A woman’s core muscles are stressed to the max during pregnancy and childbirth, especially the muscles that form the “floor of her core” — her pelvic floor muscles. These critical deep core muscles certainly take a toll during pregnancy with 9 months of excess weight bearing down on them (coupled with alignment shifts that increase the pressure) followed by the trauma of childbirth. Proper pelvic floor recovery is essential after pregnancy to avoid pain or complications like incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, and to rebuild a strong and functional core. Learn more about the pelvic floor muscles below, and some important strategies for restoring strength and function in your postpartum clients.
Pelvic Floor Structure & Function
The pelvic floor (PF) muscles form a sling at the bottom of the core, basically creating the “floor of the core.” They consist of superficial and deep layers, and have both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. The PF muscles attach from the pubic bone in the front to the tailbone in the back, and from the “sits” bones (ischial tuberosities) on both sides.
Together, these critical deep core muscles are responsible for:
- Supporting the pelvic organs: bladder, bowels, and uterus
- Providing core stability, working with TVA to stabilize and support spine
- Controlling continence
- Supporting proper sexual response and satisfaction
- Assisting in guiding baby out during delivery
What Happens to the Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the PF muscles must support the added weight of the growing belly and uterus (which grows to about 500 times its original size during pregnancy). They also have the added challenge of the growing belly pulling the pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt, which accentuates the downward pressure on these muscles. Then comes childbirth. In a vaginal delivery, if a woman does not have the control necessary to contract and fully relax and open her pelvic floor muscles to allow her baby to pass through (a technique taught through proper prenatal pelvic floor training) , she could end up tearing her PF muscles. During a C-section, the abdominal muscles are moved to pull the baby out. Because the PF and abdominal muscles are so intricately connected, this trauma to the abdominal muscles results in trauma to the pelvic floor.
How to Restore the Pelvic Floor Muscles After Pregnancy
Restoring strength to the traumatized tissues of the pelvic floor requires targeting all the muscle layers and fibers, and gently and progressively, working them through a full range of motion. This can be quite difficult at first, so watch this video to learn how to properly find all 4 attachment points of the pelvic floor, and work the muscles through a full range of motion.
Recommended Pelvic Floor Recovery Routine
We recommend doing a few sets of the Pelvic Floor Activations (PFAs-Slow and PFAs-Fast) described in the video a few times per day, where 1 Set = 3-5 PFAs-Slow + 8 – 10 PFAs-Fast. One great strategy is to perform 2-3 sets every time you feed your baby. Associating your pelvic floor work with an activity can help you better remember to do it, and associating the exercises with an activity like feeding ensures you get in plenty per day!
Another recommended strategy is to incorporate the PFA-Slow during strength training or any sort of exertion movement in your everyday life. In other words, inhale and relax the PF on the easier portion of the movement (like when lowering down into a squat), then exhale and contract the PF muscles (pulling them in and up) upward on the exertion (like when standing up from the squat). Be sure you are inhaling and exhaling using 360° Breathing.
To learn more about proper pelvic floor training during and after pregnancy, register for one of our upcoming Pre/Postnatal Certification Workshops.