You and your pelvic floor

In­con­ti­nence or light blad­der leak­age (LBL) can be a wee prob­lem for post-par­tum women. Here’s what to do to main­tain your core strength af­ter giv­ing birth

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

Build up your core strength

Grow­ing a baby and giv­ing birth is prob­a­bly the most rad­i­cal process your body will ex­pe­ri­ence. Your body changes, hor­mones rage and your ma­ter­nal in­stincts kick in as you be­come more aware of your baby’s needs and place less im­por­tance on your own. As your body adapts to your life as a mum, it’s vi­tal to look af­ter your­self from the in­side out. With a third of women suf­fer­ing from in­con­ti­nence af­ter they’ve had a baby, the mus­cles that sup­port your bowel, blad­der and uterus need their own work­out. Janetta Webb, a phys­io­ther­a­pist and pelvic floor spe­cial­ist at Jean Hailes For Women’s Health says that af­ter birth these mus­cles are at their weak­est.

“The hor­monal changes of preg­nancy, the in­creas­ing weight of your baby and then the stretch­ing of these mus­cles dur­ing your baby’s birth mean that you need to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the pelvic area af­ter­wards. That’s ev­ery­one, even women who have had a Cae­sarean de­liv­ery,” she says.

So, how soon af­ter birth can you be­gin? “These ex­er­cises should be started as soon as you feel com­fort­able do­ing them af­ter birth, ide­ally within the first few days,” Janetta ex­plains, “But, if it is painful to squeeze the mus­cles, wait an­other day and then try again.”

BUILD­ING IN­NER STRENGTH

Re­search shows the stronger your pelvic floor is be­fore you give birth, the less likely you’ll be prone to in­con­ti­nence. But don’t worry if you haven’t been en­gag­ing your core, it’s never too late to be­gin work­ing your mus­cles. For the most ef­fec­tive tech­nique Janetta sug­gests ly­ing down on your back or side with your knees bent.

“You’ll be able to feel your pelvic floor mus­cles when you squeeze the mus­cles around the anus, vag­ina and ure­thra all to­gether and draw these mus­cles up­wards. En­sure you aren’t hold­ing your breath and that you don’t squeeze your but­tocks, legs or move your back. It’s a small move­ment in­side,” she says. Start by hold­ing your stance for three sec­onds and then release the ten­sion, be­fore work­ing up to six sec­onds and even­tu­ally to eight. Re­peat the pelvic floor hold up to 15 times be­fore rest­ing. Janetta rec­om­mends try­ing to do this a few times ev­ery day, when you’re in bed or feed­ing your baby, be­fore pro­gress­ing to per­form­ing the ex­er­cises stand­ing up with your legs hip-width apart. “If you don’t feel any­thing hap­pen­ing, don’t give up. It’s im­por­tant for you to get your mus­cles work­ing, so try chang­ing to a sit­ting po­si­tion to get started.”

WHEN TO GET HELP

While LBL is com­mon among women, leak­ing from your blad­der shouldn’t

Re­search shows that the stronger your pelvic floor is be­fore you give birth, the less likely you’ll be prone to in­con­ti­nence

be ig­nored. Seek help from a GP, your ob­ste­tri­cian or pelvic floor phys­io­ther­a­pist if you find that you’re leak­ing urine dur­ing ex­er­cise or when you laugh, cough or sneeze. “You should also look for pain in the pelvic area dur­ing sex or a feel­ing of heav­i­ness in the vag­ina, as well as loss of blad­der or bowel con­trol,” says Janetta.

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