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are hip-width apart and under your hips.  If you have any wrist pain, try making a fist instead of open-palms.  Isolate your pelvis and begin to circle it around as if you are drawing a cirlce on the wall behind you with your bum.  Do 10 circles in one direction, then switch directions and do 10 more.
  5. Kegel Percents – What pelvic floor workout would be complete without kegels?  Here is my  little twist though: Sit in a comfortable position on a couch or the floor, with your shoulders rolled back.  Squeeze your PF muscles (those around your vagina and anus) as tightly as you can and hold for a moment or 2 – this 100%.  Now release completely – this is 0%.  Squeeze again to 100% for a few seconds, now release about halfway to 50% for a few seconds, and then completely release to 0% for a few seconds.  Repeat this pattern 5 times: 100%-50%-0%. Now let’s reverse it.  Starting at 0%, squeeze to about 50%, then completely to 100%.  Repeat this patter 5 times: 0%-50%-100%.  Are you ready for your challenge?  Do 3-5 sets of this pattern: 0%-50%-100%-50%-0%.  try experimenting with these by doing them while you are in a side-lying position or on hands and knees.

I hope that you found this useful!  Please comment on how this was for you, especially the Kegel Percents, or if you have any questions or your own pelvic floor exercises you want to share!

Until next time!

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