Posture & Pelvic Floor Recovery
In the post-natal period, it is necessary to start exercising gently in order to prevent damaging ligaments and joints. A great way to start post-natal training is to focus on working the pelvic floor muscles. This is turn will help strengthen the muscles that have been heavily used during pregnancy.
A study was carried out whereby measurement of spinal curvature and pelvic mobility were measured during the early pre-natal period and up to 2 months post-natally (Bullock-Saxton: 1991). What the study revealed was that kyphosis and lordosis increased significantly during pregnancy and that this continued into the post-natal period.
It is therefore necessary to work the muscles of the abdomen to aid posture. The abdominal muscles are stretched during pregnancy and if they are weak post-natally, this can lead to imbalances in posture.
The Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor muscles stretch from side to side across the floor of the pelvis. It is attached to your pubic bone in front, and to the tail end of your spine behind. The openings from your bladder, your bowels and your womb all pass through your pelvic floor. Recovery of this muscle is important for continence and to support the pelvic organs.
Pelvic Floor Lift
Do this exercise with the weight off the pelvic floor. Either by lying down with knees bent and feet flat on the floor OR in Ahdo-Muka Virasana (sit on the floor with your feet together and knees apart. Keeping your buttocks on your heels, lean forward , bend your elbows , rest them on the floor and then rest your head in your hands)
1. The first exercise is to locate the opening for the urethra towards the front of the pubic bone (ashwini mudra). You can imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine in order to contract the muscles around the opening.
Breathe normally on the inhale and contract the muscles on an exhalation. Repeat x 5
II Now tilt the pelvis slightly and move the awareness to the opening around the anus (Sahajoli Mudra). Again inhale as normal and contract the muscles on an exhalation. Repeat x 5
III Finally move to the opening of the vagina- ( Mula Bandha), bring the weight to the centre of the pelvic floor. You will notice that this contraction is more like a lift. Inhale as normal and contract on the exhalation. Repeat x 5
IV Contract all 3 muscles on the pelvic floor together. The urethra , vagina and anus. Repeat x 5 . Feel a lift as you contract the muscles.
Note: Isolating muscles of the pelvic floor might seem impossible. Instead, bring your attention to the individual areas.
Pelvic Decompression- Supine
Pelvic decompression takes the pressure off all the organs in the lower pelvis e.g. The bladder, the pelvic floor etc. Instead of the lungs drawing the ribs in with them on each exhalation, they draw in the abdominal mass and this in turn allows for an area where there is less pressure. It is an excellent and effective way to work the abdominals.
-Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. If you have a weak lumbar spine, let the knees move together but keep feet apart. Move arms out to the side so that the elbows are level with the shoulders. Gently press the lower back into the floor.
-Breathe deeply to open the ribs on the front and the back of the ribcage (x4)
– Breathe deeply but on the exhalation, try to keep the ribs expanded by drawing the shoulder blades together. (x4)
– Make the sounds SSSSSSSSSS or HHHHHHHHH on the out breath
– Now incorporate a pelvic lift on the exhale.
Other areas to pay attention to post-natally are how you carry your child or wear your child. Try to opt for the carrier that maximises spinal integrity, distributes weight evenly and incorporates the hips for additional support and balance. When lifting babies and small children, lift your pelvic floor and move on the exhalation!
Nutrition for the Pelvic Floor
As with any aspect of your health, optimal nutrition is essential to good pelvic floor function, and specifically, to pelvic floor recovery post-natally. It is necessary to remember that any digestive disturbances may reduce assimilation of nutrients and other co-existing health symptoms will increase your requirements for nutrients.
Joanne E. Bullock- Saxton ,Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, Volume 7, Issue 2, 1991 (pages 103-109)
Post-Natal Manual Uma Dinsmore-Tuli / Sitarm UK