Before you’re pregnant, most women have no idea what is going on with their pelvic floor, and that is normal. The reason is because nothing has really ever happened to make you think about it before.
But now, not only does this important group of muscles have to hold your baby up, fighting against the pull of gravity all day long but it then also must let go and open, allowing your baby to eventually come down and out! So, it needs to be both tight enough but also loose enough. And this is a confusing concept to wrap your head around.
It helps to think of the anatomy of your pelvic floor. It is a group of muscles that forms a sling at the bottom of your pelvis. There is a left side and a right side, and when the left and right side connect there are 3 holes in it. One for the urethra where the urine comes out, one for the vagina where the baby comes out and one for the anus. The smaller these holes, especially the centre vagina opening, the more likely the pelvic floor will do a good job holding your baby up against gravity. The flip side is, that if it stays too small as your nearing birth it may – not proven – but may, not be ideal when it comes to pushing the baby out of there.
Luckily, pregnancy hormones do an amazing job at softening, lengthening, and opening your pelvic floor so that it can stretch when it needs to. We have noticed though, that sometimes the hormones are not quite enough. If there are things in a women’s history that indicate that her pelvic floor was on the tighter than average side beforehand, then sometimes it doesn’t appear to stretch as much as we would like. Things like a big sporting history, or endometriosis (heavy painful periods), polycystic ovaries, or even constipation can lead to a tighter than your average pelvic floor. Does having a tighter pelvic floor necessarily mean something will go wrong? Not necessarily. People are researching to find this out at this very moment so we will know in future years to come. But in the mean time why not find out where your pelvic floor is at?
How do you know where your pelvic floor is at? See if it goes both up and down. That it can squeeze and lift as well as drop and open. If it can and you have no signs of pelvic floor issues right now or anything indicating a tighter pelvic floor in your past then you are probably good to go. If you have any concerns at all however, then see a women’s health physiotherapist who can tell you where you are at. If not anything else, it will give you confidence that when it comes to strengthen your pelvic floor post nataly that you know what you are doing.
Over the years, as women’s health physiotherapists, we have heard thousands of birth stories. The reason we hear them is because what happens during labour and delivery can often impact a women’s body postnatally. And of course, we are in the business of bodies. Or rather, looking after women’s bodies.
What we started hearing was, ‘I wish I had known that’. A lot. They wish they had known that their heavy, painful periods as a young teen could impact the status of their pelvic floor for delivery; or that certain forms of assistance during labour could impact the status of their pelvic floor after delivery.
They wish they had known that simply letting their belly go whilst pregnant may help reduce abdominal separation. Or that knowing how to push a baby out can really help your confidence with this often-tricky stage of labour. Or in the very least, they wish they had known when it was safe to go for a run, so that everything remained intact ‘down there’.
What we realised is that you should have known that. And if you had known, then not only would your bodies be fairing much better but some birth stories too.
“This is why we created Born Ready. It’s a course designed to tell you everything women wish they had known. Everything in it will not only aim to get you the best birth possible (whatever that may be) but also the best body possible. And since your body needs to last a lifetime, we think this is important. said Tamara Woods Women’s Health Physiotherapist
To find out more check out www.bornready.com.au or call The Physiotherapy Clinic on 93871011.