Three things you can do to promote healing for your pelvic floor muscles in the early weeks after giving birth.
After my son was born, I was surprised to find my body didn’t return to ‘normal’ right away.
I’m still surprised by the lack of rehabilitative information provided by my care providers and the women around me. It was almost as if no woman before me had ever given birth who then required rehabilitation for her postpartum pelvic floor.
But women give birth everyday and have done for a very long time. And every woman who’s had a baby knows that giving birth is physically challenging. So why isn’t there more education and support for women to heal their body after giving birth?
I wish there was more open conversation around how to care of all the incredible mother bodies. I wish more people realised that restoring the body to health and function after giving birth has nothing at all to do with ‘losing the baby weight’.
Some things that I wish I’d known before I had my first baby follow. They are such simple things you might easily neglect them.
1. Relax mama!
Everyone thinks they need to strengthen their postpartum pelvic floor to prevent leaking. But that’s only part of the story.
The other part is that the pelvic floor muscles need to be able to relax and lengthen. Just like any other muscle in your body can both contract and also lengthen. For example, by bending your elbow you contract and tighten your bicep (your arm muscle)… and by straightening your elbow you can release and lengthen your bicep… It wouldn’t be that helpful if you just contracted and tightened your arm ALL OF THE TIME now would it. How could you pick up your tea!?
Learning to relax your postpartum pelvic floor is helpful regardless of how you give birth.
The pelvic floor muscles are integrated into every single movement we make. From breathing to walking to picking up all the toys and socks off the floor. If your pelvic floor is too tight then you might struggle to take a deep breath in. Or your hips might feel tight. You might have pelvic pain or tailbone pain. You might leak a little or a lot. Of course you may also need to learn how to effectively activate and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. But, the pelvic floor can only contract well to support your pelvic contents, if first you let it go.
2. Get help!
What if you’re just not sure if your postpartum pelvic floor is ok? Perhaps things don’t seem quite right in your pelvis? Or you feel a bit worried about getting to the toilet in time?
Then I strongly suggest you take yourself off to see a women’s health physiotherapist or an holistic pelvic care practitioner. These professionals are especially trained in assessing pelvic floor function. They will help you to rehabilitate any injuries you may have sustained during pregnancy, giving birth or early postpartum.
A pelvic health practitioner can assess and diagnose the condition of your postpartum pelvic floor muscles. They’ll be able to help you create a plan to get better. A good time to book in to see a pelvic health practitioner is about six or eight weeks after the birth. Or any time after those initial six weeks of healing.
A women’s pelvic health practitioner will help you. Please don’t be shy or embarrassed, most are huge advocates for women’s health and their knowledge is invaluable. They want to help you feel better!
Hold off on the loaded or bouncy type exercises like jogging, running, jumping, kickboxing, trampolining, CrossFit, or lifting heavy weights.
Jogging, jumping or lifting something heavy like a toddler too soon after giving birth can cause you injury. Like a pelvic organ prolapse. Which is when the pelvic organs fall down out of their usual supported position. This is most likely not a condition you want to develop in your body. Returning to regular exercise too soon after giving birth can sometimes cause a postpartum pelvic floor injury such as prolapse. Prevention is much easier than repair.
So why not just hold off on your fitness and exercise cravings for a while? Why not ask for help lifting the heavy baby capsule? Why not take some time to rehabilitate your postpartum pelvic floor before you eventually return safely to your choice of exercise? I’m not saying any of this to frighten you and I’m not saying you can never jog or jump again.
I am saying this so that you take care of your postpartum body and wait! Respect your incredible, resilient body and give it time to heal. Then, rehabilitate from the inside out first.
I know this is super challenging for those of you who are used to exercising hard. Waiting to heal and rehabilitate can feel very frustrating. Especially if you exercised all the way through pregnancy and you feel strong and fit. But don’t be fooled just because you can’t see your womb or pelvic floor. They need time to heal after pregnancy and after giving brith.
And for those of you who don’t exercise much, this rehabilitation of the body still applies to you. Motherhood is like an action sport! Some women say they’ve never been as active as when they’re caring for small children. You have to lift heavy prams, small wriggly bodies and chase the bolting toddler before they get to the road. I’m sure you’d like your body to be pain free, strong, reliable, and not leaking.
It takes time to restore your body back to full resilience after giving birth. For some women that can be a year or even more before feeling ‘normal’ again.
You don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed that you require time to heal. It’s normal to need time to recuperate and recover. Your remarkable body has grown and birthed a whole entire baby. And this same body now cares for your baby 24 hours a day. This is intense!
Please endeavour to be so very kind and gentle with yourself. Know that there will be a time in the future when your body is strong again. And you can then return safely to your favourite exercise if you wish.
But for now. Relax. Get help. Wait for healing to happen.
And click here to join the Facebook group, ‘Pilates for Mothers’. Here you can meet other mama’s taking good care of their bodies. You can learn more about caring for your body through pregnancy, birth and motherhood. You’re so very welcome to join.