Maybe you have heard the term pelvic floor in your birthing class, from a healthcare professional or in a fitness class. The pelvic floor is a multi-layered network of muscles, ligaments, and tissues at the bottom of the pelvis designed to support the pelvic organs, maintain urinary and fecal continence, and help manage abdominal pressure.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is not uncommon in women who have had children, and in fact, it is about as common as getting hemorrhoids during pregnancy. Conditions related to pregnancy that can increase the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction include multiple births, long second-stage labor, large birth weight babies, and instrument-assisted births.
Many women believe that peeing themselves a little bit or pelvic pain or discomfort are just a part of having children; it’s the price we mothers have to pay. These beliefs that we tell ourselves and each other are myths, and it’s time to bring light to women’s pelvic health.
Radiant pelvic health begins with you.
Honor Your Unique Story
Your body, in particular your pelvis, has performed an amazing feat by carrying and delivering your baby. Besides birthing a baby, the muscles and tissues of your pelvis embody many other stories as well. Your pelvic history might include: difficulty getting pregnant, miscarriage, a birth that did not go as planned, trauma to your pelvis from a fall or other pelvic surgeries, or even stress and anxiety held in your abdomen/pelvis due to the demands of motherhood. The cells and tissues of our body keep a cumulative record of our life experiences – a storehouse of memories and experiences. When we make peace with all of our stories rather than push the difficult ones down where we can no longer feel them, we create space in our bodies for health and healing.
Know Your Landscape & Signposts
When you are traveling to a new area, doesn’t it help to have a map of the major roads and landmarks? Most women don’t have a clear visual map of their undercarriage because frankly, it’s hard to see. Start by locating the bony landmarks at the bottom of your pelvis (sitting bones, tailbone, and pubic area). Touch them and then use a mirror to look so that you create a visual road map of your southern region.
Recognize some important warning signposts: leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, lift, laugh, or jump; frequent urinary or bowel urges; frequent urinary infections; difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels; pressure, pain, or fullness in the vagina; vaginal tissue bulging; and/or pain or decreased sensation during intimacy.
Learn which of your daily habits support your pelvic health and which ones put your pelvic health at risk. Master good posture, incorporate good bathroom habits, and make sure you are breathing well as your pelvic floor and your diaphragm (the primary breathing muscle) have a direct and intimate working relationship with each other.
Bolster Your Body
Nutrition: dietary fiber is a critical component of pelvic health as it helps maintain proper bowel functioning. Whole foods provide a variety of fibers, minerals, and other valuable nutrients. Foods that nourish the muscles and tissues of your arms and legs also nourish the muscles and tissues of your pelvic floor!
Exercise: strengthen, lengthen, and balance the muscles of the deep core. Learn proper technique for strengthening and fully relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor and practice regularly. Use myofascial/trigger point self-care techniques to relieve tension in regions of the body where you store stress. Depending on the style, yoga can be a great way to reduce stress, practice listening to your body, learn to breath well, and strengthen and balance the muscles of your core. Look for a teacher who is trained in Pelvic Floor Yoga®.
Mind Your Mind
Both stress and anxiety affect your healing and pelvic/overall health. Mindfulness is a well-researched technique for dealing with stress. Mindfulness involves paying attention and being aware. It is pausing and calmly noticing your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that arise in a given situation. If you have never tried meditation or don’t know much about mindfulness, you can check out apps like Headspace, Calm, or The Mindfulness App.
At the End of the Day
When something doesn’t seem, feel, or look right “down under,” your body is signaling that it needs your attention. If you ignore symptoms, avoid situations, choose pads instead of seeking help, or decide you don’t have time to take care of yourself, your body will send increasingly louder signals. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk to a professional. If you find out that you have a pelvic floor issue, choose professionals who inspire and support you with options and possibilities rather than ones that scare you with worst-case scenarios or diminish and minimize your concerns. You deserve a healthy, well-functioning pelvis so that you can live your purposeful, best life.
About Susan Kratzer
Susan is the founder of Moving Well Yoga and an E-500 hour experienced yoga teacher specializing in Pelvic Floor Yoga®, a holistic approach to women’s pelvic health. Susan’s passion is empowering women to heal from pelvic floor dysfunction as she has been on her own healing journey from pelvic organ prolapse for many years. She is committed to educating women about the importance of pelvic health; connecting women to resources; building safe, sacred spaces for women to share their stories; and helping women reclaim their strength from the inside out.