It all started at a wedding. I had just given birth to my first baby a few months before and was looking forward to some grown-up time with friends – without all the children. When the music began to play, the gang all joyously got up at once to dance. Just like we’d done countless times before. Dancing Queens we were!
Except, I soon realized that it wasn’t the same. To my surprise and horror I started leaking! This had never occurred before. I told my friends, who all sympathized and admitted that they too had experienced postpartum incontinence, and that with time it would go away.
Incontinence often doesn’t go away on its own
Fast forward to today, 3 babies later and in my forties, let’s just say the issue was only getting worse. I really noticed it during the last allergy season when a few sneezes had me running to the bathroom STAT. And I had trouble getting through 5 minutes of my high impact workouts.
I knew I finally had to do something.
See a pelvic floor specialist
It’s quite ironic that I’d waited so long before getting help. As a birth doula, I am constantly telling my clients to see a physiotherapist after their births – one that specializes in the rehabilitation of the pelvic floor. Just to make sure their lady parts are in the right place and working well. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, by the various issues women have after giving birth. But hey, they say that doctors’ wives die young!
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a series of muscles, tissues and ligaments that stretch from your pubic bone to the base of your back. These are the muscles you use to stop urinating. The pelvic floor supports your uterus, your bowel and your bladder and holds them all in. These muscles can usually bear a lot of weight, as they do in pregnancy, but after time, they can become weak. Incontinence is just one of the consequences of a weak pelvic floor.
What does the exam look like?
Your physiotherapist will ask you a series of questions about your births, your life, your diet, exercise, etc. She’ll then give you a vaginal exam to ensure that everything is nicely in place, no cervical, uterine or bladder prolapse. She’ll also do a series of tests to verify the strength of your pelvic floor. For example, during the exam, she’ll put pressure with her fingers in different areas of your vagina, and you’ll be asked to tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for various lengths of time. Your pelvic floor will then get a score out of 100 depending on how long you can contract these muscles. You’ll then receive a personalized pelvic floor workout to be done at home over the following weeks and/or months until your next checkup.
Kegel or not to Kegel?
During pregnancy and postpartum, Dr Google and many fitness instructors may tell you that kegel exercises are in order to have a strong pelvic floor and thus help with delivery and prevent incontinence afterward. What’s are kegels? They involve clenching the pelvic floor muscles and holding for a specific amount of time.
However, be careful because not everyone should be doing kegels. And it’s now known that squats are better than kegels during pregnancy. Here’s a great article that explains this in detail and offers other alternatives to creating a healthy pelvic floor before and after birth.
This is why I strongly recommend that you see a specialist to get the proper diagnosis and follow-up care before starting any rehabilitation program on your own. You don’t want to make the matters worse!
All women, all the time
You may think that you’re out of the water when you’re finished having babies and may no longer have a bladder control issue, but unfortunately, no. My specialist told me that ALL women should maintain a regular pelvic floor workout as part of a healthy lifestyle, particularly as we get older. The pelvic floor weakens with age and you’ll just find yourself back to square one, like it was after having babies, except this time you’ll be the right target market for adult diapers. No fun.
I would love to hear from you! Did you do pelvic floor exercises before and/or after pregnancy? Do you find it helped? Please leave your comments below.
Wishing you a beautiful birth and babymoon,