During childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles can stretch and sometimes even tear as the baby’s head passes through the birth canal. This stretching and tearing can cause damage to the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to a weakening of the muscles and affect their ability to properly support the organs in the pelvic area, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. This can result in a range of symptoms, including urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
The degree of damage to the pelvic floor muscles can depend on a variety of factors, including the size of the baby, the length of the labor, the use of forceps or vacuum, and the presence of other factors such as obesity or a history of pelvic floor problems.
What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common issue among women, particularly those who have given birth vaginally. Studies have shown that up to 50% of women may experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction during their lifetime, with urinary incontinence being the most common symptom.
In terms of the specific impact of childbirth on the pelvic floor, studies have found that approximately 10-20% of women who give birth vaginally will experience severe damage to the pelvic floor muscles that requires medical intervention. However, many more women may experience milder forms of pelvic floor damage that still affect their quality of life.
If you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.
The importance of pelvic floor exercises
To improve bladder weakness after childbirth, it is important to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles through exercises such as Kegels. These exercises involve contracting and relaxing the muscles that control urination. Regular practice of Kegels can help improve the strength and tone of the pelvic floor muscles and reduce bladder weakness.
In addition to Kegels, there are other exercises and techniques that can be used to improve bladder weakness, such as pelvic floor physical therapy, biofeedback, and electrical stimulation. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight, avoid constipation, and practice good toileting habits.
How to do Kegel/ Pelvic Floor Exercises
- Identify the pelvic floor muscles: The first step is to identify the muscles that you need to exercise. These are the muscles that you use to stop the flow of urine midstream or to prevent passing gas.
- Find a comfortable position: You can perform Kegels in any position, but it’s often easier to start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can also do them while sitting or standing.
- Tighten the muscles: Once you have identified the pelvic floor muscles, tighten them by squeezing them together. Hold the contraction for a few seconds, making sure to keep breathing normally.
- Relax the muscles: After holding the contraction, relax the pelvic floor muscles and release the tension. Rest for a few seconds before repeating the exercise.
- Repeat the exercise: Aim to do three sets of 10 repetitions of the exercise each day. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can increase the length of the contractions or the number of repetitions.
- Be consistent: It’s important to be consistent with your pelvic floor exercises and to make them a regular part of your daily routine. Set a reminder or schedule them into your day to help you remember to do them.
See your GP, or better still, a Women’s Health Physio
It’s worth noting that not all women experience pelvic floor damage during childbirth, and some women may experience only minor stretching or tearing that resolves on its own. However, for some women, pelvic floor damage can be more severe and require treatment to manage symptoms and prevent long-term complications. One possible course of action is to see a women’s health physiotherapist, who can provide specialized exercises and therapies to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control. A women’s health physiotherapist can also provide guidance on lifestyle changes that can help manage pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, such as dietary changes and exercises to improve posture and body mechanics.
Seeing a women’s health physiotherapist can be an effective way to address pelvic floor problems and improve your quality of life after childbirth.It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth.