Why should birthing parents know about their pelvic floor? Why is this knowledge incredibly important?
People need to know about their pelvic floor just like they need to know about any other part of their body. If you have shortness of breath or wheezing, you would go see your PCP or a pulmonologist. Every year, you get an annual physical exam to check blood work and other crucial systems to prevent disease. Similarly, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysfunction in and around the pelvic floor and to receive regular check ups.
"The pelvic floor…is the base that supports more than half of our body and our major vital organs."
The pelvic floor consists of muscles, nerves, ligaments, fascia, and blood vessels. It is the base that supports more than half of our body and our major vital organs. It houses our bowel, bladder, and sexual functions. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, these are the basic foundations of human life. The most important thing is to first understand the role that the pelvic floor plays on a daily basis and recognize when certain symptoms may indicate pelvic floor dysfunction. It is equally important to take action by consulting with the right professionals for treatment.
How is the way we treat Pelvic floor changing when compared with how our mothers may have been cared for?
In my opinion, there wasn’t as much focus in this area when our mothers were cared for partly because of the male-dominated medical system. With more female doctors and awareness of pelvic floor research and treatments, birthing parents have more options. Pelvic issues were sometimes treated directly with invasive surgeries (hysterectomies among many others) or women were told to “live with it.” Pelvic floor physical therapy or minimally invasive injections weren’t often provided as options. The subdivision of pelvic floor physical therapy is a growing field of orthopedics that is getting more attention in both research and the media.
What are the best things you can do for your pelvic floor health during the first 1-3 months?
Proper breathing, nutrition, and movement for the pelvic floor can prevent a great deal of issues. Spend at least a minute 3 times a day to inhale deeply through your abdomen and relax your pelvic floor muscles. Consult with a nutritionist about a balanced diet and water intake. Keep your body moving! Don’t stop exercising abruptly during pregnancy.
"Proper breathing, nutrition, and movement for the pelvic floor can prevent a great deal of issues."
Studies show that maintaining a safe exercise routine throughout pregnancy prevents several unnecessary complications during birth and postpartum. A pelvic floor PT can help you devise a personalized exercise plan for your needs.
If you could do one exercise every day to optimize strength and self-confidence, what would it be?
Take a deep breath into your belly and feel your whole abdomen expand from the front, back, sides, and below at your pelvic floor (reverse kegel). Exhale and gently draw your pelvic floor by contracting the muscles at your perineum (kegel). Repeat this once a day 15-20 times in a relaxed position (either laying back with your knees bent or sitting on a donut cushion). Every time you inhale, imagine a flower blooming and expanding. Every time you exhale think of drawing up and closing the flower. This should be a gentle, comfortable, and pain free movement. To know if you are doing this correctly, check in with a pelvic floor PT. It is our job to teach everybody how to appropriately contract and relax these muscles!