Best Practices for your Pelvic floor
This person is in the preconception phase for baby #2, and wanted to know not only what the best pelvic floor exercises are, but also how to incorporate her pelvic floor training into her daily life and exercise program. (I love this question!! Also- major kudos to you who are taking charge of your pelvic floor health before pregnancy!)
Here is what I recommend, and click the video below for my longer, more detailed reply:
1.) Core Breathing and Balancing Strengthening vs Lengthening
Work on Core Breathing (see below for follow-along video) to reduce your intra abdominal pressure and pelvic floor toning, and get in the habit of using this breathing when attempting and lifting/ loading, rotation, and abdominal work. Similarly, the elevator exercise (see below) is a great “Test” to determine whether your pelvic floor (PF) needs more strengthening / concentric contraction or stretching/ eccentric contraction. I like to use the PF breathing in all of my workouts, prenatal or beyond. I’ll encourage my clients to perform an elevator breath as a daily or weekly practice as part of their cool down routine if they are having any pelvic issues as well.
2.) Do Better Workouts
Create a workout routine that includes functional strength exercises (think squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, etc) and lengthening/ core exercises (Pilates, Yoga, stretching). For pregnancy in particular, you’ll want a strong pelvic floor, and the squat is one of the best exercises for this as it both contracts and stretches the pelvic floor. Yoga, Pilates, stretches like the cat/cow and child’s pose are great to take the tension out of your hips/ pelvis, low-back, and other areas that are working hard to accommodate your growing baby.
3.) Prioritize your posture.
I like to describe the PF as hammock during pregnancy. There’s lots of smaller muscles holding your pelvic organs (and baby) in place, collectively working together. If there’s a line of pull holding up more than the other, things tend to shift. For example, many women who hold tension in their ribs, jaw, calves, and shoulders, experience pelvic floor issues. Finding proper alignment is essential, especially during pregnancy and postpartum.
For example - with all of your gravity shifting while the baby grows, your calves tend to have to work harder to maintain your balance. This can create a line of pull all the way up to your pelvic floor, which can be a reason for incontinence, pain, and pressure. This is one of the reasons why I love to give my clients customized Pilates videos, functional exercises that train their back, core, and hips.
One of the reasons I have noticed most of my clients struggle to get the feeling of proper core engagement during postpartum is the posture piece. Wiggly, refusing-to-be-put-down newborns can strain shoulders, tighten low backs, tilt pelvises, and overwork forearms. Creating a habit to stretch, switch sides, and properly wear babies can help, and during this period the breathing and alignment part of training is essential.
4.) Hire a Professional
If you are pregnant/postpartum and having any pelvic floor symptoms (urinary or rectal incontinence, pain during intercourse, or feeling pressure in your pelvic area), please start seeing a pelvic floor therapist. In my years of working alongside PTs, many of them wish more of their clients started seeing them during pregnancy or sooner. They can give you a proper diagnosis and give you practices to include in your workouts to either strengthen or stretch your pelvic floor muscles. You’ll have a relationship and can hopefully get seen sooner during your postpartum recovery period.
For more on pelvic floor and core pressure management see my recent video on planking and postpartum. I’ll cover more about core breathing exercises and maintaining proper posture and alignment, which are all useful tips for prenatal fitness too!
To try the core breathing and elevator exercises, please click on the following videos:
Piston/ Core / Belly Breathing :
The Elevator Exercise:
Finally - As for all things “best-practices” building- try to include them into your warm up/ cool down or during your daily life. We’ve come a long way from recommending our clients do hundreds of kegels at stoplights, but doing the elevator while brushing your teeth or before that first sip of coffee certainly won’t hurt!
Please reach out to me here if you have any additional questions or need more help. You can also DM me on my Insta if you have a question you’d like answered. I love hearing from you and I respond to every email quicker than my Instagram messages.
Happy Pelvic floor training!