WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR?

The pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm is composed of muscle fibers of the levator ani, the coccygeus muscle, and associated connective tissue which span the area underneath the pelvis.

The pelvic floor separates the pelvic cavity above from the perineal region (including perineum) below. Because, to accommodate the birth canal, a female's pelvic cavity is larger than a male's, the pelvic floor tends to be considered a part of female anatomy, but males have an equivalent pelvic floor.

Why is my pelvic floor important for pregnancy, labour and birth?

During pregnancy, your pelvic floor supports your internal organs, including your uterus and growing baby.  If your pelvic floor is well toned and functioning well, you will suffer with fewer problems like lower back pain and bladder weakness, so it's important to know how to care for it.

 

As birth approaches, your baby will rely on your pelvic floor being toned, so that when they nestle down into the birth canal, they can use the pelvic floor muscles to press their head against to help them rotate into the correct position.

 

When your baby descends into the birth canal to be born, your pelvic floor muscles need to relax. If you're well-practised at relaxing your pelvic floor, it may help you to shorten this stage of labour, which mums often say is the most intense.

FitMama classes teach methods to enable this.

Can my pelvic floor be too tight?

Yes, some women have what's called an overactive or hypertonic pelvic floor. This means that the muscles are unusually over toned or too tense, and can't relax properly. This may affect the whole of your pelvic floor or part of your pelvic floor.

Having tight pelvic floor and core muscles may lead to pelvic girdle pain, which can be debilitating, and can prevent your baby from turning freely into the optimal position for birth.


Modern day life, driving, sitting at a desk, etc, or surgical or injury trauma can lead to these tightnesses.

Symptoms of an overactive pelvic floor:

  • Pelvic girdle pain that persists or comes back, despite treatment.

  • Pressure in the vagina or rectum.

  • Low back pain.

  • Pain or discomfort during sex.

  • UTIs.

  • Bladder problems, such as urgency, frequency or not being able to empty your bladder fully during a wee.

  • Incontinence.


FitMama offers techniques to help you release the tightness and learn to tune into relaxing the pelvic floor and core.

Is vaginal birth more damaging to my pelvic floor than a caesearean?

In the long term, it makes no difference whether you give birth vaginally or by c-section, if  your pelvic floor was normal before pregnancy and birth.

It's pregnancy rather than birth method that weakens your pelvic floor, although, in the short term, your pelvic floor, like other areas of your body, will need to recover after a vaginal birth.

 

Whatever your birth outcome, FitMama recommends the same post birth rehabilitation journey to heal and restore pelvic and core health after birth.  We work with women from as early as 2 weeks post birth for natural childbirth, or 4 weeks post birth for medical childbirth.  Rehabilitation should be undertaken before returning to exercise to avoid unnecessary pelvic injury such as prolapsed organs or incontinence. 

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