electrical stimulation programme for new mums

Which is the best electrical stimulation programme for new mums?

Which is the best electrical stimulation programme for new mums wanting to rehab their pelvic floor muscles? This is one of the topics Kegel8 founder, Stephanie Taylor, asked me about in some video Q & A sessions about the Kegel8 Ultra 20 machine. She is passionate about helping their customers get value and success from a purchase.

In this video:

  • What to do to help your muscles from the very early days before you can use an electrical stimulation machine.
  • When you can start using a electrical stimulation machine safely after birth
  • Why it is important to test the sensation in the nerves, have a longer rest time between contractions and how to avoid muscle fatigue.

Watch here (or read the adapted transcript below). In this video we are discussing the electrical stimulation programmes for new mums on a machine called a Kegel8 Ultra 20 V2 Electronic Pelvic Floor Toner. Other models in the Kegel8 range are very similar. The principles are the same for all electrical stimulation machines. Even if you don’t have a Kegel8 you might find this helpful to understand how your own-brand of machine works too.

Q: Stephanie asked me: “We’ve got lots of programmes on the Kegel8. I’m a new mum.  Which programme is going to be best for me – if I’m looking to get back in shape – what’s your recommendation?”

The first few weeks: simply connect your brain and pelvic floor naturally

Let’s start by thinking about a very new mum.  You’ve had a baby and you are starting out with your exercising.  In the first 12 weeks the body is very fragile and very vulnerable.  We do want you to start exercising but we don’t encourage the use of electrical equipment in this early phase.  Why? Partly because you will still have some bleeding, you might also have some hidden raw wounds but also because it is a fragile vulnerable time. 

What you do need to be doing in those early days is using your muscles as best as you can. Using your own brain to to activate them.  Even if all you are doing is pulsing your muscles a tiny bit and you think “Is it worth it?”. It IS.  Because that pulsing action will bring blood flow close to the area. Blood flow helps healing.  And helps to get healthy tissues again.  In your head it will feel like little tiny pulses, not very exciting. Everything might feel swollen and engorged. But those tiny exercises are a really important thing to do. Little and often through the day. To keep your brain and your pelvic floor connected together and encourage these muscles to start working again.

From 6-8 weeks: feeling proper contractions

About 4-6 weeks you should be feeling that you have some proper pelvic floor contractions. They should feel useful to you. For example, when you want to cough and sneeze and pick up your baby.  It’s all a bit mad that nature delivers through the muscles that you need and then hands you a heavy baby to look after. Not quite how you or I would have designed it.  But that is the reality.  So we’ve got to get these muscles working.

From 12 weeks: why you might choose to use an electrical stimulation programme?

After 12 weeks there are other options to consider.

  • If you are not getting enough sense of being able to exercise your muscles yourself
  • Or you don’t feel that you are getting a pelvic floor muscle contraction.
  • Or you don’t feel that you are progressing.

Then you might like to use a machine to help you.

What is special about the electrical stimulation programmes for new mums?

Some programmes on the Kegel8 V2 Ultra 20 are designed specially for postnatal mums. For example programmes 14 & 15. What makes them different?

A sensory phase

The first phase of these programmes is actually a circulation phase, a very low frequency current, to create just a tingling sensation for about 10-15 mins.  This allows you to test whether you can actually feel anything.  A problem that can affect new mums is finding that the nerves aren’t working properly at all and you can’t feel things properly.  It wouldn’t be safe to use a machine if you couldn’t feel properly as you would have no way of knowing how high to turn it up which could be sore.  So the first phase allows you to test for what you can feel. This phase is also really good for circulation. It brings blood flow to the area and oxygen to the tissues. 

A muscle strengthening phase

Later in the programme it moves to a muscle strengthening phase. It actually makes the muscles tighten and release.  But different to the one that is listed for stress incontinence, this phase has a longer rest time between the contractions.  When we make muscles contract they do need to be able to relax completely between contractions before we ask them to contract again. 

A longer rest time

When your muscles are very weak it is important to have almost twice as long resting to working.  As you get stronger you can choose a programme where there are shorter rest times but when you are very new post delivery it is really important to have a rest phase. 

An overall shorter programme

The overall working in this programme is 15-20 mins maximum, because your muscles will fatigue easily. Tired muscles can’t do anything. Yet you’ve got to look after the baby! So it’s really important that the machine doesn’t made you so tired that you can’t look after your baby and hold your body up!

So that is the idea behind this programme being called a postnatal programme

Q: How often would you recommend using an electrical stimulation programme for new mums?

The manufacturers say that you can use these devices up to twice a day every day.  I think a lot of women feel that is an unrealistic goal.  We tend to start women out in clinic using their device once every other day.  As a starting place.  You don’t want to put yourself off.  These are plastic gadgets in in very delicate places!  If you do too much too quick you end up not wanting to do anything. 

So I tend to aim to underachieve at first. Use it for 20 minutes every other day. Then if that is going well, and you are liking it and you feel it is beneficial, you could go to every day.  And if you were blessed with time to do twice a day that would be a bonus. I am not sure that is very many mums?!  We find people get good results on every other day or once every day.

Feeling more confident how to choose an electrical stimulation programme as a new mum?

I hope this post has given you more confidence to get started with a Kegel8 Ultra 20 stimulation machine or something similar? We have made several other videos about using stimulation machines. For other conditions, for example for a prolapse, for an overactive bladder or for stress incontinence. We also do a Q&A to show the different types of probes available.

Another series is all about the pelvic floor and how to do exercises without a machine too!

Please don’t hesitate to email if you have questions and I will do my best to help. Please do comment below or on YouTube if you found these helpful.

how to improve pelvic floor control by simply breathing

How to improve pelvic floor control by simply breathing

Do you wonder what BREATHING has to do with bladder control, prolapse support or vaginal or anal pain??

Physios are not going woo-woo

It’s rather because clinical research & our understanding of the body has deepened, so pelvic floor exercises exercises are evolving. It’s no longer one size fits all.

There’s a good place for the traditional squeezes, lifts and holds, but some mums need to focus their attention more on the “let go”, relaxing and releasing of their muscles.

Pelvic floor relaxation is a thing

Previously exercises were very linear.  Squeeze ON, release/turn off.  Our focus was on what our muscles needed to be able to DO in an emergency situation – when we cough, sneeze, pick up something heavy.  This is not wrong.  If you struggle with stress incontinence (leaks when there is high pressure on the bladder) then the best thing you can learn is The Knack of getting the pelvic floor to co-ordinate with perfect timing.  

However, we now know how our muscles should be doing when we are not thinking about them.  The resting pattern of your muscles has an impact on common problems like urgency, bladder frequency, vaginal heaviness and pelvic pain. 

#1 New thing we know

Firstly, our breathing pattern and our pelvic floor muscle movement pattern are similar and interconnected.   Breathing is easier to understand, feel and control than the hidden away pelvic floor.  So if you want to better connect to your pelvic floor – start by noticing how you breathe.

#2 Weird thing to notice

However, most of the day we don’t think about our breathing AT ALL.  You wouldn’t have been thinking about yours a few minutes ago until I brought the topic up.  Your brain operates your breathing system all day, all night, 24/7 without any conscious input from you.  A gentle in and out, muscles contracting and releasing, a continuum of movement like a swinging pendulum, you are only completely full of air or completely released for a moment in time.

#3 Amazing thing we can do

Yet, you can also have incredible control over this system.  For example, you could take a deep breath right now to blow out an imaginary candle; you could whistle a little tune;  you could shout (or yodel) or pant like a dog.  With training, you could develop sophisticated breath control  as well – as a singer, long distance runner,  athlete, deep sea diver, bird impressionist. Did you know that you need enormous breath control to accurately shoot a pistol or throw a dart?

And then, when you stop panting or wolf-whistling or humming a ditty, your brain just automatically puts you back into gentle breathing mode, no questions asked.  A-MAZ-ING.

a panther demo's pelvic floor relaxation

#4  Pelvic floor muscles should be super-skilled too

We want our pelvic floor muscles to have similar super powers.  When we are NOT thinking about them we want them to gently (gently!) contract and relax, very low key, very little. Just enough to keep blood flowing through them, to nourish their feeder nerves. We want movement to keep the tissues stretchy and flexible. We want to be on standby for whatever we decide to do next. 

Then, when you decide to pick up your toddler or dash up the stairs, we need them to move up a gear or two to help carry that load from below, preventing pelvic organ descent or a sudden urge to wee. 

Similarly, if you want to push shut a heavy door, or hit a tennis serve, or do one of your room shattering sneezes, we want them to go into full tension mode to prevent leaks. And most important of all, if you want to empty your bladder or bowel, or get sexy with your partner you want them to relax and release to allow things out or in.

#5 Best thing to work on

In contrast, if your muscles are always tense they become “crampy” with painful sensations associated with a build up of lactic acid or the soreness to be touched or if stretched. Then if your muscles are always “in gear” you can’t choose to have “more” or “less” for the activity you are doing.

So take moments through the day to tune in to your breathing and from there to your pelvic floor muscles. Find time to reset your background, automatic, movement pattern to line yourself up for a day with super-powers.

Video: How to improve pelvic floor control by simply breathing 

  • Firstly, tune into your breathing pattern.  Feel your rib cage lift and raise as you breathe in, drop and shrink as you breathe out. Play with it.  Breathe deep, blow out an imaginary candle.  Do this a couple of times.  Then stop.  Can you feel your body revert to your base breathing pattern?
  • Then, notice how your BELLY breathes.  Yes it does!!  Drop your hands to abdomen.  Channel your inner frog.  Notice that your belly mimics your breath.  As you breathe in your belly lifts as you breathe out it falls.
  • Finally, lower your consciousness to your pelvic floor.  It is the lowest moving set of muscles.  Can you feel how these move to, in time with your breathing, ever so gently contracting & letting go. Or gathering & releasing, or lifting & lowering – whichever words work best for you.

Have you improved your pelvic floor skills by practicing breathing? Please let me know if this video and explanation was helpful and how you are getting on?

exercises for the early days

Postnatal exercises for the early days

  • Are you overwhelmed by which postnatal pilates exercises are best for you and when you should start them?
  • Would you like to get going but not sure what you can do safely in the first few weeks?
  • Want to tone your abdominals without creating a pot-belly or putting too much pressure on your pelvic floor?
  • Are you looking for guidance about when to progress on to more challenging exercises?

I have developed a complete sequence of progressing postnatal Pilates classes for you to do at home. They are hosted on BEAM, an online platform specialising in providing friendly on demand and live exercise to mums.

Click through to BEAMfeelgood.com and use my affiliate code BEAM-WITH-SUPPORTED-MUMS for 30 days free Gold Membership. This gives you full access to my on-demand and LIVE classes as well as others on the site such as HIIT, Babysleek Barre and yoga.

Many mums are worried about exercising after their delivery. These exercises are for the first stage of your postnatal recovery. That tricky time from after delivery  to 6 weeks – full of myths & scare stories! Specialist physiotherapists like myself can guide you at this stage.

 Follow me through a sequence of  gentle but effective Pilates movements. The exercises safely mimic everyday activities like walking , climbing stairs & stretching. But I add clear cues about how to use your abdominal & pelvic floor muscles correctly at the same time. You will quickly feel stronger, more supported and comfortable again.

If you had a caesarean delivery I have made a special video for you to follow. Read  more in this post.

If you have exercised through your pregnancy you will LOVE to be using your body safely and effectively again.  If you are new to exercise, welcome to a wonderful fitness journey!

Can you help other mums?

Please help us let other mums know about our safe, pelvic floor friendly exercises & resources.  Many mums are worried and nervous about exercising. We want Supported Mums & BEAM to be friendly, safe places to get sound information and support on your postnatal journey. Please write a review at BEAM, and share the videos with a friend!

exercises for back stiffness

More granny than gazelle?

MORNING BACK STIFFNESS?

Do you wake with back stiffness, feeling rather like an old lady; starting the day with contorting stretches just to feel normal? Do you find that you struggle to get comfortable in bed at night?

The natural instinct is to try morning stretches to loosen and get going.  If this is working for you please don’t stop – but if it seems rather laborious and more like patching the problem each day rather than solving it – try for the week ahead doing some Pilates spine curls and streches before you go to bed.

WHY DO EXERCISES BEFORE GOING TO BED?

This has been a successful tactic for lots of my patients in clinic with niggly morning back stiffness. 

My theory is that by the end of a normal day of lifting, carrying, sitting, driving, and walking, the majority of people have lost pelvic alignment and their spines have resorted to stiffening the back muscles to keep us upright.  If you go to bed with a rigid lower back and asymmetrical pelvis then you are going to find a soft mattress uncomfortable as it distorts your shape further.  Furthermore,  you will eventually fall asleep but on a poorly arranged spine.  It won’t hurt when you are sleeping but it will complain as you start to move again next day.    

Mini-experiment:  You can feel this effect right now.  Try leaning your hand on the table or chair beside you so that your palm is flat with your wrist at 90 degrees.  It won’t hurt while you lean on it.  If you were distracted chatting to someone you could lean like this for a couple of minutes and not even think about it.  But when you release the pressure off your hand it will ache across the wrist joint and feel uncomfortable for a good minute or two before it wears off.  A night’s sleep on a stiff or crooked spinal column is a magnified version of this.

VIDEO: 10 minutes stretch and relax.

Use my licence code SUPPORTED-MUMS-WITH-BEAM to access all the videos on BEAM free for a month.

Stretch & Relax is good for partners too!
Stretch & Relax is good for partners too!

Even if you don’t do the video try 6 Pilates spine curls, on the floor (the mattress will be too soft), before you go to bed this week and let me know how you get on?  And if you have any other tips for  waking with the suppleness of a young gazelle please do share below.