Fact or Fiction - the post-partum pelvic floor!

We tend to come across quite a lot of mis-information out there in regards to the pelvic floor after birth. So here we've attempted to clear a few things up! Have you heard anything that you'd like us to clarify? Send us an email, we'd love to answer your question!

“It is normal to leak after childbirth”

Common YES, normal NO! Incontinence is common in pregnancy and beyond and may affect more than 30% of women but this does not make it NORMAL or ACCEPTABLE. In most cases, leakage can be improved or CURED with specific and individualised pelvic floor rehabilitation. You don’t have to put up with it!

“If I am leaking during exercise, I just wear a pad and it will eventually go away”

Unfortunately not. Leakage is a sign that your pelvic floor is not coping with the load that your activities are placing upon it and continuing the exercise that makes you leak can make things worse and may lead to other issues like prolapse. You should modify your exercise immediately and seek professional help.

“I do Pilates therefore I already do enough pelvic floor exercises”

Pilates is a great, low impact way to exercise in the post-partum period and beyond however  if you have pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. Incontinence or prolapse) the amount of specific and sustained pelvic floor work required to improve these issues is more than what you will typically be able to do in a class setting. Abdominal exercises won’t strengthen your pelvic floor as pelvic floor exercises won’t strengthen your abdominals.

“Pelvic floor exercises are easy to do”

Don’t despair if you can’t work it out - the Pelvic Floor is internal and therefore not visible from outside the body so it can be difficult to isolate and exercise correctly. Research has told us that up to 50% of women trying to do pelvic floor exercises from a brochure or verbal instruction alone are doing them wrong. In this case the exercises won’t help and they may even cause harm. In brief, you should feel a squeezing in and drawing up of the pelvic floor muscles when you contract - imagine gripping and lifting a cotton wool ball up inside the vagina. If in doubt, a pelvic floor physiotherapist is trained to assess and correct your technique.

“I had a C-Section so I don’t need to do pelvic floor exercises”

C-Section mums sorry, you are not off the hook! Pregnancy itself weakens the pelvic floor and can stretch the bladder support ligaments therefore you too are at risk of urinary incontinence which can be prevented by pelvic floor exercises during and after pregnancy.  By age 45 your chances of leaking increase to be similar to that of someone who has given birth vaginally.

“Pelvic Floor Exercises didn’t work for me”

There is an excellent quality and large body of research to show that pelvic floor exercises are effective for many types of incontinence and to reduce the symptoms of prolapse in up to 85% or cases!! The catch is - the exercises are effective when they are done correctly and taught and supervised by a physiotherapist who specialises in the pelvic floor. If your 'DIY' pelvic floor exercise program did not work, then chances are they were not done the right way - which can mean not enough, not hard enough, not the right type etc. Get help from a health professional to confirm that your technique is correct and have an individualised training program specifically developed for your problem and the condition of your pelvic floor muscles.

“You can’t over-do it with pelvic floor exercises”

Some women will have pelvic floor dysfunction that is actually related to an ‘overactive’ pelvic floor rather than a weak one. This can develop when the muscle has been trained to turn ON all the time and therefore can’t relax and turn OFF. It can cause leaking because when you need your muscle to squeeze to its max during exercise it is too tired from being ON all the time to produce any extra effort. This condition can also be related to painful sex or pap smears.

“My mum/aunty/sister is incontinent - it’s too late for her”

Pelvic floor function and incontinence can be improved at ANY AGE. Whilst skeletal muscle (what the PF is made of) can decrease in bulk after menopause - it can still be strengthened with the correct exercises.

Good luck with your postpartum recovery and remember to look after your pelvic floor - it’s the only one you will every have!