During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles weaken as they adapt for the growth of your baby. They can become over-strained and damaged further during childbirth, leading to pelvic floor disorders such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses developing.
Even if you had a C-section, or an uneventful vaginal childbirth, your pelvic floor will suffer. However, you may find it more comfortable doing your manual Kegels and your nerves may be unaffected.
Stress Incontinence After Childbirth
Stress incontinence is common amongst mothers, with 45% still suffering from urinary incontinence 7 years after giving birth. Regardless of its prevalence, it will always be embarrassing when you are unable to prevent urine leaks when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or lift objects. The good news is that it is easily reversible.
Ensure you perform your daily pelvic floor exercises to regain control of your bladder. To see other benefits of toning your pelvic floor, visit our Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises page.
If you suffer with stress incontinence, follow these tips to help prevent bladder weakness:
- Drain the tank - When you go to the toilet, ensure that your bladder is completely emptied. Conversely, avoid making a trip to the toilet 'just because', as this will train your bladder to empty more often than usual.
- Kegel! - Before you begin to sneeze, cough, laugh, or lift an object, try squeezing and holding your pelvic floor muscles to reduce the chance any accidents.
- Relax - Avoid high impact exercises, or lifting heavy loads as these can worsen any pelvic floor weakness. To learn more about exercising after childbirth, visit Postnatal Exercise.
- Fuel your system - Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, and eat fibre-rich food to avoid constipation.
- Perfect your position - When you make a trip to the toilet for a number two, ensure that you lean forward, straightening your back, whilst you are sat. For optimal release, your knees should be in a slightly higher position than your hips (a toilet stool may be helpful in this process). It's important that you avoid pushing to reduce strain, and relax your pelvic floor.
Pelvic Organ Prolapses After Childbirth
It is fairly common for a pelvic organ prolapse to follow a complicated vaginal delivery. Prolapses are also more common following multiple pregnancies, as your pelvic floor becomes severely weakened. Prolapse occurs when your pelvic organs are not supported properly. Your organs can push down or descend into your vagina, resulting in a heavy, dragging sensation. However, it's not as daunting as it sounds as the prolapse can be reversible.
Mild and moderate prolapse can be treated through pelvic floor exercises (although it's best to avoid heavy lifting or exercise during this process). However, further action may need to be taken for women who suffer with severe pelvic organ prolapse. Find out more about Living With a Prolapse, and Prolapse Treatment.
How To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises After Childbirth
You have to keep your pelvic floor muscles working well not only after childbirth, but for the rest of your life. When you first give birth, you may be sore, however as soon as is comfortable, complete a set of 5 slow and 5 quick squeezes. Once this can be completed comfortably, follow these steps:
- Lay or sit comfortably with your back straight.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, starting at your anus, then vagina and urethra. This will feel as if you're trying not to pass wind, or urine.
- Squeeze these areas, and lift! Think of the lift part as a suck up towards your belly button; though be careful not to tense your abdomen as this will reduce effectiveness.
- Hold the squeeze and count to 5 (or longer if possible) to strengthen your slow twitch muscles. For your fast twitch muscles, only hold the squeeze for a second.
- Relax your muscles for a few seconds following each squeeze. This is just as important as squeezing in the pelvic floor toning process.
- Repeat the process 6-10 times per day for a strong pelvic floor.
From your 4-week midwife appointment, you should get the all clear to begin using your Kegel8 Electronic Pelvic Toner again. Speak to your midwife if you have any queries.
For more advice on pelvic floor exercises, visit Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
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