Today, I want to talk to you about 3 simple easy exercises that you can do to for postpartum core reactivation in those early days after delivering your baby.
Many women are concerned about how their core muscles will return after they deliver their baby. There are things that you can be doing early on in the postpartum recovery time help the abdominal muscles get back to working the way they were designed. The beauty of these exercises is that they are very simple to do.
The core muscle involve the diaphragm on the top, the abdominals on the front and the pelvic floor at the bottom. We are going to be looking at how we can easily activate these muscles to work together to create some nice support for that postpartum belly as it’s healing.
None of the exercises that I am talking about should be painful. If you are experiencing any pain when doing, please stop and consult your healthcare provider. Because these exercises are gentle, you can start them in your first week postpartum. Just make sure to perform the exercises in a comfortable range that’s not causing pain.
Exercise 1: Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a wonderful way to get all of your deep core muscles coordinating together again. Sit or lay in a relaxed position of comfort. Start by taking nice big slow breath in and out. When you inhale, big and slow, you’re letting your abdominals expand and your belly fill up with air. A visual that works well for many people is to imagine your rib cage opening up like an umbrella as you inhale. Then as you exhale the umbrella closes. Try to slowly inhale for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
The beauty of deep breathing is that we get movement of the diaphragm, abdominals and the pelvic floor all together. So as we inhale, the diaphragm comes down, the abdominals expand out and the pelvic floor comes down a little bit to accept the load from that increased air pressure. Then, as we exhale, the pelvic floor rebounds back up, the abdominals come back in, the diaphragm goes back up.
Exercise 2: Transverse Abdominal Activation
The transverse abdominals are the deepest layer of abdominal muscles. Think of them forming a corset around your midsection. These muscles get very stretched out with pregnancy and can use some assistance to work correctly after delivery.
Again, sit or lay in a comfortable position. Gently inhale and then as you exhale, try to gently draw your belly away from your pants. You shouldn’t be holding your breath to do this. You are also not trying to squeeze your belly in as tight as you possibly can. Try to hold the contraction for 5 seconds and then relax for a few seconds. Do 10 repetitions at a time several times a day.
Exercise 3: Pelvic Floor Muscle Activation
The third exercise is for the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are intimately located around the urethra, vagina, and anus. There are a couple of different ways that you can think of doing a pelvic floor muscle contraction. Try to pucker the anus like holding back gas or you can think about trying to pull the vagina up and in. You can do this in any position, but you may find it easier to feel the contraction in laying down or sitting at first. Just like with the transverse abdominal muscles try to hold the contraction for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
Especially if you delivered vaginally, you may have a hard time feeling the pelvic floor muscles contract. After all, they are recovering from a big stretch with the delivery. Early activation is very helpful though. Gentle contract and relax of the pelvic floor muscles will help improve blood floor to the area and help the swelling go down. Both of which will help the healing process.
So, there you have it, three exercises that you can do in the early postpartum days to help reactivate your core muscles. Reactivation of the core muscles is important for you to be able care for your baby and return to healthy active lifestyle. If you have difficulty performing any of these exercises, it may benefit you to partner with a women’s health physical therapist.
So a friend of mine who knows that I am a pelvic physical therapist, sent me this picture this morning.
Although I did get a chuckle out of the quote, it is just another example of how women tend to think that it is a normal thing to leak urine when they laugh. I am here to tell you that it is NOT normal, it is NOT something you should just live with, and there are conservative treatment options out there.
Urine leakage when you laugh is a type of stress incontinence, which typically is a result of weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. An individualized program to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles may be all you need to be leakage free. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for stress incontinence.
If you leak when you laugh and are sick of being told “it is normal, just live with it,” then give Legacy Physical Therapy a call to set up your first appointment today. 636-225-3649.
If I had a dime for every time I hear a woman say, “Yes I leak a little when I laugh or sneeze, but I just deal with it,” I would be a very rich woman! Let me start this article off right by dispelling this myth once and for all: bladder leakage when you cough, laugh, or sneeze is not a normal part of aging, and you do not have to just deal with it.
The National Institute of Health reports that 50 percent of all women having occasional urinary incontinence, with about 20 percent of women over the age of 75 experiencing daily urinary incontinence. Unfortunately these numbers are just estimates, because the sad fact is that many women never report their bladder control issues because of the social stigma associated with it. One study found that women wait an average of 7 years before talking to their doctor about bladder control issues, and that only 1 in 5 ever get help at all!
This is not just your grandma’s problem! Women of all ages may experience urinary incontinence. Leakage can be caused by weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which form a sling around the vagina (birth canal), the urethra (tube from the bladder), and the rectum. Weakened pelvic muscles can be caused by aging, pregnancy, child birth, chronic constipation, and chronic coughing. Urinary incontinence is often a socially debilitating condition, which causes many women to have to give up activities they love. The good news is that most cases of incontinence can be cured or improved with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Types of Incontinence
1. Stress Urinary Incontinence: SUI may occur because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter, causing the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement which puts pressure on the bladder.
2. Urge Urinary Incontinence: Urge urinary incontinence and overactive bladder is the urgent need to pass urine and the inability to get to a toilet in time. This occurs when nerve passages along the pathway from the bladder to the brain are damaged causing a sudden bladder contraction that cannot be consciously inhibited.
3. Mixed Incontinence: Mixed incontinence is very common and occurs when symptoms of both stress and urge types of incontinence are present.
If you experience incontinence, getting a prescription from your doctor to see a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor therapy is a great place to start. The truth is, pelvic muscle weakness can contribute greatly to urinary incontinence because of the lack of support and control. The therapist will provide a thorough musculoskeletal evaluation, assessing your posture, flexibility, core strength and alignment. From there the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that may include: pelvic floor muscle strengthening, bladder retraining, lifestyle modifications, biofeedback, and gentle electrical stimulation of the pelvic floor muscles.
Physical therapy is an appropriate conservative treatment option for urinary incontinence, but in some cases treatment for incontinence may include medication or surgery. The good news is that there are many effective treatments available and you do not have to live with the life-limiting problem of incontinence.
To learn more about physical therapy treatments for incontinence, please call Legacy Physical Therapy at 636-225-3649 to set up a free 15 minute screening.
Now is the time to get informed and to take control of your health. Bladder conditions will be taking center stage on Lifetime TV network and Lifetime Real Women Network this weekend. Bladder Monologues will be airing multiple times this weekend on “Defining Moments.”
Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) and founder, Missy Lavender will be featured on Lifetime Television’s Defining Moments. Also highlighted in the segment are participants of the Foundation’s signature pelvic wellness and education program, Total Control® who were filmed at Galter Life Center in Chicago, IL.
The show focused on three women with bladder control problems and their journeys back to healthy, vibrant lives. The women share their unique “Defining Moment,” when they seek treatment, find community, and overcome the challenges of years of embarrassment and silent struggles. “We are proud to be part of this show which celebrates the possibility of taking control of your bladder and pelvic health,” said Lavender. “Our part of the show highlights the need for behavioral options such as appropriate exercise, education and physical therapy to help women with bladder control issues,” she added.
You’ll recognize these women from your daily life; they could easily be your neighbor, your sister or YOU! Defining Moments shows us that bladder conditions can affect anyone, regardless of income or race, but those who have reclaimed their lives through treatment often share a common message: “Stop suffering in silence! Seek a solution!”
Legacy Physical Therapy can be part of your solution. Please contact us today to see if therapy is right for you. 636-225-3649
I spend much of my day as a pelvic floor physical therapist educating women on the benefits of strengthening their pelvic floor muscles and how to do it. If you are not familiar with this area of your anatomy trying to contract these muscles can be a difficult task. The pelvic floor muscles make a hammock or sling from the pubic bone in front to the tailbone in back.
Exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can help hold urine inside the bladder, preventing leakage. These are commonly called “Kegel” or pelvic floor muscle exercises, named after the doctor who developed them. Personally, I like to refer to them as pelvic floor muscle contractions.
There are several ways to find your pelvic floor muscle. When contracting the muscle, women will feel a slight pulling in the rectum and vagina. Men will feel a pulling in of the anus and movement of the penis. Every person is unique, and different techniques work for different people. Below I have outlined 2 techniques to help you find and isolate those muscles.
Everyone, at one time or another, has been in a crowded room and felt as if he or she were going to pass gas or “wind.” Imagine that this is happening to you. Most of us will try to squeeze the muscles of our anus to prevent the passing of gas. These muscles being squeezed are your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel a “pulling” sensation at the anus, you are using the right muscles.
For women, lie down and insert a finger into your vagina. Try to squeeze around your finger with your vaginal muscles. You should be able to feel the sensation in your vagina, and you may also be able to feel the pressure on your finger. If you can, then you are using the right muscles. If you cannot detect any movement with one finger, try two fingers.
It takes some practice to get used to contracting the muscles, so don’t give up on it.