Congratulations, you’re pregnant! You’ve got a bun in the oven and are officially eating for two. And so begins the 9-month journey of weirdly delicious food cravings, waves of nausea, an obsession with tiny baby socks, and feelings of joy, fear, love, and excitement. However, as you find yourself anxiously reading prenatal books, don’t forget about pelvic floor physiotherapy and how it can help you along the way to motherhood.
No matter where you are in your pregnancy, it’s never too early to start seeing your pelvic floor physiotherapist. Most women are just unaware that pelvic floor physiotherapy can help them THROUGHOUT their pregnancy rather than afterwards. And that, my glowing mothers-to-be, is where I come in.
Preparing You for Delivery
The pelvic floor muscles are just like the other muscles within the body. They can be overstretched, torn, tightened, and even strengthened. It’s no surprise that pushing a baby out of your body can put some serious stress on the pelvic floor muscles. Cue the Kegels – you knew they’d show up at some point! Taking the time to properly strengthen these muscles while you’re pregnant can help optimize delivery, reduce the need for instruments (forceps, vacuum), and decrease chances of tearing. Doing Kegels goes beyond verbal cues and research shows that 30% of people don’t do Kegels properly1. Pelvic floor physiotherapists can help ensure you are performing exercises correctly through internal palpation and biofeedback.
Maintain Proper Posture as Your Body Changes
To accommodate your growing baby, the body’s alignment, flexibility and posture gradually change during pregnancy. As a result, women may experience back, hip, SI joint and/or pelvic pain. Not to mention things like getting off the couch, in and out of the car, or picking something up become increasingly awkward and challenging. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help realign the body, increase joint stability, and optimize proper posture. When we find and maintain proper posture, it eases the stress on the joints and can get you back to your daily activities with comfort.
Prevention of Postpartum Dysfunction
The benefits of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles goes beyond optimizing delivery and preparing the body for labour. There are long term gains to be made from exercising these muscles. A strong pelvic floor reduces the risk many postpartum conditions including urinary incontinence (leakage!), prolapse, pelvic pain, constipation, diastasis recti and more.
Manual Therapy for Relaxation
Because the pelvic floor muscles are highly involved in childbirth, in addition to ensuring they are strong and stable, it’s also important to make sure they aren’t overly tight or tense. Muscles function at their best when they are lengthened, strengthened and free of tension or ‘knots’. Examining muscles internally and externally can help address and relieve any areas of tension. Pelvic floor physiotherapists can provide manual therapy services as well as teach self-perineal massage and stretches for home use to reduce any tightness prior to delivery.
Education, education, education
We could fill a notebook with all of the questions we have during pregnancy! When can I exercise? What exercises can I do, and are they safe? How much water should I be drinking? Can anything help my constipation? Pelvic floor physiotherapists can discuss when and how to exercise safely while you’re pregnant, teach toileting techniques to improve your bowel and bladder elimination, prevent leakage, provide relaxation strategies, find the most suitable birthing position for you and MUCH more. As you’ve been told many times before, there is no such thing as a stupid question ☺
If you’re currently pregnant, trying to start a family, or just thinking about having children in the future, preparing for pregnancy is much more than prenatal classes and maternity clothing. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help ease the transition into motherhood and support you throughout your pregnancy. For more questions or to see if pelvic floor physiotherapy is the right thing for you, be sure to book an appointment with Alyssa today.
Faghani, Nelly, and Carolyn Vandyken. Level 1: The Physical Therapy Approach to Female and Male Urinary Incontinence. Pelvic Health Solutions, 2018.
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