Bettina Rae is a yoga teacher and counsellor who specialises in fertility, pregnancy and early motherhood. She runs the Online Yoga Circle, a monthly membership for mothers to help them to improve fertility, overcome loss, practice safely during pregnancy and birth, and to reconnect with themselves after having children
Now she is sharing with us the ins and outs of strengthening our pelvic floor muscles!
Strengthening the pelvic floor has to be one of the most important parts of recovery after having a baby. Yet most of us would really rather not even think about that part of ourselves anymore, let alone have to go through the process of asking for help.
Whether you ended up having a natural vaginal birth, received birth injuries like tears or an episiotomy or had a caesarian; your pelvic floor is pretty much guaranteed to be weaker after having a baby. The baby’s weight pressing downwards and your expanding and weakened core muscles all impact your pelvic floor strength.
Why You Need to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor After Having a Baby
- Safe to sneeze. We like to joke about it, but how many of us brace ourselves when we feel the need to sneeze or cough. You might feel like you’re doing okay because you only ever have the occasional small amount of leakage, but you don’t have to accept this as normal!
- Confidence to exercise, jump and dance. Motherhood shakes our confidence in so many ways, but it really shouldn’t take away your confidence to move your body in ways that you enjoy.
- Improves core strength. Many women experience some abdominal separation (where there is a gap between the two main core muscles of the belly) after having a baby. The pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles work together to create a strong core and focusing on building up the strength of the pelvic floor properly first, is the best way to safely work towards losing the baby belly.
How to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Many of us have been told that we need to practice stopping the flow of urine and squeezing the muscles of the vagina, but this is not actually the whole picture when it comes to pelvic floor strength. To engage the pelvic floor muscles correctly, lift the muscles of the vagina, perineum and anus in and up together while also gently activating the core. It also works best if you activate the pelvic floor on the exhale so that the diaphragm is not placing extra pressure downwards.
How to Actually Remember to do the Exercises
We know that we’re meant to be doing kegels or pelvic floor exercises every day, but how many of us actually do them? (And yes, I know that as you read this you’re probably reminded to do a couple of sets right now). Between learning how to care for a brand new baby, juggling breastfeeding, other children and struggling to even find time to take a shower, it’s not surprising that pelvic floor exercises are often at the bottom of our list.
While it would be great if you could make time for an entire yoga practice that focuses on strengthening the pelvic floor, it’s more likely that doing a little bit every day is going to be more achievable.
Perhaps try doing your pelvic floor exercises while brushing your teeth, driving to work or waiting for the kettle to boil of a morning. Choose a task that you do every day without fail and set yourself the goal to do your pelvic floor exercises at the same time.
Start by doing these exercises while sitting, lying on your back or standing, and work your way up to trying to activate these muscles in more challenging poses like a warrior or low squat. Building up your strength in these static poses will mean that you can safely build up the strength in your pelvic floor before moving onto exercises that involve running and jumping.
It’s really important to get this issue sorted before getting into exercise because you can actually make the problem worse if you jump straight into high intensity exercise too soon.
Most women will get find that they can recover strength in the pelvic floor fairly easily in the months after birth – remembering to do it is literally it the hardest part! However if you find you’re not getting results, it’s probably time to visit a Women’s Health Physio.
Don’t think this is a problem that you just have to suffer with for the rest of you life, just because you’ve had babies – it’s not!
You can connect with Bettina on her website, Youtube, Instagram or Facebook.
If you enjoyed reading this article then you may also enjoy ‘My Surprising Post Baby Body’.
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