We often think about pelvic floor as relegated to the postpartum period. But working the pelvic floor during pregnancy is also extremely important. During pregnancy, the weight of the uterus increases, putting more pressure and weight on the pelvic floor muscles. Maintaining strength in the pelvic floor helps to ensure that, as the weight increases, pelvic floor muscles can continue to support the weight of the organs and maintain functionality. If pelvic floor does not remain healthy and strong we may notice a decrease in function as it becomes harder to hold urine in when we need to use the bathroom. Not only that, but studies have actually shown that doing pelvic floor work during pregnancy actually decreases the level of pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum, so we're also setting ourselves up for much better postpartum pelvic floor health too!
Let's face it, whether you've had your baby vaginally or via c-section, your pelvic floor will need attention postpartum. The simple fact that baby has been growing inside your belly for 9 months and gradually adding weight, and, therefore more pressure, to the pelvic floor means that pelvic floor muscles will be weak postpartum. Then if you had a vaginal birth with extended pushing or other trauma to the pelvic floor there is even more work to be done. The best thing you can do is start early, and practice often (and see a PT who specializes in pelvic floor!). This practice, once you have gotten clearance from your provider to being exercise, is a great one to add to your daily routine. Best thing? It takes just a few minutes. Need some more quick postpartum practices to add to your routine? Check out our series of online yoga videos!
Returning to yoga postpartum is very important to help address a lot of the aches and pains and healing the body experiences after your baby is born. It can also help address issues around sleep and some of the stress and anxiety that arises with being a new parent. However, “regular” yoga classes are not designed with the postpartum body in mind.
I recommend that postpartum, if you can find a postnatal yoga class or a mom and baby yoga class to support you, it is the very best thing that you can do for you and your new baby. Also, consider adding online postpartum yoga classes to your routine, these shorter practices can be easy to fit in when you can't make it to class. I highly encourage you to wait until you get the okay from your doctor or midwife before beginning any exercise postpartum whether it is yoga or otherwise. Here's what a postnatal yoga class can offer you that a regular class cannot.
In nearly every postnatal yoga class that I teach, mamas come to class and one of the first things they ask is how to get their abs back and how quickly they can get their pre-baby body back. In striving to make this happen, many mamas end up diving into intensive abdominal work postpartum that can actually end up doing more harm than good.
What we have to remember is that over the course of pregnancy our abdominal muscles are stretching and lengthening. We want this! We need to make room for the growing baby. As these muscles stretch and lengthen they lose some of their tone and they can also begin to separate. Postpartum, once the body is no longer housing the baby, these muscles need time to reintegrate and reconnect and begin working, slowly. Think of this, if you haven't been running for nine months, would you jump right in and run 10 miles in one day? In the same way, the abdominal muscles need to slowly be brought back into shape and tone with exercises that have a more subtle focus.
The pelvic floor is an extremely important network of muscles at the base of the spine that creates a hammock of support for the internal organs in the torso. As women we may have heard of the importance of pelvic floor tone for better sex (many of us have heard of kegels), but pelvic floor muscles are infinitely more important than that. They are helping hold all of our insides in. As the pelvic floor muscles lose their strength and tone we can start to experience issues like incontinence or worse.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.