To prevent bladder leakage
Think of your pelvic floor as a hammock that runs from your pubic bone to your tailbone. This hammock lifts up your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, bowel). During pregnancy, your pelvic floor can naturally weaken simply with the added weight of your baby sitting on your pelvic floor. As we grow further along in pregnancy there is added weight in that hammock which can cause it to descend downwards. The added strain on your pelvic floor muscles can cause weakness. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence (wee coming out when we don’t want it to). This can either occur when we cough, sneeze, laugh, jump or can simply cause increased urgency and frequency to empty your bladder.
To improve your sexual sensation
After having a baby, your hormones begin to return back to their pre-pregnancy state. This can commonly reduce your sexual desire. Low oestrogen is common in the early postpartum period (particularly when breast feeding) which can lead to vaginal dryness, making sexual intercourse a little less comfortable. If you have had a vaginal birth, you may have sustained a perineal tear or episiotomy. This can cause pain and scar tissue which can lead to reduced sensation. Pelvic floor exercises can promote blood flow to the vagina which will help strengthen these muscles and help improve sensation.
To reduce your risk of pelvic organ prolapse
As mentioned earlier during pregnancy, the weight of your baby can cause your pelvic floor muscles to stretch and lengthen. This reduces the support for the bladder, uterus and bowel and causes the muscles to become weak (regardless if you have had a vaginal birth or caesarean section). If you don’t strengthen these muscles after giving birth, the muscles remain ‘lengthened’ and ‘stretched’ which can increase the chance of your pelvic organs descending downwards causing a pelvic organ prolapse.
To prevent lower lower back pain
Your pelvic floor muscles are the base of what makes up your ‘core’. Your core includes your diaphragm, transversus abdominis, multifidus and your pelvic floor muscles. During pregnancy, your centre of gravity changes (and posture), your pelvis can become less stable and your abdominal muscles can weaken. All these factors can lead to an increased risk of lower back pain. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can improve your overall core strength if you do it properly with other surrounding core muscles.
To reconnect with your vagina
It is common for things to feel ‘different’ down there after having a baby. It is really important to remember that childbirth is an amazing event and that it’s normal for things to not feel the same. Pelvic floor muscle training can help you get back in tune with the muscles and rebuild the mind-muscle connection with your pelvic floor. By squeezing your pelvic floor, you are also increasing blood flow to the area which promotes healing. A Women’s Health Physiotherapist can help you take back control of your pelvic floor.
Sarah Anderson BExSc, DPT (Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist)