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The core is the most important part of our bodies. Its muscles help us to stay upright and support the whole body. And it’s not just the abs. The whole core involves all the muscles that surround your midsection, including your back and pelvic floor. Let’s be honest here: recovering from the baby is hard. Growing little human inside you changes your core muscles beyond recognition, including your pelvic floor. Fortunately, regaining its previous strength IS possible and I want to share with you the best pelvic floor exercises that helped me to heal my core.
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After my second son was born, I noticed some pelvic floor weakness. I was kind of surprised by that, as I didn’t experience that after my first childbirth. Not only it surprised me – I was literally baffled when I realized a couple of days postpartum that I am not able to control my bladder the same way I was used to. And it got even worse a few weeks after birth. I could not squat down, sneeze, laugh or even stand longer without wetting myself. I refused to settle for that and I knew I had to do something, but I just didn’t know where to start.
The first thing that came to my mind was obviously to ask my doctor. So there I was, 6 weeks postpartum at my doctors’, asking for some quick solution to my problem. “Just do more Kegels” he said. Okay. Wait. What the heck is that? Of course, I headed to google typing “postpartum urinary incontinence” in the search bar and after reading a few articles, I finally had some idea about what I needed to do. My pelvic floor was injured and it needed to be repaired.
I know you want to get back in that pre-baby shape as soon as possible but pretty please, do take my advice:
Don’t even think about getting back to your pre-pregnancy workout or starting a new exercise routine without healing and strengthening your pelvic floor first!
Don’t hope that it will improve by itself somehow. Don’t neglect it. Don’t settle for that. Don’t settle for life where you have no control over your body. A life where you have to know beforehand where the toilet is every time you go somewhere. Being afraid to laugh out loud on a good joke or jump around with your kids. If you can make your mom body stronger and healthier, you can do just the same for your pelvic floor. You deserve it, and so does your body.
What happened to your pelvic floor after giving birth?
A pelvic floor is a group of muscles around your bladder, vagina and anal passage. It supports your pelvic organs and, during pregnancy, also the baby inside your womb. Pregnancy and birth can cause the pelvic floor to weaken as the weight of your baby and the labour put a lot of pressure on these muscles.
Too weak pelvic muscles can cause more serious health issue called prolapse – this happens when one or more pelvic organs (uterus, bladder or rectum) sag down into the vagina. In most cases, prolapse can be treated without surgery by strengthening the core and pelvic muscles. Just like any weakened or injured muscles in our body, also the pelvic ones can be repaired. And even better – they can be strengthened beyond their previous condition.
Find your pelvic muscles
OK. First things first. You want to make sure that you know which muscles you actually need to train. There are two most common and I’d say quite easy ways how to identify the pelvic muscle group:
- When lying down, try to squeeze the ring of muscle around the anal passage as if you were trying to stop passing wind but do not squeeze your buttocks.
- When sitting on the toilet, try to stop the flow of the urine for a second or two and then start again. This will help you to locate the right muscles to exercise. Please be aware that this test should be performed only to identify the pelvic floor – it is not a regular exercise! Stopping the flow of the urine midway too often is not good for your bladder.
Ready for the workout?
Before you start doing any of these exercises, make sure you talk to your doctor to make sure you can safely begin working your pelvic muscles again.
While in most cases Kegels are safe to perform just days after birth, I would wait with squats and bridges until 4-6 weeks postpartum. It all comes down to your health condition, so I highly recommend to check with your doctor to be sure.
I have studied tons of information about the most effective ways to strengthen my pelvic floor, I even joined some online courses focused on pelvic issues. After trying many techniques I found out what’s working for me. Check out my favourite 4 best pelvic floor exercises that helped me to heal my postpartum core.
1. Kegels or “Squeeze and release”
This is actually the most important pelvic floor exercise in first days postpartum as it will help your perineum and vagina to recover faster. Exercising pelvic muscles improves blood circulation to the pelvic area which helps to reduce swelling and bruising. I started doing a “squeeze and release workout” the second day postpartum, during breastfeeding sessions. My nipples were cracked so badly the first days that every nursing session has hurt like hell. Concentrating on Kegels while nursing actually helped me to keep my attention away from that pain.
You can perform Kegels sitting or lying down, whichever you prefer. To start, contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 5 seconds and release for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Try to do this small workout routine ideally 3 times a day.
The bridge is a great exercise as it combines workout for your glutes (hellooo peachy bottom), hamstrings and your pelvic muscles in one move. I just love multitasking, you know..:)
To do bridge, lie on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, arms straight at your sides. Raise your hips off the ground alongside with squeezing your glutes, hamstrings, and pelvic floor. Pause for a second at the top and then lower your hips back to the ground. Repeat at least 10 times in 2-3 reps. As your pelvic and core muscles get stronger, you will notice that you are able to do more repetitions.
3. Narrow squat
Another great exercise that not only trains your pelvic floor, but it also tones your legs and bottom. For strengthening the pelvic floor, narrow squats are more beneficial as it is harder to maintain the pelvic contraction when doing a sumo (wide) squat.
To perform squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees to move the buttocks toward the ground as if you were going to sit on the chair. Go as low as comfortable and try to keep your knees in line with the toes. When returning into the standing position, focus on squeezing your glutes and pelvic muscles. Repeat at least 10 times in 2-3 rounds.
4. Core exercises
The abdominal muscles support the pelvic floor. If you have exercised before pregnancy, the chances are that strength of your abs may exceed the strength of your pelvic muscles. That is why it’s important to start working on the condition of the pelvic floor first and then slowly build up to harder core workout. Be careful not to overwork the outside core muscles without previous pelvic floor strengthening!
When dealing with the weak pelvic floor, it is important to know which core exercises are safe for you. Forget crunches, sit-ups or double-leg lowers. Any challenging or strong abdominal exercises are a no-go until your pelvic muscles are healed and strengthened again. Opt for gentle exercises that tone your abs while placing minimal pressure on the pelvic floor:
Arm and leg lift on all four
This move provides great toning to your abs as well as strengthens your spine. To begin, put yourself on all fours and then reach your right arm in front of your body and at the same time, extend your left leg behind your body. Hold for a couple of seconds and repeat on alternate sides. Try to do as many reps as comfortable (10-15 reps)
Leg lift sitting on the ball
This exercise looks so easy, but it actually puts your deep abdominal muscles into some serious training. Sit on the exercise ball, hold onto it with your fingers. Make sure you have a good posture throughout the exercise. Slowly lift your right knee and put your left foot off the ground. Alternate sides. Do 10 reps to each side.
One exercise, that is super important and has a great impact on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is simple, yet most of us tend to overlook it. It is the good body posture. Try to watch your body alignment throughout the day – not only it helps to tone your pelvic muscles – perfect posture makes you look slimmer, taller and more attractive! And that’s what we want, moms. Right? 🙂
There are so many benefits you will get with a stronger core and pelvic floor. Apart from eliminating leaks, a strong core will take the strain off your back, you’ll have a slimmer waist and flatter stomach. Your period will be less painful and what is even better, your sex life will improve as well! Investing some time in your core and pelvic floor definitely pays off, what do you think? 🙂
How have you managed to heal your pelvic floor after birth? I would like to read about your experience in comments below!