Benefits of Pelvic Floor Strengthening for Pregnancy & Postpartum Symptoms
There are several symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy, and then there are several less common but more serious symptoms that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy. We will have a brief discussion on some of these symptoms and how strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and core/abdomen can be beneficial.
COMMON PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS
- Constipation/bloating: the growing uterus and fetus decrease the space available for normal stool movement through the bowels. Nutrition will play a large role in how well your bowels move, but you can also ask your Obstetrician if it is safe for you take a stool softener. Also, a strong pelvic floor that can fully relax will help with defecation.
- Low back/hip pain: results secondary to hormone changes and a pelvis that is trying to expand. Increasing core strength and pelvic floor muscle strength can help to stabilize the pelvis as it adjusts to a growing fetus. If it persists, seek out a pelvic therapist that can help with an exercise regimen customized to your needs.
- Urinary frequency, urgency, and incontinence: results usually because the growing fetus is sitting on top of the bladder. This increases the pressure exerted onto the bladder with any kind of movement, such as sitting, standing, reaching, and walking, and may make you feel like you have to use the restroom frequently. Stress incontinence increases because of increased intra-abdominal pressure increasing, again because of the growing fetus. As stated earlier, the hormone changes affect all aspects of the pelvic floor, so some women may experience urinary frequency early in pregnancy even before there are uterus changes and a baby bump appears. Later in pregnancy, women may experience all 3 symptoms, especially as the fetus drops in preparation for labor and delivery.
High Risk Pregnancy
- High blood pressure (also known as hypertension): the blood vessels from the heart to the organs narrow which can result in decreased blood flow to the placenta. With decreased blood flow to the placenta, there is potential for decreased fetal growth and development. If not controlled properly, conditions called Preeclampsia and Eclampsia can develop. Preeclampsia can lead to preterm labor/birth, pregnancy loss, and possibly stroke. Eclampsia can lead to seizures and possible coma.
- Infections: some infections can pass from the mother to the baby in the birth canal during delivery and others can infect the fetus during pregnancy. Infections can lead to preterm labor and delivery, pregnancy loss, low birth weight, and possible birth defects.
- Preterm labor: labor that begins prior to 37 weeks gestation with an increased risk of underdeveloped organs, especially the lungs and brain
- Premature rupture of the membranes: breaking of the amniotic sac prior to the start of labor, usually before 37 weeks gestation.
- Cervical incompetence or insufficiency: the cervix begins to shorten and opens too early leading to preterm labor or miscarriage
THE KEHEL AND PREGNANCY
As your pregnancy progresses your uterus increases in weight putting more pressure on your bladder, your pelvic floor muscles, and your connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments in the pelvic area. The increased pressure and the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles from the added weight and stretching can result in pelvic floor disorders such as stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
Exercise in general, but especially the core and pelvic floor muscles can help tremendously during pregnancy and labor. Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy is recommended to prevent or reduce pelvic floor problems during or following childbirth. The Kehel can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to prepare you for pregnancy and childbirth. With the use of the Kehel, you are able to monitor your progress with pelvic floor muscle strengthening, which is extremely useful. However, if you are experiencing any of the high-risk pregnancy symptoms, it may not be advised to insert the Kehel. If you are cleaning the Kehel properly and according to the instructions, you should be able to decrease the risk of infection. It is recommended that you speak with your Obstetrician regarding the use of the Kehel during pregnancy.
Following the birth of a child, a woman may continue to experience the symptoms of urinary incontinence, prolapse, and constipation. If you have a vaginal delivery, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched and there can also be tearing at the vaginal opening/perineum. In severe cases, the tearing can go from the vaginal opening to the anus. It is generally recommended to allow 6 weeks for healing prior to starting exercises and vaginal insertion. That means to wait until your 6 week postpartum follow up with your OB prior to resuming the use of the Kehel. During this period, as you are retraining your muscles, you may also experience incontinence when lifting your baby, climbing stairs, etc. and that is just your body healing. If you had a Cesarean delivery, you may also experience urinary incontinence, even though your pelvic floor did not go through the stretching. In this instance, the abdominal wall has been compromised and this can affect how well the pelvic floor muscles contract. For some women, the postpartum healing process can take up to a year, so try not to get discouraged if you are exercising but still experience some incontinence. You can seek out a pelvic physical therapist for an assessment on how you are performing the contractions and may be able to assist you further.
Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health
Doctor of Physical Therapy
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