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Postnatal pelvic floor exercise

Postnatal pelvic floor exercise

Probaby the last thing you’re thinking about after you’ve had a baby is your postnatal pelvic floor exercise plan.

I get it, I’ve been there! Your focus is on keeping your baby safe and staying awake when you’ve been up all night feeding.

In an ideal world you will be reading this before you have your baby. If you’ve just started maternity leave, this is the perfect time to think about your pelvic floor recovery plan.

So let’s assume we’ve gone back in time and you’re just about to have your baby.

(If you’re reading this with your baby in your arms – hooray for taking the time to think about your pelvic floor.)

I’ll start by telling you more about the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscle is an automatic and anticipatory muscle. When the whole body is functioning well, the pelvic floor can do it’s job.

So when there is a problem with the pelvic floor, like leaking, pain or prolapse, the chances are there is an imbalance in other areas of the body.

Muscles, including the pelvic floor, need to be both long and strong. They need strengthening AND stretching.

By just focusing on those squeeze and release exercises, you’re only working on strength. That can often lead to an overactive and tight pelvic floor. And this tight, overactive pelvic floor will not function well when you need it to the most. Like when you sneeze or jump. It will be too tired from all that strength work!

It’s important to see the whole body as being connected. What effects one part of the body, affects another part. So when we feel pain in specific areas, it’s usually because there is an imbalance somewhere else.

A common one is lower back pain. Quite often the causes of lower back pain are weak core or glute (AKA bottom) muscles. The back is compensating for the lack of strength in the core or bottom. It gets tired and starts hurting.

Our bodies are very clever in that they adapt and compensate to help you achieve what you need to. If you’re picking up your your baby, with a weak core, your body will still manage to do it successfully but will use your lower back and neck muscles to bare most of the work. This is when we start to feel pain.

The first part of pelvic floor recovery is having this understanding and accepting that it’s a whole body problem.

Whole body health = pelvic floor happiness

The second part is looking at your movement patterns and daily habits to see where you need to make small changes.

Here are 4 areas for you to think about.

 

Breathing patterns

Your breath and how you breathe is hugely important for pelvic floor function. In fact it’s massively important for your whole body health, but we’ll focus in on just your pelvis area.

When you breathe in, your pelvic floor relaxes, when you breathe out, your pelvic floor contracts – this is the action you need to stop leaking.

By learning to breathe correctly you can reduce symptoms significantly.

Stance

We all fall into bad habits. Maybe you stand more on one leg or with your feet turned out. When you have a baby as well, you’re likely to carry them on your hip – so you’re sticking your hip out for a large part of your day.

This all causes muscle imbalances. It causes tightness in some muscles and fatigue in others.

Common areas that get tight are your calves and hamstrings.

Here’s link to a video to help you improve your stance.

Walking

Walking is tremendously good for all round health including your pelvic floor.

What you’ll need to be careful with is how you walk with your buggy or if you’re carrying your child.

If you’re like to carry your child in a sling, then you definitely need to make sure it’s fitted properly and not causing any undue stress on the body.

When you’re out walking with your buggy there might be a tendency to lean forward, stretch out your neck or some other strange position that won’t be good for your body.

As you’re baby gets heavier you’ll also need to make sure your glutes are getting stronger too – as you’ll need those to carry you up those hills with a 20kg pushchair and baby!!!

Hip strength

When you have a young baby you end up sitting down a lot more than you did before. Most of this time is for your baby but of course you will need to rest too.

Working on hip strength really helps to combat all that sitting and helps the pelvis to stay in a neutral position – which is what you want for your pelvic floor.

If you’re having problems with your pelvic floor, I can help you. Have a look at the options for working with me.

7 daily habits for a happy pelvic floor

7 daily habits for a happy pelvic floor

Do you have an idea of your body’s daily habits? Which positions do you find yourself in the most? Sitting, standing or maybe in some obscure positions if you’re lifting and carrying various things around!

I’m like to offer you 7 daily habits for a happy pelvic floor.

Our bodies adapt to the positions we put them in the most. So how you live your life, day to day has an impact on the health of your pelvic floor.

So depending on what you choose to do with your body each day, will depend on how well your body functions. The main ingredients to a happy and healthy body (and pelvic floor) is variety and diversity.

 

Sometimes we don’t even realise that our daily habits are having a long term impact on how we function.

This is especially important in pelvic floor health as we need the whole body to be functioning well, so the pelvic floor can do its job automatically.

Here are 7 daily habits for a happy pelvic floor. You can add them into your day and make such a big difference over time. They’re simple and easy to integrate and don’t require any big changes.

My advice would be to try a new one each day over the next 7 days. Make a note in your diary of when you’re going to walk and you’re more likely to stick to it. Grab your diary and start adding these new daily habits into your schedule.

Daily habit 1: walking daily

Walking has definitely grown in popularity over the last few months. Do you walk already? Maybe you do some big walks at the weekend but not so much during the working week. Have a little think about your day and decide when you could fit in a walk. This has to be every day. It can just be a short walk if you don’t have much time. Don’t get put off by the rain either, walking in the rain is so lovely and peaceful, so there’s no excuse there. Just pop on the right clothes for the right weather conditions and you’re sorted. If you can make a commitment to walk every single day, rain or shine then you will be helping your whole body tremendously. Maybe if you walk already, you can add in a second short walk later on in the day? If you find yourself sitting down a lot for your job, then definitely try and break up your day with a walk or two.

Daily habit 2: floor sitting

This next one might need some experimentation. Have a look around your house for something comfortable to sit on. It could be a cushion or pillow or maybe you have a yoga block hanging around somewhere. The art of sitting on the floor is not to find a position that you can stay in for a long time. You’re not meant to get too comfortable because that’s when the body starts adapting to the poor posture you’re in. What you want to do is use the muscles and joints in your body to hold you in these new positions. If floor sitting is totally new to you, just try it for a short time. Instead of collapsing on the sofa in the evening, can you sit on the floor for a while first? Could you place your computer onto a chair and sit on a cushion for your next zoom meeting? Experiment with this, and see what different ways you can include some floor sitting.

Daily habit 3: rib cage breathing

Learning the proper technique for breathing is going to help your pelvic floor relax and respond when you need it most. Breathing into the sides of the ribs instead of the belly or chest is going to help create the right space in your body for your pelvic floor to contract and relax. It works in tandem with your diaphragm, so getting your breathing right is crucial for a happy pelvic floor. Here is a short video to show you exactly how to rib-cage breathe.

Daily habit 4: sitting less

This might sound a bit contradictory to number 2 – I’ll explain. Your lovely body wants to move in a variety of different ways. There are so many different ways we can move ourselves and yet we often get stuck in similar movement patterns. We tend not to rotate or twist as much as we bend forwards for example. We’re often in a hunched over position when we could also arch our backs and look up! So sitting less is about changing the positions you put your body in. Try standing for a while when you’re next on the phone. Try going for a walk – you could combine it with a work meeting either on the phone or in person! Your aim is to reduce the number of hours you are sitting at your computer. How many hours do you do that now? Can you cut this down by a couple each day? This will make a big impact on how your whole body feels.

Daily habit 5: moving more

Building on from daily habit 4 – try moving more. I imagine this sounds a little intangible, so I’ll give you some solid examples where you can add in more movement. Instead of getting out the hoover can you sweep your floor? Instead of standing waiting for the kettle to boil could you have a little dance in your kitchen? Could you potter around your garden in the evening as a break from sitting watching tv? I’m talking about adding in more natural movement into your day. So this isn’t about doing more exercise, it’s much more subtle than that. This is about choosing to use your body instead of that piece of technology you’ve purchased to make life easier. Unfortunately convenience has made us very lazy and we just don’t use our bodies as they need to be used.

Daily habit: 6: relaxing

This is probably the best one. I’d like to encourage you to lie down more. So instead of sitting on your sofa in the evening, try using your cushions to find a comfortable lying down position on the floor. You could read a book while lying or just close your eyes and spend 5 – 10 minutes relaxing. Did you know that lying down for 10 minutes every day is as effective as having a nap. Could you commit to lying down, during the day, every single day? Just set a timer on your phone for 5 mins! The best time to do it is when you’re super busy. You can spare 5 minutes and it just might help you solve that work problem at the same time. Your nervous system will be super happy too.

Daily habit 7: treat your feet

Your feet need more love. It’s time to take off those shoes, socks or tights and spend a little time with your feet. You might need to find a comfortable position to reach your foot but after a while you’ll get more mobile. Especially will all the new movement you’re going to add to your day.

I like to massage the underneath of my foot – where your arch is. You can use a tennis ball or just use your own thumbs to get into the soft tissues in your feet. Give your feet a wiggle – can you move your toes separately? Have a little play and see how your feet and toes can move. Strong and mobile feel are the foundation to good pelvic floor health. It’s where I start when working with clients on their rehab journey. If you can get more movement into your toes and feet then your whole body benefits. You can also try walking around more barefoot – this really helps to improve the function of your whole body.

So there you go. 7 daily habits for a happy pelvic floor. You can add them into your day bit by bit. None of them are too time consuming but all of them will help your body to stay strong and mobile. And that’s what your pelvic floor needs to function properly.

My 8 steps to pelvic floor happines course helps you integrate new daily habits to improve the function of your pelvic floor. Find out more.

What is causing your pelvic floor problem?

What is causing your pelvic floor problem?

If you’re suffering with pelvic floor issues you might like to know what is causing your pelvic floor problem.

When did you first notice it? Do you have an idea of what the cause is? I think it’s easy to blame a particular event like child birth or menopause. But if we want to understand what is causing your pelvic floor problem then you’ll need to look at your whole life.

How have you moved or not moved your body over your whole life? You might be suprised to know that some types of clothing can make your symptoms worse.

In this blog post I’m sharing 5 possible things that make pelvic floor problems worse. 

My aim is to give a some areas to think about, think about your own daily habits and maybe start to understand what is causing your pelvic floor problem.

Number 1: Sitting down too much

Coming in at number 1 has to be sitting down too much. It’s number 1 probably because it’s our number 1 activity so we need to address this first.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the body when we’re seated. So just to be clear, I’m talking about sitting in a chair, sofa or car seat. When we sit our hips are in permanent flexion (thighs in a 90 degree angle to the body), our pelvis will probably be tucked under if we’re leaning against a chair which then means we’re not using our own body’s muscles to hold ourselves up.

What happens? We lose muscle tone and function. Our glutes (bottom muscles) get saggy and find it hard to switch on and our hips are permanently tight. Tight hips make it difficult for the pelvis to sit in a neutral position which makes it difficult for the pelvic floor to work. Boom!

Number 2: The shoes you wear

So, I’m assuming you might have now stood up if you were previously sitting in a chair. Take a look at your feet. Are you wearing shoes right now? If you are take one shoe off and place it next to your foot. Are they the same shape. Is your shoes as wide as you foot or are you squeezing your foot into a shoe-shaped (rather than foot shaped) shoe. Maybe your foot is more of shoe shape already! Do have bunions? Is your big toe curved around almost to a point like your shoes?

My point here is that most modern day shoes are not the right shape for our feet. Our feet are designed to spread wide and be able to move fully when we walk. Modern shoes do not allow for the full range of movement we need. Plus, we’ve also been brainwashed into believing we need to support our feet with insoles and special trainers. I’m telling you now…we do not. Or at least we might do because our feet have been rendered incapable of working properly due to the years of wearing incorrect shoes. Originally when we were children our feet were wide and worked really well.

So now we’ve addressed shoes, I’ll tell you why this is important to your pelvic floor. It’s quite simple really. Your feet are your foundation. If your feet are working well then your legs muscles will work. When your leg muscles work your glutes will engage nicely and then your pelvis will be able to achieve a neutral position and your pelvic floor will work. Everything good starts with good foot health.

Number 3: Your skinny jeans

You might find this next one difficult to read. I’m sorry there is no helpline at the end of this article if you’ve been bothered by any of the information here.

I’m afraid to say that if you regularly wear tight jeans, trousers or skirts that are digging into your waist then you aren’t helping your poor pelvic floor. Basically you are adding internal pressure to your organs which are either going to be forced upwards (hernia) or downwards putting pressure onto to your pelvic floor muscles.

Another problem with wearing tight jeans is that they restrict your body’s ability to move freely. Your hips are likely to struggle to remain in a neutral position and then your pelvic floor can’t work. How about that? Still going to wear your tight jeans?

Number 4: Your bra

So if you’re following along you might have stood up from your chair, taken off your shoes and maybe even your tight jeans. Perhaps make sure you put some comfy joggers on before you continue. This isn’t a striptease!!!!

If you wear a wired bra this could be making your pelvic floor symptoms worse. If it’s so tight that at the end of the day you can’t wait to take it off it might be time to rethink your underwear (not right now though, keep reading)

Your wired bra is restricting your ribcage from expanding when you breathe in. When you breathe in your pelvic floor will automatically relax. Your pelvic floor needs to relax so that it doesn’t get too tired and is ready when you need it most. If you can’t get a full breath into your body you might have a very tired and overactive pelvic floor. What happens when you next jump or cough? Your pelvic floor is so tired from being active all day that it may well not work. So there you go.

Number 5: Tight hamstrings

So by now you might be wishing you’d not read this because you’re going to have to rethink your whole wardrobe. Well, you’ll be pleased to know this one doesn’t involve clothing.

Our bodies are beautifully connect and everything works together not in isolation. You probably know this already when you pick up something with your arm you might feel a twinge in your back.

So our pelvis needs to be a neutral position for the pelvic floor muscle to work. Tight hamstrings can pull down on the glutes and cause the pelvis to tuck under.

All of our muscles need to be at the optimum length and strength in order for our whole body to work properly. That includes our pelvic floor muscles which don’t work in isolation either

We’re generally led to believe that all we need to do is strengthen our pelvic floor and everything will stay in place and never leak.

Unfortunately that is a big fat lie. Sorry. But I  feel strongly about this.

Your pelvic floor needs you to look after all of your body so that it can do it’s amazing job.

If you want to learn more about pelvic floor health sign up to my no nonsense guide to pelvic floor health: How to stop weeing when you sneeze

Are pelvic floor exercises effective?

Are pelvic floor exercises effective?

If you’re struggling with leaking, prolapse, pain or discomfort you’re really going to want to know: are pelvic floor exercises effective?

In order for me to answer this, plainly and quickly, let’s first clarify which pelvic floor exercises we’re talking about.

Are we talking Kegels? Or are we talking about a variety of exercises that help to realign, stretch and strengthen the whole body?

First question: do Kegels work?

Ok, so my answer to the first one is NO but also MAYBE. Let me clarify. Kegels are the squeeze and release exercise your GP, midwive or female relative will tell you to do to keep everything in the right place. It’s probably the most famous of all the pelvic floor exercises around and the one that most of us mean when we talk about pelvic floor exercises.

The problem with this exercise is that it works in isolation to strengthen your pelvic floor. It’s useful if you have little or no sensation or continence and if this is you, get yourself booked in to see a Women’s Health Physio.

The problem with just strengthening the pelvic floor is that it can become tight and overactive as a result. Your pelvic floor is a muscle so needs lengthening and relaxing as well as strengthening in equal measures.

PLUS – did you know the Kegel was invented in 1945 by a man who has also been noted to say he’s not sure how effective this exercise is, in the long term.

Probably about time we updated ourselves, eh?

Second question: do exercises work that realign, stretch and strengthen the whole body?

Answer: YES! 100%

Our Pelvic floors (I’m talking about mine and yours) are a bit more complex than Mr Kegel realised. It’s not just our pelvic floor we need to factor into this equation, it’s how we live our lives and how we use the rest of our body that affects the function of the pelvic floor.

Our pelvic floors can become dysfunctional for many reasons. Some causes might be sitting too much, incorrect breathing, tight hamstrings or wearing the wrong shoes.

So if we consider that the whole body is involved in the pelvic floor function, then we start with realigning the whole body. We focus on getting your skeleton stacked correctly starting from the feet and working up. This includes the correct placement of your rib cage to help you breathe properly.

We then look at stretching key areas such as calves, hamstrings and inner thighs to make sure the pelvis can maintain a neutral position.

After realigning and stretching we then focus on strengthen key areas like the glutes.

This combined approach is effective because it’s addressing the whole body.

It’s time we updated our view of pelvic floor exercises from the isolated squeeze and release technique to an approach that considers the whole body.

So back to the question: Are pelvic floor exercises effective? Yes, they are because we focus on realigning, stretching and strengthening the whole body!

Simple as that.

Actually it’s not that simple, but if you’d like to find out more sign up for my 5 day video series to learn more about pelvic floor health.

I’ve recorded 5 super short videos that tell you more about pelvic floor health and how you can rehabilitated your own pelvic floor. If you can spare 10 minutes each day over the next 5 days you’ll learn exactly how to look after your pelvic floor.

The guide is called: How to stop weeing when you sneeze and other pelvic floor stories.

Get your copy here.

Would you give up wearing jeans for the sake of your pelvic floor?

Would you give up wearing jeans for the sake of your pelvic floor?

What if your beloved skinny jeans were actually making your pelvic floor symptoms worse?

Would you give them up? Could you?

The human body is a pretty fascinating subject. When you think about all of things going on inside of your body now, keeping you going, it’s pretty mind blowing. Just to sit up and read or type, needs so many different muscle functions and nervous system messages to ensure the right parts of you move at the right time. Then there’s your heart, lungs and digestion systems that are also working at the same time.

All of these micro movements happen as if by magic. We hardly need to think about how to sit or stand anymore, we just know how to do this. We learned this early on in our lives and our body works automatically.

So what happens to the body when we put restrictions on it? If you’re unfortunate enough to break a bone you may have to wear a cast. During this time, while your bones are healing, your muscles aren’t moving. They can’t move, so they just wither away. When the cast is removed you have to rebuild that muscle up again so that you can move it effectively.

What happens if you place your body in a variety of casts all day long? Now I can imagine you’re wondering what I mean. Why would you put your body in a cast unless it was broken in some way.

Well, let me tell you something you might not have thought about. If you’re wearing tight clothing right now you’re essentially wearing a body cast. Are you wearing an underwire bra that’s ‘expertly’ fitted so that it actually creates marks on your skin when you take it off? What about your feet? Are your shoes pointy, do they have heels or have you got lots of support in your shoe for your feet?

If you’re wearing any of these items right now you’re effectively wearing a body cast that is limiting your body’s ability to function properly.

The main point to all of this is that you need your whole body to function well so that your pelvic floor can function. If you wear skinny jeans your hips can’t move properly and then your pelvis won’t be in the right position for your pelvic floor. If you’re wearing overly supportive shoes that restrict your foot’s natural ability to move, then you’re affecting your pelvic floor’s ability to function.

Basically all roads lead to the potential for poor pelvic floor function if you’re wearing clothing that restricts your body.

So tell me this…now would you consider giving up your skinny jeans or high heels?

If you’re interested in learning more about pelvic floor function and more specifically how you can start to alleviate your pelvic floor dysfunction then join me on Tuesday 19th May at 11am for a free webinar.