How to Isolate Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor is a figure 8 muscle that expands from the pubic bone back to your tailbone. The pelvic floor is a basin like structure, which creates stability that protects your body as forces travel throughout your limbs. The pelvic floor muscles should be the first muscles to activate when you decide to “make a move”. We place a constant demand on our pelvic floors throughout the day as we lift kids, carry things, jump during a fitness class, and even just walk. It is so important in your function prior to, during, and after pregnancy. What you do for your pelvic floor during pregnancy has lifelong implications. Because the pelvic floor is a figure 8 muscle, it is important to work all sides of it- front, back, and both sides. To do a proper pelvic floor contraction, pull your tailbone UP and IN toward the belt line.
Do NOT squeeze your abdominals, inner thigh muscles, or butt muscles. This causes you to over-recruit the wrong muscles.
Use your hand or sit on towels. This way you can feel your pelvic floor rise off the surface.
Pull up and in- imagine that you are squeezing around your husband's male parts
Pretend that you are picking up a blueberry with your vagina
Pretend you are stopping urine from coming out IMPORTANT: Do not practice this while you are actually urinating.
Pretend you are trying to prevent passing gas
Why should you care?
The pelvic floor plays a role in incontinence. 41% of women experience stress urinary incontinence-- any leaking during pregnancy is NOT normal. If you experiences this during your first pregnancy, the chances of you being incontinent 15 years later are DOUBLED. Just like any other muscle, our pelvic floor muscles weaken with age too.
Did you know that athletes typically have weaker pelvic floors than their normal counter parts? This is because the demand that sports place on the body can often cause too much pressure on the pelvic floor, and this is a muscle that most athletes don’t even think to strengthen.
Running is a repetitive activity that places continual pressure on the pelvic floor- that said, be cautious returning to running postpartum
If you are a cross fitter, lifter, etc.- placing too much inter abdominal pressure on a tight or weak pelvic floor can create long lasting problems.
ALL ASPECTS OF THE PELVIC FLOOR
Performing pelvic floor contractions in different positions is useful for different times during pregnancy and postpartum. In ur Expecting & Empowered Guides we include many different kegel exercises that will work the pelvic floor from the front, the back and both sides.
Front of the pelvic floor: You will see kegel exercises in the guide such as standing ski jump, seated ski jump, down dog. These exercises tip your pelvis forward, bringing the attention to the front of your pelvis. Very helpful for moms that say they get done peeing and still fill a bit of a dribble, or for mamas that stand and have a little leakage.
Left and right sides: If you bring one leg out to the side (i.e. right leg) you are making your left side of the pelvic floor do MORE. This is really great if you display weakness on the left side and want it to catch up to the right. You can try sitting, or go on all fours (quadruped) and bring one leg out. Try to do a pelvic floor contraction. Then try on the other side. Do you notice a difference? Is one side easier? If so, focus on doing contractions on the HARD (not so easy side to do the contraction on) side. It is human nature to avoid stuff that we are not go at but it is much needed!
If you have PROLAPS:
Cystocele Prolapse: Quadruped or laying on your belly
Rectocele Prolapse: Laying on your back, Propping your butt up with pillows underneath it.
In the 3rd Trimester Guide, you will see a lot of pelvic exercises in quadruped because this offloads the weight of your pelvic floor and makes it easier to do a contraction, so that the weight of baby is not on your pelvic floor. There are also ones in a squat position (even though this adds more weight) to help get you used to using your pelvic floor in an ideal position for laboring.
EXERCISE AND YOUR PELVIC FLOOR
Proper breathing (known as diaphragmatic breathing in the guide) automatically activates your pelvic floor. Julie Weber (an amazing PT) coined the term “blow before you go”. This means that, for example, as you come up from a squat (the harder part of an exercise), blow out as if you are blowing out birthday candles. This will automatically get the pelvic floor to passively activate. When I lift or work out, this is something I have to constantly focus on doing.
WHAT IF I FEEL LIKE I CAN NOT TURN IT ON AT ALL?!?
Try using your hand on the outside of your pelvic floor (easier to identify a lift)
Try using a bolster/ball to sit on so you can feel it
Try squeezing during intercourse to see if you can create tension
Fake it til you make it by squeezing inward with your thighs to see if your contractions better
See a PT because it could be too tight
Try stacking your ribs over your hips as you do it to see if the contraction improves