Protect your Pelvic Floor

How does returning to sport or exercise too soon after the birth affect my pelvic floor muscles?

Have you heard of the "Boat Theory"? This is one way to help you think about the role of the pelvic floor muscles in supporting your pelvic organs.

Imagine that your pelvic floor is the water level, while your pelvic organs (your uterus, bladder and bowel) are the boat sitting on top of the water. The 'boat' is attached by ropes (your supportive ligaments) to the jetty. Now if the 'water level' i.e.your pelvic floor muscles is normal, there is no tension on the ropes.




Diagram reproduced with kind permission from The Continence Foundation of Australia 2011.

Bridge-2013.jpgRead more on pelvic floor in the 2013 Autumn Bridge magazine from the Continence Foundation of Australia.

After pregnancy and the birth of your baby, your pelvic floor muscles can be stretched, so the 'water level' is lower. Imagine if the 'water level' stayed low for years. If your pelvic floor muscles do not strengthen up again, by you doing your exercises, then there is much more tension on the 'ropes' or your supportive ligaments. If this continues, then the ligaments can overstretch and weaken, and there is more risk of you developing a prolapse. This may occur soon after the birth, or in the years to come.

If your pelvic floor muscles strengthen back up again, then there will be no ongoing tension on the ligaments supporting your pelvic organs, and therefore less risk of developing a prolapse in the future. For more information about a prolapse read  What is a prolapse?

Imagine however what would happen if you added jumping, running or bouncing type of activities to a pelvic floor that was still stretched. This could further weaken your muscles and place extra tension on the supporting ligaments so they are more likely to become overstretched and weakened. This can result in your pelvic organs dropping down, as there is less support for them from above and below, and a prolapse occurring.

So you may feel fine on the outside, but be unable to see what is occurring on the inside. This is why some women may not notice a prolapse occurring until they return again to exercise, unaware that there is the risk of this happening. This is what happened to Jondelle (not her real name). Read her story, and compare the difference with her experiences after her first and second babies.




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