By Women’s Health Physio Specialist – Sophie Lax
The final few weeks of pregnancy can feel like a never-ending slog. Your body balloons alarmingly and you wonder whether you will ever be that lithe person again.
Once the baby has arrived and you have survived the first weeks of sleepless nights you might start to think about visiting the gym again.
A common misconception among new mothers is that the 6-week check is effectively a ‘sign off’ for you to jump back into your pre- pregnancy gym routine. This is not the case!
It takes 6 weeks for your body to heal following a normal delivery, even longer after a C-section. It takes time for your organs to move back into their original position now the baby isn’t taking up all that space.
During this time your abdominal muscles will start to come back together and your pelvic floor will gain a base level of strength. Also, by 6 weeks your stitches will have healed and bleeding subsided.
The Exercise Guidelines state that for the first 6 weeks after having a baby you should only be doing pelvic floor exercises, building up walking, getting rest and consuming good quality food.
Women’s Health Physio – So what are these muscles and why are they so important?
Your Pelvic Floor is the platform of muscles upon which rests your bladder, womb and bowels.
These muscles provide stability in your pelvis and back and are key to
- a) Maintaining Continence (ie stopping bladder or bowel leakage)
- b) Maintaining Posture thus avoiding back ache
- c) Preventing your womb from Prolapse (dropping down into the vagina)- giving a feeling of heaviness or dragging)
- d) Achieving Orgasm during Sex.
So, if that isn’t motivational I don’t know what is!
During the final 3 months of pregnancy these muscles become more elastic and weaker in preparation for labour and birth.
Weak pelvic floor muscles therefore can lead to stress incontinence (leaking when laughing or coughing) and bladder urgency (racing to the toilet and leaking on the way).
However, don’t panic! Most symptoms are temporary and can be resolved with pelvic floor training. A Women’s Health Physiotherapist can help you with this.
Women’s Health Physio – How often do I do pelvic floor exercises?
3 times a day starting straight after birth. It may sound a lot but research shows that doing them this frequently will strengthen your muscles rapidly. It will boost your circulation, helping to heal your stitches and reduce swelling.
Women’s Health Physio – How to do Pelvic Floor exercises.
- Tighten up your back passage – imagine you are stopping passing wind.
- Lift up into the vagina as if you were lifting a tampon.
- Lift up at the front as if you are bursting to pass urine.
- Draw it all up inside you. Hold as long as you can – this might be 2-3 seconds initially.
- Relax for at least 5 seconds
- Repeat 5 times
- Raise up fast and as high as you can for 1 second then relax back down.
- Repeat 5 times
Breathe normally whilst holding each muscle squeeze and make sure you fully relax the muscles after. Take a deep breath into your tummy and as you exhale let the muscles drop down.
Over 6 weeks gradually build up to the gold standard:
- 10 seconds x 10 (10 seconds rest between each squeeze)
- 1 second quick, fast lifts x 15-20
Initially these are not exercises you can do at the traffic lights. They need concentration to get your brain engaged with your muscles again. Quality squeezes not quantity! They can feel difficult and frustrating at first but persevere as they do get easier.