Pelvic Floor Recovery After Childbirth
After your pregnancy and childbirth, you may be thinking you need a nap, followed by an intense workout to shift the baby weight. Don't fall into this trap! Your body needs time to recover before you begin intensive exercise, and your pelvic floor is vulnerable to lasting damage if you leave it for too long. Click here to learn more about safe postnatal exercise.
It's essential that you exercise your pelvic floor muscles after the birth of your child. Not only does this aid the recovery process, but also helps to prevent and treat the development of pelvic floor disorders. Up to 61% of women will develop urinary incontinence during their pregnancy, and a shocking 45% will still have urinary incontinence 7 years post-natally.
Learn more about the importance of a strong pelvic floor during pregnancy.
Do You Have to Start Pelvic Floor Exercises Immediately After Birth?
If you had a straightforward, non-complicated delivery, then it's recommended that you resume pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible. Beginning these exercises immediately not only helps to re-tone your pelvic floor, but it also reduces swelling and speeds up the healing process by encouraging blood flow.
It's best to begin with gentle, short pelvic floor squeezes that you can gradually build upon. You may find that it's more comfortable to perform the exercises whilst lying down, as this position offers the least amount of resistance for the pelvic floor muscles, making them easier to contract. You can even multitask; a great time to practice your Kegels is when your baby feeds.
After your 6 week midwife checkup you should be given the approval to begin using your electronic pelvic toner again. At first, you may find it more comfortable to use the skin electrodes rather than a vaginal probe. You may notice a different sensation than you did before your pregnancy. This is due to the nerve damage that often occurs during vaginal childbirth, leaving you less sensitive in certain areas of the muscle. To help you recover faster there are a number of probes which work at different stimulation's on both sides of the pelvic floor.
If you begin to feel discomfort or pain at any point, stop and speak to your midwife.
To learn more about different positions to practice your pelvic floor exercises in, visit How to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises.
Do You Need to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises if You Didn't Have a Vaginal Delivery?
Just because you didn't have a vaginal delivery doesn't mean that you're exempt from strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Pregnancy alone weakens your pelvic floor muscles due to the excess pressure that is put on your abdomen from the weight of the baby. This means that you can still be at risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder, such as bladder or bowel problems.
If you've endured a complicated delivery (with forceps or ventouse), you should only begin to practice your Kegel exercises once you start to pass urine normally. If you experienced a tear or episiotomy during your childbirth (90% of women do!), doing pelvic floor exercises can help increase the blood flow to the area and aid the healing process. These exercises can be safely started 1-2 days after the birth of your baby, providing that your catheter has been removed.
How Often Should You Practice Pelvic Floor Exercises After Birth?
You should continue performing your Kegels 6-10 times per day everyday to achieve a strong pelvic floor again. If you developed a pelvic floor disorder, consider using an electronic pelvic toner for fast, guaranteed results.
Once you feel back to normal, don't stop there! You should continue to focus on maintaining your pelvic floor muscles for the rest of your life. You'll only need to practice once a week using the weekly maintenance routine programme on your Kegel8 Electronic Pelvic Toner. Or multiple times a week using manual exercises. By doing so, it will help to prevent pelvic floor problems from developing in later life, such as a prolapsed uterus, bladder, or bowel.
Think of your pelvic floor like any other muscle - you need to regularly exercise it to maintain it, otherwise it will weaken and lead to issues. As we age our muscles naturally weaken, so we need to do what we can to keep them strong for as long as possible. Incontinence is one of the leading causes for an elderly individual to be institutionalised. With up to 60% of care home residents in the UK suffering from urinary incontinence, and 25% from bowel incontinence.
How Long Should You Wait To Have Sexual Intercourse After Childbirth?
It's important to remember that the recovery process differs between all women. The type of birth that you had will also alter the time taken for you to recover from labour. Following a non-complicated vaginal delivery, you may initially feel tired and uncomfortable, but the healing process will be quick, allowing you to feel ready for sex earlier.
If your childbirth resulted in stitches, these should dissolve after ten days. Within two weeks the healing process should be well underway. However, for intercourse, it may be best to try a position that reduces pressure on the sore area.
Remember to always speak to your partner about any worries or concerns that you may have, as anxiety about intercourse can often delay arousal. It may also be useful to initially focus on foreplay, or use lubricant during sex.
Bo K, Finchenhagen HB. (2003). Is there any difference in measurement of pelvic floor muscle strength in supine and standing position? Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 82(12), pp. 1120-1124.
Day, J., Goad, K. (2013) Recovery of the Pelvic Floor After Pregnancy and Childbirth. British Journal of Midwifery. [online] 18 (1) [viewed 31/07/2018]. Available from https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/bjom.2010.18.1.45817?journalCode=bjom.
Hay-Smith, E.J., Dumoulin, C. (2006). Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment, or inactive control treatments for urinary incontinence in women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 25(1) .
HSC (2018) Caring for your Perineum and Pelvic Floor after a 3rd of 4th Degree Tear [online]. South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust [viewed 09/08/2018]. Available from http://www.setrust.hscni.net/pdf/Caring_for_your_perineum__pelvic_floor_after_3rd_or_4th_degree_tear.pdf.
Hughes P,Jackson S,Smith P, Abrams P. (2000) Urinary incontinence after elective Caesarean section and vaginal delivery. lnternational Urogynecology Journal.
Hunskaar, S., Lose, et al. (2003) Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence in Women in Four European Countries, 2002. ICS: UK
Mayo Clinic. (2018) Sex After Pregnancy: Set Your Own Timeline [online] Mayo Clinic, 2018 [viewed 31/07/2018]. Available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/sex-after-pregnancy/art-20045669.
Morkved, S., Bo, K. (2000). Effect of postpartum pelvic floor muscle training in prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a one-year follow-up. International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 107(8), pp. 1022-1028.
Morkved, S., Bo, K. (2014). Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on the prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 48(4), pp. 299-310.
Pelaez, M. et al. (2013). Pelvic Floor Muscle Training included in a pregnancy exercise programme is effective in the primary prevention of urinary incontinence: A randomized controlled trial. Neurology and Urodynamics. 33(1), pp. 67-71.
Wilson et al (2002) Obstetric Practice and Urinary Incontinence 5-7 Years After Delivery. Neurourology and Urodynamics. 21, pp. 289-291.