Healing and maintaining your pelvic floor before conception, during pregnancy, and postpartum is a major key to keeping a healthy body during your lifetime as a birthing person. Why? Your pelvic floor contains important muscles that support your organs (and your baby), plus it provides support for important bodily functions— including childbirth.
Just like you’ll give your baby all the thought, consideration, and attention it needs to develop, grow, and maintain proper health, you should be doing the same for your body! Let’s discuss some important things to consider and some suggestions for maintaining a healthy pelvic floor before conception, plus during pregnancy and during your postpartum period!
NOTE: Your pelvic floor is affected no matter the type of delivery you experience. Whether it be a vaginal/middle opening birth or a cesarean, the pelvic floor muscles are affected and will need preparation and aftercare.
The Pelvic Floor Before Conception (Prepartum)
A healthy pelvic floor before conception is able to execute important functions such as:
- Bladder and bowel continence
- Sexual function
- Supporting organs
- Core stability
What does this mean? The pelvic floor allows you to properly relieve yourself, supports important organs in your body, allows you the ability to partake in sexual activity, and even supports daily tasks (such as picking up children or other objects without trouble).
Issues with the pelvic floor, having low coordination, or lack of familiarity with your pelvic floor before conception can lead to additional during-pregnancy and postpartum issues such as urinary incontinence and improper functionality of the pelvic floor muscles.
(I recently wrote a blog post to help create a better understanding of pelvic floor dysfunction, and then another one on the primary functions of the pelvic floor– I definitely recommend checking them out if you haven’t yet!)
As you can see, maintaining a healthy pelvic floor before conception is incredibly important for normal daily functions and a better quality of life.
During pregnancy, these pelvic floor muscles will experience stretching and strain from supporting a growing child! Getting them prepared and functioning properly before becoming pregnant or before birth is doing your body a favor by making way for lower risk and easier healing down the road.
Getting Your Pelvic Floor Ready for Conception
Your pelvic floor plays an important role in sexual activity and, therefore, conception. For example, a well-coordinated pelvic floor can assist in pain-free penetration, optimize blood flow, and increase vaginal lubrication. It is important to focus on developing a healthy pelvic floor before conception because, for many people, conception may take multiple attempts over many months or even years.
If your pelvic floor muscles before conception are not at regular functionality, you may experience pain with penetration, bladder leakage during intercourse or orgasm, and oftentimes, low confidence in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, many people attempt to solve their pelvic floor problems at home with their own exercise efforts– such as Kegel exercises. These attempts ultimately can lead to worsening your pelvic floor situation because most people don’t know if they are working on the right muscles or targeting their needs in the way one should.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists are an important, and often overlooked, member of the medical team to help with building and maintaining a healthy pelvic floor. We are uniquely positioned to care for you and your pelvic floor before conception, while you are pregnant, and following delivery (during postpartum). Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist to prepare and heal (if needed) your pelvic floor before conception is key to creating a healthy home for a potential baby.
So, what does it look like to work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to prepare your pelvic floor before conception? First, your pelvic floor physical therapist should educate you about the pelvic floor in general and what body changes may occur once you get pregnant.
Next, your pelvic floor physical therapist will help you to understand specifically what is occurring with your own pelvic floor before conception, during pregnancy, and postpartum, plus what things need to be implemented to help improve your health along your pregnancy journey.
Aside from a primary care provider, there is no one else on the medical team who is going to see you throughout all of those phases. It is important to pull us in sooner rather than later— even if you think your pelvic floor health before conception is excellent. The more you know about your core canister and pelvic outlet, the better pelvic floor health you will experience throughout your life span.
If you would like some exercises you can do to help prepare your pelvic floor before conception, here is a list of suggestions that you can discuss with a pelvic floor physical therapist in coordination with your pelvic floor goals:
(Pssst…If you want to try out these exercises to help prepare your pelvic floor before conception, I’ve also created this great pelvic yoga playlist to help guide you through your practice!)
Getting Your Pelvic Floor Ready for Birth
Now that we’ve learned how a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you prepare your pelvic floor before birth, let’s discuss the process during pregnancy!
During pregnancy, you’ll want to keep up with the changes your body experiences and maintain the health of your pelvic floor along the way. If you stop giving your pelvic floor the care it needs once you’re pregnant, you won’t get to experience the full benefits of properly working with your pelvic floor during the whole journey and may experience more pregnancy-related pelvic floor issues. Any symptoms you may have solved for your pelvic floor before birth may resurface afterward.
Your pelvic floor physical therapist should be willing to guide you every step of the way, from preparing your body for pregnancy to helping you during your pregnancy, as well as aftercare during your healing from childbirth.
And not to worry, pelvic floor physical therapy can be perfectly safe during pregnancy as long as you work with a professional.
There are lots of perks to working with your pelvic floor during pregnancy. As mentioned before, your body will be ready and more prepared to support the weight of your growing baby. You will also be helping lower the risk of and preventing certain symptoms people typically experience with pregnancy and childbirth, such as lowering the chance of diastasis recti.
Working with a professional also allows you to have an understanding of posture and techniques to utilize when doing daily activities, in order to prevent pain or injury as your body takes on more weight and changes over time.
It will help you treat and lower the risk of lower back pain, pelvic pain, and hip pain that you may experience during pregnancy. You will be more prepared for childbirth by learning breathing techniques, and a preferred posture for labor. Your muscles and tissues will be more prepared for the stretching and movement during labor and will be more likely to have easier healing with proper preparation.
You will especially want to provide attention to your pelvic floor if you are someone who engages in frequent physical activities or sports so that your body will be better able to heal and return to those activities later.
Your pelvic floor can affect many aspects of your daily life, and so you will want to make caring for it a priority. Pregnancy and childbirth is not an easy experience (especially for many BIPOC) and allows for many changes in your body. You should not neglect your pelvic floor, put it through such a big change, and then expect it to bounce back easily.
What to Expect After Birth (Postpartum)
Caring for your pelvic floor after birth is very different from caring for your pelvic floor before conception. This is because you’ll have a period of healing after childbirth, and will not be able to just immediately jump back into prepartum pelvic floor exercises or care.
It is important to note that multiple parts of your body will need healing. Your hips, stomach, and back may need time to recover in addition to your pelvic floor. You may experience pain in these areas as well as joint and muscle pain. Diastasis recti may be something you experience, which will need time to heal and proper training to get adequate closure.
Most people are cleared by their doctor to gradually resume exercise 6 weeks postpartum, but remember to listen to your body and start slowly with what feels ok for you!
For C-sections, incisions may take a minimum of 6 weeks to heal. Overexertion and heavy lifting should be avoided for proper healing! This type of delivery can also come with symptoms, such as back or pelvic pain and urinary or fecal incontinence.
To create a plan for healing your pelvic floor after delivery, you will want to make a plan to see your pelvic floor physical therapist right away to create an action plan.
Your pelvic floor physical therapist will check for the condition of your healing process, and may include different techniques in your therapy sessions to assist with further healing. This can include behavioral modifications— such as lifting and breathing mechanics, home exercise programs, manual therapy, scar mobilization, and neuromuscular re-education or coordination.
Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist after childbirth will help ensure you can get back to normal activities while caring for your baby…including having control over when you urinate, reducing pain or other symptoms, enjoying sexual activities again, and much more!
If you are currently expecting, or are planning to have a child in the future and have any questions about pelvic floor health or symptoms or preparing your pelvic floor before conception, you can book a FREE 20-minute consultation with me.
Or, if you’d like to learn more about all things pelvic floor health and what you can do to prepare a healthy pelvic floor before conception, head over to my Instagram.
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