Some of your core muscles, in particular your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis (TA) are involved in labor. Having those muscles be as strong and flexible as possible during labor while greatly ease your baby’s entry into the world and you’ll be grateful for that.
But what about strengthening the pelvic floor after baby? The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that act as a sling to the bottom of your core. As you can see in the image below, the pelvic floor muscles stabilize the joints around the pelvis.
Your Pelvic Floor Muscles act as a sling from the pubic bone to tailbone. Pregnancy, childbirth and decreasing estrogen weaken these muscles. BUT these muscle fibers can be trained! Like any muscle group, you have to specifically target these muscles. You wouldn’t swim to train for a marathon right? So let’s find the correct muscles to train.
We’re going away from traditional abdominal work and crunches to wake up the pelvic floor and TA (transverse abdominis)! The moves are less intense and obvious, for the pelvic floor you are going to stimulate muscles you won’t necessarily feel all the time. Sometimes it can take several tries to make your brain communicate with your pelvic floor.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that moms who’d had a c-section were less likely to do pelvic floor exercises, probably because they didn’t push the baby out with the pelvic floor. But it’s pregnancy itself that affects the pelvic floor, so pelvic floor exercises are a must for every moms. Even though moms that have deep tears do have more trauma to the pelvic floor. We talk more about this in our Ab Rehab Guide.
Kegel is-a simple exercise you can do while sitting, standing or getting ready for bed. And nobody will even notice you’re “exercising” the pelvic floor. Act as though you are stopping the flow of urine, hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat as often as you like-reach for at least 10 times a day. The pelvic floor is not meant to be “turned on” all day.
The Kegel was discovered in 1948 when Dr. Kegel observed that women in South Africa had stronger vaginal muscles. The reason was midwives there would have the new mother contract the vaginal muscles on distended fingers for the weeks following birth.
This move will help you not pee your pants. It also helps with the layers of urinary incontinence.
Perform these seated, sitting on a swiss ball or standing – really you can do these anywhere, but seated on a ball will help you identify the pelvic floor muscles.
Now that you know how to perform a kegel, it’s important to incorporate it into everyday exercise. To work all the layers and aspects of the pelvic floor, I am going to introduce you to the transverse abdominis, another inner layer of the core.
Using the transverse abdominis muscle is a big part of getting your belly healthy again. As you can see from the image above, the TA is a thick layer of muscle. The transverse abdominal muscle wraps around the torso from front to back and the muscle fibers of the TA run horizontally, similar to a corset or a weight belt. These muscles, one on each side, are your true core muscles and strengthening them will give you power and tone your entire body.
In order to fully engage your abdominals, and in particular your transverse abdoinimis transverse (TA), you have to pull your belly button in toward your spine. This engages the TA, and also works on the other muscles that run along your spine as well as your abdominals. You’ve probably engaged these muscles without even knowing it when you put on your skinny jeans.
Pulling your belly button toward your spine is NOT the same thing as sucking in your gut. What do you when you suck in your gut? You hold your breath, you tuck your hips. You don’t want to do that. We cue these important exercises in all of our workout programs.
Some women also lack control of their bowel movements and the exercises above will help with that as well. A more serious difficulty can develop. In the most serious cases of disruption of or damage to the muscles of the pelvic floor, your muscles could prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged and can no longer support the pelvic organs. The uterus is the only organ that actually falls into the vagina. When the bladder and bowel slip out of place, they push up against the walls of the vagina. While prolapse is not considered a life threatening condition it may cause a great deal of discomfort and distress. And you will want to see your doctor about this condition.