The impacts of chilbirth on the pelvic floor and what you can do about it.

One of the most beautifully complex journey’s of a woman’s life is pregnancy. Over the space of nine months, our bodies change, our bellies grow, and our hearts expand forever. But within the midst of all this beauty is the reality that pregnancy is not without its challenges. Between the physiological changes of growing a child and the intensity of delivery, the effects of childbirth on our bodies, and specifically the pelvic floor, can be detrimental.

So what’s really happening to your pelvic floor during vaginal delivery? Well, your pelvic floor muscles are stretched, strained, and sometimes even torn, by your baby’s head as it moves through the birth canal. This stretching and straining can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction which is when your pelvic muscles become weak and unable to tighten, flex, and relax. As uncomfortable as this sounds, studies suggest that while healing pelvic weakness and tears from childbirth is possible, the connective tissue affected won’t be as strong as it was before.

The good news is there are things you can do to help! Prevention is your strongest defense and part of your postnatal recovery should include pelvic floor rehabilitation to strengthen pelvic muscles weakened during delivery. This rehabilitation can work to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction and the challenges that come along with it.

what is pelvic floor rehabilitation ?

Pelvic floor rehabilitation is used to improve the strength and control of pelvic floor muscles to their normal abilities. To do this effectively, you want to follow a pelvic floor muscle training regimen that focuses on three specific concepts: overloading, specificity, and reversibility.

Overloading is all about placing stress on your muscles. Now this might sound backwards, but by applying more stress than your muscles are used to, your muscles adjust and performance improves.

Specificity is about muscle memory. It’s training the muscles you need for an activity so that they’re able to function on their own. For pelvic floor muscles, kegel exercises are one of the only exercises that match pelvic floor activities.

Reversibility is the idea that if you don’t use it, you lose it. This means any improvements from rehabilitation can be reversed if the muscle exercises aren’t maintained. That’s why it’s super important to follow a consistent regimen during postnatal recovery and beyond.

do i have to practice pelvic floor rehabilitation after childbirth

Let’s put it this way: You have nothing to lose by practicing it, but risk tons of unnecessary pain and discomfort without it. Weak pelvic floor muscles from childbirth is the main cause of symptoms associated with pelvic floor dysfunction. Symptoms like stress urinary incontinence (leaking urine involuntary when you laugh, cough, or sneeze), problems controlling bowel movements, perineal pain, pelvic pain, and even pelvic organ prolapse (a condition that causes pelvic organs to press or drop because the muscles aren’t able to support them) during postpartum recovery or years later. Without pelvic floor rehabilitation and muscle training, these effects can last up to a year or more in most women.

when can i start pelvic floor training after childbirth?

Before you begin pelvic floor training, it’s essential to give your pelvic organs time to heal and recover. Multiple studies have shown that the best time to begin a pelvic training regimen is six weeks postpartum and you should absolutely not begin within one month postpartum. Remember, pelvic training works best with consistency and properly executing each kegel exercise. You want to be completely healed and ready to commit to the process.

how perifit can help strengthen your pelvic floor

While kegel exercises will always be one of the best ways to prevent, heal, and minimize symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it can be really difficult to be sure you’re doing them properly or to track improvement. That’s where the Perifit can help! We created the Perifit to give you instant feedback about your kegel exercises and make exercising your pelvic floor fun. Our app uses games to tell you exactly how to train your pelvic floor and provides statististics about your progress and strength. With the Perifit, you don’t have to guess. You can ensure you’re doing the right exercises with the right intensity to strengthen your muscles and maintain your pelvic health with every kegel.

learn more about the benefits of perifit:

  • Prevent pelvic floor disorders
  • Stop stress incontinence
  • Treat an overactive bladder
  • Enhance intimate wellbeing
  • Heal prolapse without surgery

References:

Durnea CM, Khashan AS, Kenny LC, Durnea UA, Dornan JC, O'Sullivan SM, et al. What is to blame for postnatal pelvic floor dysfunction in primiparous women-Pre-pregnancy or intrapartum risk factors? European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. 2017;214:36-43.

Kapoor, D.S., Freeman, R.M. Pregnancy, childbirth and urinary incontinence. In: Haslam, J., Laycock, J. (eds)Therapeutic Management of Incontinence and Pelvic Pain.London: Springer-Verlag. 2008.

Hall B, Woodward S. Pelvic floor muscle training for urinary incontinence postpartum. British journal of nursing (Mark Allen Publishing). 2015;24(11):576-9.

Elenskaia K, Thakar R, Sultan A, Scheer I, Beggs A. The effect of pregnancy and childbirth on pelvic floor muscle function2011. 1421-7 p.

Laycock J. Concepts of Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and Pelvic Floor Muscle Training. In: Baussler K, Shussler B, Burgio KL, Moore KH, Norton PA, Stanton S, editors. Pelvic Floor Re-education. 2nd edition. London: Springer; 2008.

Deffieux X, Vieillefosse S, Billecocq S, Battut A, Nizard J, Coulm B, et al. [Postpartum pelvic floor muscle training and abdominal rehabilitation: Guidelines]. Journal de gynecologie, obstetrique et biologie de la reproduction. 2015;44(10):1141-6.

Women’s and Men’s Health Physiotherapy Team. Your recovery after childbirth. Physiotherapy, exercises and advice. 2016. Version 2.

Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283