New mums: look after your pelvic floor (tips and yoga poses)
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing that we celebrate, but let’s be honest – it comes at some serious cost! The pelvic floor tissues are under massive strain to support a growing fetus and vaginal birth can stretch the pelvic muscles apart. Tissue tears and nerve damage, if not cared for, can lead to weaknesses and reduced sensation that follow a mum for the rest of her life.
If you are going to become or are already a mum, give yourself a little love and learn these things about your pelvic floor.
Common pelvic floor disorders
You might not have even heard of pelvic floor disorders up until now. But pelvic floor disorders are actually incredibly common among women, especially those who have a vaginal delivery.
These disorders affect 1 in 4 women and nearly half of the women who have had children experience prolapse and/or incontinence! 11% of women will have to undergo a surgery by the age of 80. However, surgeries do not always solve the problem, as 1 in 3 women ends up needing more than one surgery.
Some common pelvic floor disorders include:
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Urinary incontinence
- Bowel dysfunction
How to prevent or improve pelvic floor disorders?
Luckily, it’s never too late to do something about your pelvic floor!
Keeping a healthy weight
Obesity is linked to a variety of chronic health disorders, including a 4-fold increase of risk for urinary incontinence. Luckily, weight is a lifestyle factor that we have control over by incorporating good nutrition and regular exercise. It has been shown that a mere 5% decrease in weight can lead to a 50% reduction in incontinence frequency.
Pelvic floor exercises
By strengthening the pelvic muscles, you can prevent and improve symptoms of incontinence and prolapse. Even better, you can transform your post-baby flabby abs back into shape using these exercises!
The first step in working on your pelvic floor is to learn how to identify, contract and coordinate deep muscle groups. It may be difficult to find these muscles at first, so see if you can get some guidance from a clinical physiotherapist or yoga/pilates instructor. Having said that, the internet is a cool friend nowadays, and you can also learn everything at home. For example, here is an excellent explanation on how to find your pelvic floor muscles. If you are a visual person, then join the 6 million people in learning yoga for pelvic floor with Adriene on YouTube.
Get help from the professionals
If you are confident with your postures and feel good, then keep going! However, if you are worried that you might get injured, there are professionals who can help.
Visit a physiotherapist or attend a clinical pilates lesson to use supporting equipment like a pilates reformer machine. There, you can get personalized guidance on strengthening your pelvic floor.
If you currently suffer from a pelvic floor disorder, a urogynaecologist is specialized for treating it and you may be recommended therapies like biofeedback or electric stimulation.
Best yoga poses for strengthening your pelvic floor
- Start by lying down on your back, feet on the floor but knees bent. Put your arms alongside your body with palms facing down.
- Engage your pelvic floor and lift your hips upwards to the highest you can get.
- Hold it there for 20 seconds, with the core engaged.
- Slowly lower your hip and repat.
- Put your back against a wall and then walk your feet out until your knees are at 90 degree angles with the floor.
- Engage your pelvic floor and keep pressing your back into the wall.
- Reach your arms straight out and hold there for one minute.
- Release, stand up, and repeat
Tabletop pelvic tilt
- Begin on your yoga mat with the tabletop pose. Your hands, knees and feet are on the ground, shoulders are over your wrists and hips are over your knees.
- Inhale and contract your pelvic floor muscles to round your lower back. Tuck your chin and tilt your tailbone down.
- Exhale and come back to center slowly.
- Repeat with controlled breathing.
- Start on your yoga mat with a plank position. Only your forearms and tip of the feet should be contacting the ground, while your body and legs are lifted and straight.
- Engage your core and draw your belly button in. Make sure your hip doesn’t sink down and your back isn’t hurting.
- Optional: you can add to the plank by shifting your body front to back. Or you can walk your legs in and out while holding the plank. These variations will make it more difficult.
- Start in a tabletop pose where your hands and knees are on the mat, belly facing the floor. Engage your pelvic floor.
- Inhale, reach your right arm forward while kicking the left leg back.
- Pause for a moment to make sure your right arm and left leg forms a straight horizontal line.
- Exhale and return to the first position.
- Inhale, now reach your left arm forward and kick the right leg back.
- Continue to alternate sides and repeat.
What to wear?
Now you know why the pelvic floor is such an important structure of the female body, make sure you start caring for it ASAP! Having a healthy pelvic floor can make a huge difference to your pregnancy, childbirth and day-to-day life quality.
Start getting active with the simple poses above or follow a video. Make sure you also have the right yoga wear! Yoga pants with a high-rise design can help you keep the core tight and remind you to engage the pelvic floor throughout your workout. If you are practicing with an instructor, make sure you get fitted activewear so that your instructor can easily catch any mistakes in your posture!