Imagine a hammock that’s well tied between two trees. Initially, it has its own set shape & certain elasticity that keeps the hammock tightly held between both trees. If one is to load the hammock by sitting on it, more often than not, it can withstand the load and eventually goes back into its taut position once the load is taken off.
However, repeated attempts at loading the hammock along with excessive weight beyond its capacity, gradually make the hammock lose its original resilience & durability causing it to first sag, or under extreme circumstances- even snap.
This descriptive visual serves as a great example to understand the importance of the pelvic floor during pregnancy. With the pelvic floor being the hammock and the load on it being the growing baby in the uterus.
Not many expecting mothers know that as pregnancy progresses the growing baby tends to increase the stress on the pelvic floor and the added hormonal influence of relaxin that makes muscles and ligaments more flexible during pregnancy, actually causes the pelvic floor muscles to compromise further. The situation of being unable to hold on to weeing during pregnancy and as a result ‘leaking’ or ‘dribbling’ urine, is believed to be a typical pregnancy symptom that would resolve itself post-delivery. On the contrary, these symptoms are in reality signs of a weakening pelvic floor that requires immediate & quick interventions involving strengthening and rehabilitative exercises. When practiced during the early stages of pelvic floor weakening, the exercises can help with preventing damage and in certain cases even reversing the situation.
In case of a vaginal birth, as the baby prepares to push down through the birth canal, the baby must first push through the vertical set of pelvic floor muscles to make its way ahead. This pressure while trying to push through the pelvic floor muscles increases the stress on the muscles, once again leaving them weakened and stressed, further decreasing their functioning.
Simple laughing, occasional coughing or sneezing, trying to lift a slightly heavy weight- often result in ‘leakage or wetness’. Unfortunately, many women who have recently birthed assume these early symptoms of weakened pelvic musculature to be normal. However, these are red flags that should not be missed and rehabilitation must be immediate next step to work towards recovery.
Learning to identify one’s pelvic floor muscles is the first step towards awareness and eventual rectification if need be. The pelvic floor muscles can be easily identified by focusing on the muscles that are used to hold on to the urge of relieving one’s self when a restroom is not available. The action of squeezing and lifting to hold on, are performed by the pelvic floor muscles.
Never look at a right time to begin practicing pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises as they are popularly known. For anybody who is planning to conceive, is currently pregnant or has recently given birth- no stage is late to introduce these exercises to your daily fitness regime. Whether a vaginal birth or a C-section, the weight of the baby does stress the pelvic floor and one should look at strengthening the same before any symptoms truly show up.
- Gently lift your pelvic floor muscles-squeeze and hold for a second-release: look at practicing hold and release for several counts depending on your comfort. Gradually as you gain strength count progression can be achieved.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscle by squeezing and keep the muscles held tightly for as many counts as you comfortably can. As you gain strength, you will be able to progress with the hold counts.
About the Author
Dr. Vanshika Gupta Adukia, Pregnancy, Childbirth & Lactation Specialist and a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and the Founder of Therhappy.
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