Usually women don’t bother to think about their pelvic floor until they get pregnant, give birth and then discover that, “OMG, I’m leaking!” It might be that first trip back to the gym, or that first dance floor moment back with the ladies when, “Yikes, I literally just leaked out of nowhere!” Or, it might be months or years later. But, if women can understand their pelvic floor before getting pregnant, they’ll experience better results afterwards.
“One of the most disturbing facts about incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction is that 30% of women in their 20’s or earlier have pelvic floor dysfunction,” said Dr. Cindy Neville, PT, DPT, WCS, Board Certified Specialist in Women’s Health Physical Therapy “That’s a significant proportion of girls and women who have symptoms already, regardless of their activity.”
Because we can’t see the pelvic floor muscles (unlike how we can see when our triceps or glute muscles are looking less than fit), we don’t understand them internally. The only thing women use them for before pregnancy is during sex, urination and bowel movements. Their awareness is entirely unknown to them, yet the pelvic floor helps stabilize their pelvic girdle and plays an important role in the ability for the pelvis to transfer weight.
“Maybe if you’re an athlete, you might have some education surrounding this area, but so far the data reflects that younger women have very little exposure in understanding the pelvic floor in any formal format,” Dr. Cindy Neville, PT, DPT, WCS, Board Certified Specialist in Women’s Health Physical Therapy says."
Pregnancy and birth can put enormous stress on - and in some cases damage - the pelvic floor. So, if you are planning to have a baby, NOW is the time to pay attention to those muscles downtown.
“The earlier you start your pelvic floor exercises, the better the likelihood of success with pelvic floor strength,” she said.
Starting out your pregnancy with strong pelvic floor muscles helps decrease the damage these muscles experience under the strain of carrying a growing child. A healthy pelvic floor also makes labor and delivery less risky, as you’ll be better equipped for labor, which means less stress for your baby. And regardless of how you give birth - via vaginally or through a C-section - the muscles of the pelvic floor undergo quite a bit of stretching and strain. Having a healthy pelvic floor means faster recovery after childbirth.
Beyond that, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where your pelvic organs moving out of place and into your vagina, making sex and normal activities uncomfortable and even painful.
Want the scoop on how to maintain a healthy pelvic floor in advance of pregnancy? If you are not sure how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles, make an appointment with a pelvic/women’s health physical therapist. Try to maintain a healthy body weight and healthy weight gain during your pregnancy, and avoid exercises that exert excess pressure on your abdomen during pregnancy.
And if you do start to experience post-baby leakage, INNOVO is here to help. See how INNOVO can safely strengthen your pelvic floor conveniently from home.