Pelvic floor recovery is vital postpartum for all women, regardless of whether you had a vaginal or cesarean delivery. Simply being pregnant and carrying a baby places significant weight on the pelvic floor muscles. Those muscles aid in supporting the pelvis and the pelvic organs, help with sphincter control to prevent leaking, and contribute to sexual function and response.1 For women who have experienced a vaginal delivery, the muscles of the pelvic floor have stretched tremendously or may have been torn and stitched up. The ways in which they may have been impacted differs from person to person and are affected by a multitude of factors, like the length of your delivery, position, and more. And just as you would rehab an injured shoulder or leg muscle, it’s just as important to give a little T.L.C. to your pelvic floor.
To help break down what that means for you and your postpartum recovery, we brought in pelvic floor therapist and Perelel Panel expert Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT. Her tips and expertise on everything you need to know in the fourth trimester are below.
So I want to recover my pelvic floor. Now what?
The first step in healing is to rest, ice, and manage your pain. You also want to avoid putting any downward pressure on your pelvic floor. Next, you can begin to retrain those muscles to properly function by regaining and strengthening the connection between the pelvic floor and the inner core.
A pelvic health therapist can help guide you with this and make an individualized treatment plan. I recommend that all women seek support in some way or another, but that does not always have to be in person. Many therapists offer virtual counseling or online classes that will support you during this time.
How can I help recoup my pelvic floor at home?
It is important to understand that the pelvic floor lengthens and stretches when we inhale, and it should then contract up and in on our exhale. Therefore, you can use breathwork to begin waking up those muscles and practice proper pelvic floor form. We do this with what is called a bridge exercise.
Inhale to begin. Then, exhale through your mouth as you gently engage the pelvic floor muscles and lift up your hips simultaneously. Do this ten times, a few times per day.
To know if you’re engaging your pelvic floor muscles correctly, it should feel as though you’re squeezing in a tampon or stopping a flow of urine.
Is it normal to have pain and leaking postpartum?
After childbirth, the pelvic floor should continuously improve and pain, discomfort, leaking, and pressure should all improve as time goes on. If you’re finding that that is not the case, then seeking support is necessary. Something that is common is not the same as normal. And the sooner treatment begins, the better the outcomes. With that said, it is normal to have some pain and maybe even some leaking in the early weeks postpartum, but that should not last long.
I had a c-section—do I still need to do pelvic floor recovery?
Yes, due to a few reasons. For starters, the months of pregnancy, and the pressure that was placed on the pelvic floor. Also, many women have a cesarean after hours of labor and maybe even active pushing, which can still lead to a weakened pelvic floor. And finally, the effects of scar tissue from a c-section still impact the pelvic floor function. Therefore, treatment to improve the loss of mobility from scar tissue is equally as important.
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Read next—7 postpartum essentials to help ease your recovery. Plus, Perelel's pelvic floor specialist, Allison Oswald, has given the Perelel community an exclusive 20% off her Postnatal Pelvic Floor Connection Course. Use code PERELEL20 and start taking care of your pelvic floor from the comfort of your own home today.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.