Photo: Jeff Carlson
If you've had a baby, chances are you have some degree of pelvic floor dysfunction. This invisible—yet crucial—network of muscles and ligaments supports our bladder, bowel, uterus, vagina, pelvic bones and back, and is engaged with virtually every step we take. Here are the dos and don'ts for keeping this important network of muscles and ligaments strong.
DO ASK YOUR OB/GYN OR GP ABOUT PELVIC FLOOR INJURY And, if necessary, get a referral to a pelvic physiotherapist. Most private health insurance plans in Canada will likely cover much of the cost with a referral.
DO EXERCISE YOUR PELVIC FLOOR Remember, it’s the foundation of your overall core stability. “If you work your pelvic floor along with every other part of your core, you avoid or minimize your risk for chronic problems like back pain, which is a very common complaint,” says Calgary pelvic health specialist Magali Robert. Unexpected perk: A healthy pelvic floor can increase vaginal lubrication and intensify orgasm.
DON’T SMOKE Chronic coughing is killer on your pelvic floor. The contractions pound these critical muscles and ligaments like a fist on a punching bag.
DON’T FOCUS SOLELY ON CRUNCHES OR SIT-UPS IN THE FIRST YEAR POSTPARTUM Core workouts should always include pelvic floor work, says Robert. “Certain crunches and sit-ups increase pressure on your pelvic floor and push everything out your vagina.”
DO EAT MORE FRESH FRUIT AND VEG Prevent constipation by eating a balanced diet high in fibre, with vegetables, pulses and whole grains.
DON’T STRAIN ON THE TOILET Create a path of least resistance in your pelvis by getting into proper pooing position: Seated on the toilet, grab your kid’s stepstool and place it under your feet—your knees should be bent just past 90 degrees—and lean slightly forward.
DO GET YOUR KEGELS RIGHT “Women often use the wrong muscles, clench their bum and even bear down instead of drawing up their pelvic floor,” says Toronto pelvic physiotherapist Kathleen Shortt. “It’s not just about tightening and drawing up, but being able to breathe correctly while doing them,” says Toronto trainer Trista Zinn. “While you exhale, draw the muscles up and sustain it, then slowly relax and release the pelvic floor as you inhale.”