The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that run from the pubic bone to the tailbone, forming a supportive sling-like structure in the pelvis. These muscles play an important role in supporting the pelvic organs, controlling bladder and bowel function, and providing stability to the spine and hips. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor undergoes significant changes that can lead to a range of symptoms and conditions. In this blog post, we will explore the pelvic floor and its relationship to pregnancy.
The Pelvic Floor and Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles are put under significant strain due to the weight of the growing baby, hormonal changes, and increased pressure on the bladder and rectum. These changes can lead to a range of symptoms and conditions, including:
Urinary incontinence is a common condition that affects many women during and after pregnancy. It is characterised by an involuntary loss of urine and can be caused by both weak and tight pelvic floor muscles as well as hormonal changes, constipation and poor control of the pelvic floor.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that occurs when the pelvic organs (such as the uterus, bladder, or rectum) descend into the vaginal canal
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy that can be caused by increased pressure on the rectum and pelvic floor muscles as well as a slower transit time and hormonal changes.
Painful intercourse is a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum that can be caused by a range of factors, including pelvic floor muscle tension, dryness, and changes in hormone levels.
Low Back & Hip Pain
Low back and hip pain is a common problem during pregnancy that can be caused by changes in posture, baby's position, increased pressure on the spine and pelvic floor muscles.
How to Support the Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy
There are a number of things that women can do to support their pelvic floor during pregnancy, including:
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises - not just kegels (which are a type of strengthening exercise that involve contracting and relaxing the muscles in the pelvic floor); but also learning to relax and lengthen the pelvic floor which is just as important for pelvic floor health
Posture, lower limb (leg) strength and balance, foot biomechanics, pelvic position and rib cage position all play a huge role in pelvic floor function and its ability to lengthen, contract when required and support the pelvic organs.
Gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can help to improve circulation, reduce tension, and support the pelvic floor muscles.
Appropriate breathing mechanics, diaphragm mechanics are all connected to pelvic floor function and the ability to lengthen the pelvic floor, especially if you have a tense pelvic floor. Breathing also supports the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest)
Avoiding Heavy Lifting
Heavy lifting can put significant strain on the pelvic floor muscles and should be avoided during pregnancy. If you are in the gym and having been lifting weights a long time with appropriate technique this may not be relevant to you, however be aware that pregnancy is not a time to set personal bests and it is best to be under the guidance of a pregnancy trained Exercise Physiologist AND have a pelvic floor assessment if you wish to continue weight lifting.
Seeing a Women's Health Osteopath or Physiotherapist
Women's health osteopaths and physiotherapists are experts in pelvic floor health and can provide individualised advice and treatment to help support the pelvic floor during pregnancy.
The pelvic floor is an important group of muscles that play a crucial role in supporting the pelvic organs, controlling bladder and bowel function, and providing stability to the spine and hips. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor undergoes significant changes that can lead to a range of symptoms and conditions. By following the tips outlined above, women can help to support their pelvic floor during pregnancy, reduce the risk of complications, and improve their overall quality of life.