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Fourth Trimester Health: A Guide to Pelvic Floor

Congratulations on the arrival of your bundle of joy! As a new mom, your body has experienced significant changes throughout your pregnancy journey. After giving birth, you may experience some physical changes that can be uncomfortable and challenging to deal with. One of the areas of the body that undergoes significant changes during pregnancy and childbirth is the pelvic floor. In this blog post, I will discuss the importance of pelvic floor exercises and breathing techniques for new moms during the fourth trimester. However, I am not a health care provider so it is important to check with your provider before you do what I am explaining within this post (please speak with your OB during your postpartum visit or if you’d like to start sooner, message them! Depending on if you had a Vaginal delivery or a Cesarean Section ‘C-Section’ these exercises may not be ok for you). Also, your core has gone through a lot of strain and stretching during your pregnancy, days postpartum may not be the right time to start these exercises. It is an important time to recovery your body and take time to do so. The first few weeks are hard, you will have sleep deprivation, physical recovery will come and this is an ongoing process! Please give yourself grace <3 (this is really hard for me to do…like REALLY hard). This post is for educational purposes, I hold a Pre- and Postnatal fitness specialist certificate, but again I am not of the many medical professionals out there :)!

Just some warm and fuzzies before we get started…The postpartum period is hard, you have a new baby, you are worried about your own health, some of you may be brand, new mothers, you are having emotional changes, it’s overall a period of adjustment in the 4th trimester. This is ALL normal, and I am here to tell you it gets better. I am currently writing this as a first time mom who did not take the postpartum/postnatal period smoothly. I was overwhelmed, the first weeks postpartum were really something I needed to get used to, my body felt so out of this world and not present, I had emotional challenges, but it got better. I now have a toddler (13 months old to be exact), I focused on myself and still do, to ensure I am the best version of myself for my little angel baby. Also…I asked for help! I knew I was having issues with anxiety and not feeling like me, I saught help and I told my husband so he was aware…we can discuss that in a different post 🙂 

What is the Pelvic Floor? 

The pelvic floor is the foundation of the ‘core 4′ a group of DEEP muscles that stabilize and help control your body movements. The pelvic floor being the foundation of the core, it supports the following: bladder, rectum, and your previously growing uterus! We always hear about moms’ saying they pee themselves after child birth – this is called urinary continence – I am here to tell you, that does not need to happen to you if you train your pelvic floor properly! During pregnancy, these muscles undergo significant changes due to the weight of the growing fetus, hormonal changes, and pressure during childbirth. Then during birth, there is an ejection reflex to get that little one out! So the pelvic floor muscles have to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal which tend to make everything more loosey goosey! 

Image from Learn Muscles by Dr. Joe Muscolino, click image for link!
Image from Mayo Clinic, click image for link!

Why is the Pelvic Floor Important?

Simple! The pelvic floor supports the bladder, rectum, and the uterus! Any type of dysfunction can cause the following: Urinary Incontinence (unwanted loss of urine),  Pelvic Organ Prolapse (your bladder, uterus, or rectum go into the vaginal canal), and Pelvic Pain (most brush this off as a postpartum symptom…but why suffer when you don’t need to?). Fun fact, all these things when they are not functioning properly make sex really uncomfortable and often painful. Pretty much think of your pelvic floor as the support for the rest of your body. You have a weak pelvic floor? You may have back pain, poor posture, pubic symphysis diastases (pain in the front of your pubic joint), and there could be many other painful things happening for you! Typically, the culprit is a weak pelvic floor or a tight pelvic floor. 

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, are essential for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Performing these exercises during and after pregnancy helps improve bladder and bowel control, prevent urine leakage, and increase sexual function. The following are steps on how to perform pelvic floor exercises:

Identify your pelvic floor muscles by tightening the muscles around your vagina and anus as if you are trying to stop urine flow midstream.

Once you have identified the muscles, tighten them and hold for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds.

Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times, three times a day… your breathing technique with this exercise should be exhale and relax all muscles, then inhale and tighten all the pelvic floor muscles (stoping the flow of urine). 

It is important to note that overworking the pelvic floor muscles can be harmful, so avoid holding your breath, clenching your buttocks, or bearing down.

Pelvic Floor Breathing Techniques

Breathing techniques are equally important for pelvic floor health as they help activate and relax the pelvic floor muscles. The following breathing techniques can help new moms during the fourth trimester:

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Lie down with a pillow under your head and knees, then place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you inhale, let your belly rise and fall with each exhale.

Abdominal Breathing: Sit upright with your hands on your belly, inhale, and feel your belly expand while exhaling, and feel it contract towards your spine.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: This breathing technique helps reduce stress and anxiety common in new moms. Sitting with your spine long and tall, use your right thumb to close your right nostril, inhale slowly through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger and release your thumb. Exhale through your right nostril and inhale through the same nostril. Repeat for five minutes.

Additional Pelvic Floor Exercises

In addition to pelvic floor exercises and breathing techniques, the following exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles:

Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and squat down as if seated in a chair, keeping your weight on your heels. Breathing pattern: inhale and release when standing and going down for the squat, exhale and engage pelvic floor when coming up back to standing.

Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your pelvis off the floor and hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down. Breathing pattern: inhale and the bottom of your bridge, exhale and engage pelvic floor when coming up to the bridge and engage glutes.

Wall push-ups: Stand arm-length away from the wall, place your palms about shoulder-width apart on the wall. Slowly lean into the wall, then push back while engaging your core muscles. Breathing pattern: inhale going down to your push up and exhale and engage going up back.

Discuss with Your Healthcare Provider

Before starting any exercise program, it is crucial to check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are ready. They can also help recommend specific pelvic floor exercises that are best for you, depending on your unique circumstances. 

The fourth trimester is a crucial period for new moms, and taking care of your pelvic floor is essential for your overall health. Pelvic floor exercises and breathing techniques help strengthen and support the pelvic floor muscles, improving bladder and bowel control, and sexual function. Additionally, incorporating squats, bridges, and wall push-ups can help strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles. Discuss with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are doing exercises that are safe and effective for you. Give yourself time to heal and practice self-care during this challenging yet rewarding period of motherhood.

Have pelvic floor exercises you love or tried the ones in this post? Comment below on your experience!

About Heids

Hi there! So glad to have you here! I am beyond passionate about maternal health and all things pregnancy and motherhood. Take a peek around!

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