Scary to know that 2/3 of all women who have had a baby will suffer with symptoms of incontinence – the involuntary leakage of urine. Problems with your pelvic floor muscles can result in other problems too, such as prolapse, painful intercourse and pelvic pain. So, looking after your pelvic floor when you are pregnant or have had a baby is super important!
What are the top 5 things you can do to look after your
pelvic floor muscles when you have had a baby?
1. Don’t rush back to high impact exercise.
Being pregnant causes the pelvic floor muscles to gradually stretch as your baby grows, and the muscles can be further stretched or damaged during delivery. This stretching takes time to recover from, and it’s important to avoid over-straining the muscles while they are repairing. So when you get back into exercise, it’s wise to choose low-impact exercise initially, especially for the first 3 months or so after you have your baby. Gradually start to incorporate some higher impact moves when you feel ready, and if you have any pain or urinary leakage, continue with low-impact and wait a few weeks before trying again to increase the intensity.
2. Practice your pelvic floor exercises regularly
Like any muscles, your pelvic floor muscles need regular exercise to stay strong and healthy. Get into the habit of daily practice. Try doing them while you are brushing your teeth, or when you are in the shower, or perhaps while you are waiting for the kettle to boil. If you do them at the same time each day, you are likely to get into a good habit and you won’t forget to do them.
3. Take care with lifting your kids; practice the “knack”
Lifting your kids, coughing and sneezing all increase your intra abdominal pressure, putting downwards pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. If the muscles are stretched and weak, this extra pressure can be enough to lead to leakage, or a feeling of pressure. It might help if you consciously squeeze your muscles before you lift, cough or sneeze. This gentle pre-squeeze can provide protection for your pelvic floor muscles, and is a great habit to get into.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
If you are carrying extra kilos, it’s extra load on your pelvic floor muscles. Even just losing 2-3 kilos can make a huge difference to reducing symptoms of stress urinary incontinence.
5. Eat plenty of fibre to avoid constipation
Constipation leads to straining and pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. So it’s important to avoid constipation by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, are high in fibre, and drinking plenty of water.
Don’t suffer in silence! Ask your obstetrician about seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist if your symptoms aren’t improving. Your pelvic floor physio can assess your muscles and help you determine if you are working the right muscles, as well as create an individualised home exercise program tailored to your needs.