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Pelvic floor
9 Minutes

Ask the expert: how/why to think about your pelvic floor before it’s too late!

Ok so we know that 80% (yes – that many) of new mothers will experience some form of pelvic floor/bladder issue. The trouble is, most of us only tend to think of our pelvic floor when it has become a problem. Or we think ‘it won’t happen to me’. Classic, we are all guilty of this, life is busy! However, the reality is thinking about it before it becomes an issue and avoiding some common mistakes can potentially stop a problem occurring completely. Plus, once you have an issue it can be hard to tackle….  

This is something for every woman. Baby or no baby. When it comes to pelvic floors: it really is the case that prevention is better than cure. Here’s why (and how) thinking about your pelvic floor today (regardless of your situation) is a really smart investment for your health and future wellbeing:

What happened when I didn’t take care of myself…

We have some lovely ladies share their very real and frank stories.  The reason they are being brave and sharing on such a sensitive topic is because they want you to get the message that they never did!

So, here is everything you need to know. Plus advice on how to prevent and strengthen your pelvic floor from specialist pre and post natal trainer Natalie Ferris.

Tina’s story: I let myself be last priority and I ended up with a prolapse… 

To watch and listen to Tina’s very honest and real account click here. She was just like most of us: busy, focusing on her babies and thinking it wouldn’t happen to her…

Here are a couple of the key highlights:

I didn’t get diagnosed until three years post my third child: 

‘Although I knew rationally that every pregnancy is different, I didn’t at the same time. Subconsciously, I assumed that because I was ok initially after my other children I would be ok this time. Not the case….’

I let my self care go: 

I definitely put on a bit more weight during my third pregnancy. I let my self care go by the wayside. Life was so busy. I was older and I had a bit of postpartum depression. I just wasn’t focused on myself or taking care of myself.

Pregnancy and postpartum tends to be all about the baby, but my story is why you need to think about yourself too… 

I did not keep on top of my pelvic floor exercises during or after pregnancy. In fact, I rushed back into exercise before my body was ready or healed. Running in particular far too soon.

Why I wish I had thought about my pelvic floor before and during my pregnancy: 

The reality of a pelvic floor issue is not a nice one. In fact, it is very annoying on a daily basis. It stops me doing aerobic exercise. I have issues with incontinence and even yeast infections as a result. I have been told that at some point I will need surgery.

So much false information! 

I wished I’d started gently and properly post pregnancy. I went back to high impact far too quick. I also never realised that any Kegel exercises I had been doing were only exercising one part of the pelvic floor. The trouble is, not many people talk about it…

Sue’s story: I thought a bit of leakage was just ‘one of those things’, it’s not. Then I had to have surgery which became a problem in itself… 

Click here to see Sue’s story in full or read on for a couple of the highlights:

I just never realised how important it was. I wish I could have seen a few years down the line… 

Pelvic floor was just not something we thought about or discussed. In fact, I would joke with my friends about Tena ladies and leakage. I thought it was just ‘what happens’ after you have kids.

It becomes your new focal point: it makes you super conscious of what you wear, your activities and becomes very restricting: 

The trouble is as time went by I developed a prolapse. I became very aware of what I was wearing. Wearing dark colours, what was I going to be doing that day. What about leakage? Anything high impact became out of the question. Running/aerobic exercise was out of the question. It began to rule out so many things. I was also a keen horse rider and I began to worry about doing that too.

My operation was only partly a success: 

I also had a tape implanted which has caused me nerve damage which unfortunately will never recover. In fact there are now lawsuits against makers Johnson&Johnson. If you do have to have an operation it is so important to do your research fully. I wish I had.

Thinking about your pelvic floor needs to become like washing your hands! 

I wished I had been able to see years down the line. I do understand, it can be annoying to think about pelvic floor exercises. Especially if you don’t have a problem. But, knowing what I do now, I wish I had. I think all women should think of it and get into the habit. Once you get into the habit (like washing your hands) it becomes second nature. We should aspire to this.

Natalie’s five easy ways to protect your pelvic floor: 

Ok so we know we have to think about it. Next question is how! The good news is that some of the things you can do are not rocket science. In fact, most are things we should do for our health overall:

First: an obvious one: exercise: 

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is one the best things you can do to prevent, ease pain or discomfort. The ideal time to do this is before pregnancy, but it is super important during and after too. Adding Kegel exercises into your daily routine is pretty simple to do. It is also about the muscles around it too. Click here for a quick five min video from Natalie of exactly how you do this. The good news: it’s gentle and easy to do. All about: leg extensions, hip bridges etc. Gentle things that anyone can do in just a few minutes at home.

The ultimate pelvic floor exercise: 

We absolutely love the company Elvie. Not only is the founder Tania Boler a total bad ass female (with children of her own) but their products are made by women for women. Finally technology is catching up! We interviewed Tania on being a modern woman and of course the issue of how we tend to forget about our pelvic floors came up. All too often we deal with issues once they have already become problems. We love Elvie’s pelvic floor trainer. Makes it super easy to stay on top of your exercises and actually kinda fun! Click here to listen to Tania about why she started her company and why she is so passionate about this very real female issue. 

Being conscious of the way you stand (yes, really!) this one is a very easy change to make… 

Many of us unconsciously stand in a way that can can weaken our pelvic floor and internal core. Locked knees and ‘duck bum’. Relaxing your knees and tucking your pelvis under and shoulders back is not only better posture but is very supportive for your pelvic floor. Many of us have no idea we are doing it! For the quick ‘how to’ click here. 

Or the quick two min video of Natalie showing you how click here.  

Meditation for your pelvic floor? Yes, really! 

As much as it is crucial to exercise, it is also important to relax your muscles. Proper diaphragmatic breathing (ie. belly breathing) can also help you strengthen your internal core which is key for supporting your pelvic floor). You can do this by meditation or guided relaxation sessions. Sometimes people find that alternative medicines such as acupuncture also aids with mediation while reducing pelvic issues. Meditation can be sometimes be challenging. So, here is a quick and easy how to approach it with our resident mental health expert Emmy Brunner. 

Diet: a simple change: 

Changing your diet can help with the consistency of urinary and bowel movements. Try a high-fibre, low-fat diet with foods like whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, and root vegetables. Not only will this help ease pressure on your pelvic floor but it may also help prevent health issues developing in your baby. Particularly autoimmune diseases like Coeliacs. Click here for the latest science as to why fibre is such a crucial part of pregnancy (and pre/post) diet. 

Hydration: a simple but effective tool for your pelvic floor: 

One of the simplest things that someone can do to benefit their pelvic health is to drink more water. Staying hydrated is key to being healthy. Plus, water aids in easing constipation. While upping your water intake, you should try to reduce caffeine and acidic drink consumption. These types of beverages irritate the bladder. If you can’t give up a morning drink like coffee, tea is a good alternative with options such as chamomile or peppermint.

Maintaining a healthy BMI: 

Obviously this is crucial for health overall. However when it comes to the pelvic floor it is even more important to do so as it reduces pressure on the pelvic region. A healthy diet and exercise as always are the way to go. When  it comes to your pregnancy, have a discussion with your doctor to ensure you’re weight gain remains within healthy bounds.

What about running? You have to be a bit careful with this one: here are Natalie’s top things to think about for your pelvic floor if you’re a runner…

In our COVID 19 times many people have taken up running. If you’re a runner and are pregnant: first and foremost speak to your doctor about how your pregnancy is progressing and whether or not it is suitable to continue. If you are postpartum it is extremely important to ensure that you have fully healed before you start up again. See Tina’s story for more on this. Have a conversation with your doctor and take it slow.

If you do have the all clear, here are a few things to think about:

Invest in a good pair of running shoes that can take impact.

Reduce stride length and keeping your hips above the foot as much as possible. This helps reduce impact and to reduce the potential for joint and tissue strain.

Slow it down: High speed running will be more likely to cause greater pelvic impact and downward pressure on the pelvic floor. So slow down your speed wherever possible.

Why other muscles are important to think about: 

Your core can be separated into the “local core” and the “global core”.  It is important to think about and strengthen both.

What is the global core? This includes muscles such as obliques (think sides of your abdomen), hip adductors, and latissimus dorsi (large muscle in your back next to your arms). When you are moving in a particular direction these muscles contract. They are notorious for being overused and can contribute to pain responses.

The “local core” includes transverse abdominis (deep within your abdomen), multifidus (muscles next to your spine), pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm (under your lungs). These group of muscles help stabilize our bodies by contracting prior to a movement and regardless of direction preparing the system for the upcoming task. These are the muscles we need not to forget and can really help strengthen and support the pelvic floor. For more on quick practical ways to do this – click here. 

A simple way to ensure you’re supporting your pelvic floor while running: 

Proper breathing! If diaphragmatic breathing (think belly breathing) is limited while running, the pelvic floor muscles may be limited in their function as well. If the local core system is not functioning at an optimal level, instability arises which can lead to pain and tissue injury. Training your local core stability system as part of your running program can help prevent injury and improve stability.

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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