As you are probably aware, it is common for expecting mums to experience light bladder leakage and unfortunately, this isn’t something that goes away as soon as you have given birth, sometimes it even gets worse. In the third of our series on the basics of post-natal health, we will be looking into pelvic floor problems after pregnancy.
Whilst childbirth is an incredibly beautiful thing, the aftermath of giving birth isn’t always as pleasant and nothing really prepares you for the changes your body will go through. Many women will experience physical problems as a result of giving birth, including the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles.
To help any new mums understand what is going on with their body and why they are experiencing increased leakage after giving birth, Healthy Post-Natal Body have put together a complete guide to the pelvic floor. Answering all of the questions that most women have about their pelvic floor, this guide will put your mind at ease.
What is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is essentially a web of muscles, ligaments and tissues that stretch across your pelvic bones. Your pelvic floor does the important job of supporting your pelvic organs, which include your uterus, vagina, bladder and bowels. To put it simply, without your pelvic floor muscles doing their job properly, you wouldn’t be able to control your urination.
What happens to the pelvic floor during and after birth?
Don’t worry, it is completely normal for your pelvic floor to change during pregnancy and after birth. Your pelvic floor muscles will become stretched and weakened as your pregnancy progresses, and at the same time, your tissue will also loosen due to the weight of your baby and your change in hormones. Your body is allowing this to happen and adapting ready for birth.
Due to this change in your pelvic floor at this time and the fact it is now weakened or even potentially damaged after birth, it isn’t uncommon for women to experience several problems, including stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse.
Are there different types of pelvic floor problems?
Yes, there are different pelvic floor disorders, however, there are only two that are usually relevant to pregnancy and postnatal health. Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse are the two terms that you may come across.
This is the overall term used for not having complete control over your pelvic floor and bladder. The most common pelvic floor problem that women experience after birth is called ‘stress incontinence’. Stress incontinence happens when physical movement or activity, such as coughing, sneezing, running or heavy lifting, puts pressure/stress on your bladder.
So, don’t panic if you leak when you’re laughing with your friends once you have given birth, we understand that it can be embarrassing – but it is normal. This type of incontinence can be easily remedied over time through daily pelvic floor exercises, which will strengthen your pelvic floor and allow you to regain control of your bladder.
Pelvic organ prolapse
It is also fairly common for women to experience pelvic prolapse especially if you had a long, difficult birth, or if you gave birth to a large baby or multiple babies causing the pelvic floor to be severely weakened. Prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles and tissues can no longer support the pelvic organs, this causes them to push down or descend into the vagina, causing a heavy, dragging sensation.
The majority of women won’t require any medical treatment for pelvic organ prolapse as they can resolve the problem themselves through regular pelvic floor exercises. However, for some women, pelvic floor treatment may be necessary where symptoms do not improve easily. If this is the case, physiotherapy or vaginal pessaries may be recommended and in more severe cases vaginal repair or reconstructive surgery can be suggested.
Can I strengthen my pelvic floor after giving birth?
Absolutely, the best thing to do is start doing specific pelvic floor exercises. The majority of women will see a huge difference from this alone. It isn’t uncommon for women to not be able to feel their pelvic floor at first because the nerves in that area stretched as you pushed your baby out. But, even if you can’t feel anything happening when doing the exercises you will still be making a difference.
A glute bridge is a great exercise to do, especially if you combine it with proper breathing.
When can I start pelvic floor exercises?
You can start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel comfortable to do so after having your baby. We understand that it may be the last thing on your mind, but it will really benefit you in the long run. Think about the fact that you use your pelvic floor automatically every time you sneeze or cough so it is perfectly safe to start exercising it as soon as you can.
Don’t worry if your baby is a few months old and you’re only just learning about your pelvic floor, it is never too late to start. Pelvic floor exercises can really help to decrease the severity of your incontinence and rebuild your muscles whenever you choose to start.
Do I still need to do pelvic floor exercises if I’ve had a caesarean?
Being pregnant can overload your pelvic floor no matter how you gave birth. We understand that there are often different rules and advice given out when you have a caesarean but when it comes to pelvic floor exercises they are still something that you should be doing.
After your c-section, you can start to exercises for your pelvic floor once your catheter has been removed and as soon as you feel ready. These exercises will help strengthen the pelvic muscles in the same way that they do if you had a natural birth.
And the corebreath is at the center of any recovery.
How long do pelvic floor exercises take to work?
It is hard to give a straight answer to this question, every pregnancy is different and women’s bodies are all different, therefore, the length of time required for you to notice a difference will also differ.
Many women forget to do their pelvic floor exercises too and we understand that this is easy to do, especially when you’re busy running around after a little one but, this will only elongate the amount of time it takes to strengthen your muscles. On average, you may have to do your pelvic floor exercises for 12 weeks before you notice a real improvement.
How do I know the pelvic floor exercises are working?
Ultimately, you should notice a difference when you cough, sneeze or undertake any physical activity. You should notice that you’re experiencing less leakage and that you are managing to control your bladder more.
You can also test your pelvic floor muscles with a simple stop-start test on the toilet if you’d like to. When visiting the loo, begin to urinate and cut off the flow by contracting the pelvic floor muscles. If you experience better control than before then you know that the exercises are working.
How Healthy Post-Natal Body can help
Hopefully, the answers above will help you to better understand what happens to your pelvic floor and how you can improve your muscles in this area after birth. If you’re experiencing any problems with your pelvic floor and don’t seem to be getting anywhere with exercises you have found elsewhere online then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Healthy Post-Natal Body.
The advice and exercise programmes we can offer you are different from some of the others you might have come across. We are here to support you for as long as you think it’s useful. With many years of experience training women during and after their pregnancies behind us, you can trust that you are in safe hands with our incredible team.
Don’t ever feel like you’re alone searching the internet for ‘how to stop bladder leakage after pregnancy’ there are so many other women going through the same process. With the help of Healthy Post-Natal Body, you can access forums which are used by like minded people to discuss the issues you are facing. Again, these forums are different to others you may find on the internet because they are monitored by Post-Natal experts so you can feel safe in the knowledge that any information you are given will be correct.
Start your free trial for Healthy Post-Natal Body today to see exactly how we can help you with your pelvic floor and any other post-pregnancy issues you are facing. We are here for you every step of the way, so contact us today.
Take care of yourself,