As you have noticed from my blog, I have been trying to get back into “shape” after having a child and have been weightlifting and feeling great. Until it happened… One day I sneezed and opps I peed a little. Crap! I thought that I had done everything to prepare myself and avoid this!
Actually, I did everything to prepare my area “down there.” Saw a pelvic physiotherapist during pregnancy and postpartum, stretched and strengthened my perineum for birth, and practiced my kegals-or so I thought!
Last year I decided to immerse myself into courses that taught me about the pelvic floor and diastasis recti. I wanted a true understanding of what my body had gone through during my own pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery. As a Massage Therapist, I also wanted to find new ways to help empower my perinatal patients about their bodies and all the changes that can happen.
There is so much you can do during pregnancy to help prepare your pelvic floor muscles (you push your baby through these muscles). There is also a step by step system to help your body heal after childbirth (vaginal or cesarian) called the Core Confidence Program from Bellies Inc. This is NOT the old fashioned kegal exercises.
What is a kegal anyways?
Created by a OBGYN named Arnold Kegal in 1948. It is an exercise that consists of repeatedly contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles with the intention to strengthen, thus no more peeing! Most people describe to me that they are preforming a squeezing type exercise down there.
The idea of rehabilitating your pelvic floor and core muscles postpartum is to first identify what is going on down there! This can be done by going for an internal examination by a pelvic physiotherapist or sitting down with a RMT and doing an external assessment of the core/surrounding muscles, postural assessment and a questionnaire.
Next, you will need to learn how to properly breath! Most of us tend to chest breath or belly breath, which can put too much intra-abdominal pressure on our pelvic floor. The focus should be from the mid-lower ribs, expanding them like an umbrella opening and closing. No more drawing your belly button to your spine!
After this, you want to visualize that you are picking up or doing a lifting motion of your “vagina muscles.” Pick up a blueberry, or imagine an elevator door closing and going up. Once these two techniques are learned and done it is now time to put them together.
When you inhale, relax the pelvic floor. Exhale and contract/pick up your blueberry. Repeat.
Another great resource online, Julie Wiebe Physiotherapist, talks about the brains response to doing purposeful action with a pelvic floor muscle contraction. So not only is it good to practice the breathing and pelvic floor contraction together, but to also do this with movement and exercises.
It may seem like a lot of work in the beginning but once you have the hang of it and practice with every exercise, it will feel very natural to do.
Why even bother?
Well unfortunately as our bodies age, they can weaken. Any minor pelvic floor issues from having children or doing improper exercise left for 20-30 years can eventually turn into incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Not to mention lower back pain, and other injuries associated with years of compensating. More and more research is being done to show that the proper rehabilitation of the pelvic floor or doing preventative exercises, not only improves quality of life but also prevents problems later in life.
So, stop peeing when you sneeze, lift weights or jump-and get a proper assessment and exercise routine to help you get healthy from the inside out!