Pelvic Floor Health During Pregnancy: Loanna Diaz

Pelvic Floor Health During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is very important to maintain a strong pelvic floor. When I was pregnant I wish that I had a better understanding of just how significant your pelvic floor is, especially in relation to a successful pregnancy and postpartum. After 3 pregnancies, my pelvic floor now needs a lot of attention in order to rebuild the strength that was lost. Following pregnancy, I have experienced back pain and a labral hip tear. These injuries may have been avoided if I had visited a pelvic floor physiotherapist or knew what I now know after receiving my GGS Pre and Post Natal Certification.

How Does Pregnancy Affect The Pelvic Floor

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor holds the responsibility of supporting the weight of the growing baby. With a continually increasing pressure being exerted on the pelvic floor, it is likely for it to weaken overtime. Relaxin, a hormone secreted during pregnancy which softens tissues and creates a more flexible body, plays a role in its weakening. Under its influence the pelvic floor relaxes, causing more laxity in ligaments and potentially reduced collagen levels in cartilage tissues. This may predispose pregnant women to a higher likelihood of acetabular labral injury.

Consequences of A Weakened Pelvic Floor

The weakening of the pelvic floor can cause urinary incontinence during pregnancy and/or after childbirth, as well as pain or discomfort in the back, pelvis, or perineum. In the same way, a significant weakening of the pelvic floor can create sexual dysfunctions or a descent of organs (bladder, uterus or rectum) after childbirth. Having a strong pelvic floor helps the baby descend with proper positioning more easily during delivery, and aids in the stretching necessary to deliver the baby. This leads to a decreased chance of tearing or episiotomy. The pelvic floor directly influences the quality of our childbirth. We must train the pelvic floor during pregnancy in order to reach the moment of delivery with a toned, elastic, and ready pelvic floor. If you are thinking about getting pregnant it is necessary to consider the current strength of your pelvic floor, and how you can best prepare your body for a successful pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Training with a certified pre and postnatal specialist or contacting a pelvic floor physiotherapist are great ways to take care of yourself and your baby’s home for the next nine months.

How To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor

The Connection Breath is a breathing pattern that can help you build your mind-muscle connection with your pelvic floor. It also encourages the muscles to go through their full ranges of motion by training coordination and optimal function. Many symptoms often seen due to a weak pelvic floor and core such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and diastasis recti can be managed with this strategy. The Connection Breath is very effective at activating and strengthening your inner core (such as your diaphragm, pelvic floor, and abs) during pregnancy as well as one of the first exercises that you can do after childbirth to retrain your core muscles.

Here’s how:

  • Sit on a hard chair or bench and spread your glutes until you can feel yourself sitting on top of your sitz bones (bottom part of your pelvis). Put one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on rib cage.

  • On the inhale, breathe into your hands and think about inflating, or filling your belly and pelvic floor with air.

  • On the exhale breath notice your hands descend as your rib cage and abdomen deflate and imagine the pelvic floor deflating upward. You can imagine your pelvic floor is shaped like a diamond with each corner attached to the pelvis, now imagine bringing all those points together. Another way to successfully complete this is to imagine you are sucking a beverage through a straw with your vagina.

Once you have mastered the Connection Breath, you can use it as a strategy to support your core and pelvic floor during exercise or activities of daily parenting. Try to incorporate it into other “core” movements such as a pallof press, “functional” exercises like a squat, hinge, push/pull variations, and even picking up your kids or groceries.

A basic application of the Connection Breath is known as “Exhale on Exertion”. Essentially, you are inhaling during the easy portion of the movement (such as descending into a squat), and then exhaling during the hardest portion of the movement (such as rising from the squat). It is important to gently contract your pelvic floor during the exhale, the strength of the exhale will vary from exercise to exercise depending on difficulty level.  “Exhale on exertion” is a great place to start and it works for a lot of people. If it doesn’t work for you, try another strategy. Here are a few to try:

  • Exhale before exertion: Initiate your exhale just BEFORE beginning the effortful portion of the movement.

  • Exhale through exertion: Exhale throughout the entire movement (such as beginning exhale as you begin to descend into a squat, and exhale all the way through until you stand again).

  • Inhale on exertion:Exhale during the easy portion of the movement and inhale during the effortful portion of the movement.

It is vital to stay active and move your body throughout your pregnancy. By building muscles in your pelvic floor as well as your upper body, pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum will all be smoother and more enjoyable experiences. I know it can be hard to get started and seem overwhelming, but there are many resources available to help you on your journey. Dr. Stephanie Bush at SB Physical Therapy and Wellness, LLC is a board-certified women’s health clinical specialist who can help you throughout pregnancy. At Momentum Fit, I’m a certified pre and postnatal coach who specializes in helping pregnant women. I would love to help you achieve your goals, so feel free to reach out with any questions or to set up a free consultation.

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