Bladder or Bowel issues after your baby?
Why stretching around the pelvis could help the pelvic floor work better….
Pelvic floor STRETCHES? Are you puzzled? Were you thinking that my advice would be to work on tightening up and strengthening your pelvic floor?
Did you know that taking time to stretch and align the muscles all around the pelvis might help the pelvic floor work better? YES! Just once a day for about 6 minutes can make Mums so much more comfortable – and find their pelvic floor muscles really perk up. FAST. It’s not crazy. If your pelvis is wonky or your back is stiff – just tightening up the pelvic floor muscles won’t improve bladder control. Because the muscles can’t work properly together if they are at funny angles!
Today we are exploring WHO might need to do that (and WHY) and HOW to do the right stretches really well (and quickly).
VIDEO: Pelvic Stretches for Mums
Why we need to do pelvic floor stretches before we strengthen
The muscles must work together to control and move the pelvis.
You could picture your pelvis muscles working together just like the guy-ropes on a tent. If there is a good balance through every part of the rope network the tent sits upright, symmetrical, self-supporting – it holds strong but can sway in the wind as needed, able to adjust to change in the environment with ease. You can easily open the door and push your way in with no effort or move bags of kit back out. The tent has full height, the groundsheet is stretched perfectly corner to corner without wrinkles or twists.
Magic, when all is well…
In a similar way when the muscles around the pelvis have good length to allow the pelvic bones to sit symmetrically, at the right angles, you can sit comfortably on a chair, or move efficiently transferring your weight seamlessly and effortlessly from one leg to the other as you walk or climb stairs. Your back feels comfortable, hamstrings don’t get injured, bowels empty easily, bladders fill and empty without trouble, pelvic organs stay securely inside, sex is comfortable.
But problematic if out of kilter
However, there are problems if one or more guy-ropes is overtightened..
Changing the tension in some of the guy-ropes on one side of the tent will cause distortions to the tent not only on the side of the ropes that have been tightened but also on the opposite and/or diagonally opposite side. In the video (above) see how this distorts my ability to whistle – even though there is nothing wrong at all with my mouth muscles?
Symptoms can seem logical: soreness right where the scar is making sex painful or tampons uncomfortable, or making wearing tight clothing irritating. Or more distant issues can develop like sciatica, persistant pelvic girdle pain, bladder irritability or constipation.
Are you out of kilter? A hidden consequence of childbirth?
- Did you have a difficult pregnancy with pelvic girdle pain or back pain, or just a very heavy baby (!). Were you limping around a bit towards the end?
- Did you have to work your pelvic support muscles very hard during your labour? Lots of squatting, using your legs to support you? Or maybe your legs had to be up and held at a funny angle for a while? That would be something that would make your inside thigh and abdominal muscles work very hard.
- And of course the common scenario that causes this type of guy-rope problem is an episiotomy or perineal tear during childbirth. The scar that forms can be more rigid than the original tissue – creating a pucker or pull on one side of the pelvic floor.
- If after your baby you were really sore you might have found yourself sitting sideways in your chair, or sitting awkwardly on the edge? Or you might have limped around trying to stop everything hurting? Unfortunately, very quickly it can become a habit to have tension in the pelvis.
So tbh there are not many mums who wouldn’t benefit from doing some pelvic floor stretching!
Quick Guide: Technique
Which style of stretches & when?
Use static stretches (the ones you ‘hold’ for 10-30s). No bouncing!
Start with once a day to learn and enjoy the stretches. Then you are looking for 2-3 opportunities through your day to stop and deliberately release tension and stretch the different muscle groups. Pick stretches to suit the environment you are in. Once your problem has settled then drop to a once a day holistic sequence to keep the muscles stretched for ever.
They are best done when the muscles and soft tissues are a warmer temperature:
- when you get back from a trip to the park,
- after an exercise class, or dance-a-long with the kids
- warmed up by a bath or shower,
- after a TV snuggle under a blanket before climbing into bed….
How many & how long?
- Hold each position for a comfortable stretch for 30 seconds, repeated 3 times.
- Research shows that you do not achieve anything extra by doing more reps or increasing the time.
- If you have a lot of pain start with fewer shorter stretches eg 2 repetitions of 15 seconds each.
Quick Guide: 3 Favorite Pelvic Floor Stretches for Pelvic Flexibility
#1 Hip Flexion with opposite leg extension
Hip flexion: gently draw one knee to your chest then let the other leg slide out straight. 30 seconds letting gravity do the stretching work. 3 x each side.
#2 Butterfly Stretch
Adductors: 20-30 seconds gently easing out the inner thighs with gravity. 3 x
#3 Happy Baby Stretch
upper hamstrings: ease the “sit bones” wider. 20-30 seconds. 3 x
Let me know if this helps you?
Try the three stretches (or 15 mins guided video sequence) every day for a week and see what you notice changing? Improved posture, easier squatting to the floor, better bowel opening, more pelvic floor awareness? Do let me know?