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Post-partum pelvic floor check

Health tips
Post partum JH1

Exercising your pelvic floor muscles after having a baby is important for all women – even if you have had a caesarean delivery and even if you do not have symptoms.

Where is your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is the ‘sling’ that supports the bladder, bowel and uterus. It is made up of layers of muscles and other supportive tissues that stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis.

Jean Hailes physiotherapist Amy Steventon lists five good reasons for doing pelvic floor exercises. They are to:

  • prevent or reduce urine leakage
  • maintain or improve bowel and wind control
  • improve sexual health
  • prevent or reduce pelvic organ prolapse (when they drop down)
  • improve core muscle support for your back and pelvis.

During pregnancy, a woman’s pelvic floor muscles weaken due to hormonal changes and the weight of the growing baby. These muscles also stretch as the baby moves down the birth canal, says Ms Steventon.

“In the second and the third trimesters of pregnancy, and in the first three months following childbirth, about one in three women experience urinary incontinence [the unwanted and involuntary leakage of urine],” she says.

“And up to one in 10 women will experience faecal incontinence, that is the leakage of faeces [poo].”

Ms Steventon says bladder and bowel leakage can be common during pregnancy and the post-partum period, but that pelvic floor exercises can help to strengthen these weakened muscles and improve any bladder or bowel symptoms you may have.

She also advises you to see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • bladder or bowel leakage
  • incomplete bladder emptying or a reduced urge to urinate (wee)
  • pain with your episiotomy or perineal tear scar that is not improving
  • painful sex
  • a feeling of dragging or bulging in the vagina.

A women’s health physiotherapist can also help in managing the above symptoms, as well as other issues such as:

  • bladder and bowel problems (leakage, urgency or frequency issues)
  • pelvic floor muscle weakness
  • not knowing how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles (about one in three women cannot exercise their pelvic floor muscle correctly, so remember, you are not alone)
  • vaginal ‘heaviness’ or prolapse
  • ongoing back, pelvic joint, neck, wrist, thumb or coccyx (tailbone) pain.