The pelvic floor is a part of the body which suddenly comes into sharp focus when you’re pregnant and especially afterwards. Generally because we start to wet ourselves when we laugh, cough, sneeze or jump! Unfortunately, our reference point is now the celebrities on social media and not the real women in our communities as it used to be which makes the shame and confusion around the symptoms we all have with our pelvic floors stay hidden.
So here are my top ten tips for what you need to know about your pelvic floor;
- Do your exercises – once a day. Because you’re a woman and have a vagina! Your pelvic floor is like any other muscle in the body if you don’t use it you lose it. The Squeezy app from the NHS is a great place to start. Vary your position between lying, sitting and standing.
- But don’t over do it – don’t be tempted to buy every device out there on the market. More is not more and if you over train the pelvic floor muscle then you can have just as many problems as when it is weak.
- Talk to your GP if anything is concerning you and do not allow them to tell you it is normal – by saying that, they’re denying you access to the wonderful care that is out there. If you’re bleeding or in pain, have feelings of heavyness, just don’t feel right, sex is painful, have lower back pain, are leaking, are constipated – this needs further investigation.
- Relax on the loo – the pelvic floor muscles contract when we are moving around to hold our organs in place. But when we are on the loo they need to be able to fully relax and let go so that you can empty your bladder and bowel fully. Don’t rush, sit down ,relax and stay put.
- Exhale on exertion – whether that’s in an exercise class, lifting car seats, babies, shopping. Start getting into the habit of breathing out as you lift – this makes sure that you’re not putting too much pressure down through your pelvis. It can seem counter intuitive so practice.
- Visit a Women’s Health Physio if you’ve been pregnant or things doen’t feel right or change. Any woman who has had a baby should visit one regardless of how they gave birth. If we gave birth through our hamstrings we would go and get it checked out – so go and get your pelvic floor checked out by someone who does it every day. They are brilliant. Check out http://themummymot.com/the-mummy- mot-practitioners/ to find your closest.
- Be careful about how you return to exercise – there are a lot of trainers out there who won’t ask you about your pelvic floor / birth / recovery stage at all. Anyone that gets you doing planks, burpees, start jumps, kettle bell swings should be avoided at all costs. Look to heal and strengthen from the inside out – it may seem too slow to begin with but it is worth it in the long run.
- Educate yourself and discuss with your midwife the potenital impact of assisted deliveries on your pelvic floor. Know what all the various options may be and at what stage you need to start making decsions and how that is likely to happen in the heat of a delivery room.
- Breath – you can do this straight away. Relax your tummy, connect your feet with the ground and inhale calmly and with purpose for 10 breaths – inhale for 4 and exhale for 4. Check in with how low you can make this breath go – it doesn’t have to be big, just steady and calm. You may find it easier to do in lying but try in standing as well.
- Finally Invest in yourself. You are the captain of your ship and it’s not indulgent or a luxury to invest in yourself and your body. When it comes to your pelvic floor, you’ve only got one it’s irreplaceable so it needs to be cared for.
Baz Moffat is a women’s health coach based in Wandsworth and Putney who works with all women specifically focussing on building their cores from the inside out. She is really active on Social Media and can be found at Baz Moffat Strong to the Core (www.bazmoffat.com)