It’s no secret that pregnancy produces huge changes to your body and life. And pelvic floor is one of the areas where a large portion of those changes live. This relatively small portion of your body is home to some of the parts that most impact your day-to-day life, from what your trips to the bathroom are like to how your sex life looks. So if you want to feel as good and healthy as before pregnancy, you should probably learn a bit about pelvic floor health. This article is here to help.
What Is My Pelvic Floor, Anyway?
The pelvic floor is the muscular base of the abdomen, called that because it is attached to your pelvis. It consists of three layers of muscle that come together as a hammock-like support for your pelvic organs, including your bladder, your bowel, and your uterus. Whenever you contract your pelvic floor, these organs get lifted up. And in order to pass something through your pelvis, like urine, feces, or a baby, you must relax your pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor plays a huge role in pregnancy, as it must step up from supporting only a few internal organs to supporting the entire weight of your fetus. It also assists in helping you deliver your baby.
Finally, your pelvic floor also plays a role in sexual function. When you contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles, it contributes to sexual arousal and orgasm.
As you can see, this region of your body is pretty important, and its health and normal function will impact your day-to-day life rather significantly - before, during, and after pregnancy.
Why Your Pelvic Floor Matters so Much
So let’s get into exactly how it is that your pelvic floor and its health affect your well-being and happiness.
In order to be able to properly control your bladder and bowel, you need a strong, healthy pelvic floor. This means that you can choose when to relax your pelvic floor and allow urine or feces to come out of the body. However, when your pelvic floor is dysfunctional, you may lose the ability to control this process, leading to incontinence, or a lack of voluntary control over urination and/or defecation.
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, it can mean that your bladder no longer has the support it needs. As a consequence, you may end up leaking urine when you laugh, sneeze, or cough. We don’t need to explain why this is something that you probably want to avoid.
A Healthy Sex Life
For most people, rebuilding your sex life after pregnancy and birth can be a long, sometimes challenging process. And you may not know, but your pelvic floor will play a big role in it. Located in your pelvis, your pelvic floor does come into contact with your sexual organs, surrounding your vaginal opening. As such, there are many ways that your pelvic floor affects your sexual health and your experience of sex.
First, the pelvic floor muscles must have a certain level of flexibility in order to allow for comfortable vaginal penetration. A rigid pelvic floor will make it difficult or even painful to have vaginal intercourse.
And the pelvic floor muscles also play a critical role in orgasm. After all, orgasm involves the pleasurable contraction of the vaginal muscles. The stronger your pelvic floor, the stronger these contractions will be and the more intensely that your orgasm will be felt.
4 ways to improve your Pelvic floor health
These are what you can do to keep you pelvic floor muscles healthy, for a better overall wellbeing and sex life after pregnancy.
Pregnancy and vaginal birth may weaken your pelvic floor, causing urine leak from bladder. Kegel exercises help strengthen these muscles and improve your health. The basic idea when practicing Kegel is to imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine. Hold muscles for 10 seconds (don’t hold your breath) and slowly release. Do 20 holds 5 times a day. This exercise can be done while sitting or standing—even when nursing! If you want more information about Kegel exercises, we have this article for you.
Maintain a balanced diet with fiber and fluids
During pregnancy, it is likely to get constipated as the increase in progesterone hormone makes the intestines to work less efficiently. Constipation is one of the reasons causing pelvic floor muscle to be lax due to frequently straining and pushing when using the bathroom. Therefore, consuming a good amount of fiber and fluids helps you avoid prolonged toileting and excessive stress on pelvic organs.
Practice Yoga and meditation
When everyone is talking about how to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle, it is worth mentioning that relaxation should not be underestimated. People having a tense pelvic floor may experience pain during sex, urinary incontinence or painful urination. Yoga and meditation can be helpful to relax your pelvic floor muscles. Simple yoga exercises, such as child pose, yogi squat, happy baby, etc., can be done easily at home without the need of equipment.
Avoid engaging regular heavy lifting and high-impact exercises
While frequent exercising brings about various health benefits, it is worth considering including more low-impact exercises to avoid pressure on your pelvic floor. Over-exercisers may face a higher risk of prolapse which takes longer to recover. Many new moms try to “get back to normal life” by doing as many workouts as they did within months of giving birth. However, their pelvic floor needs more time (at least 1 year) to restore the strength. During this time, low-impact activities like walking, yoga, and swimming could benefit the health of your pelvic floor more than heavy weightlifting or HIIT training.
These recommendations, however, does not substitute for professional medical consultation. If you are seeking particular advice about your pelvic floor conditions, please talk to a doctor.