Something we don’t talk about enough (if at all) is overactive pelvic floor muscles. An overactive pelvic floor refers to increased tension in the muscles. When the pelvic floor becomes tense, it can become tight, painful & unable to work properly. This can lead to painful sex (or an inability to have sex), incontinence or other bladder/bowel symptoms.
I have treated women whose pelvic floor has subconsciously tightened as a protective response to the vaginal pain or injury sustained during childbirth. As a result, these women have been unable to have sex with their partner months after childbirth. It is a common misconception that after childbirth the pelvic floor will always be looser & weak. This is not always the case – an overactive pelvic floor can also result.
What can you do to prevent an overactive pelvic floor?
Learn about your pelvic floor muscles & how to exercise them correctly before you give birth. An important part of this is ensuring your muscles RELEASE completely after a contraction. It is possible for women to feel their pelvic floor muscles contract but not feel them relax. Closing your eyes, visualising your pelvic floor & breathing into your belly can help to release the muscles.
Make sure you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly with this...
Childbirth is an extraordinary thing – your body has just birthed a new life! Sometimes we take this amazing feat for granted instead of really honouring what our body has accomplished. Switching our focus to having gratitude for our body is a powerful way to help prevent tension & pain.
Reconnecting with your vagina & pelvic floor after birth is such an important step in recovery. After the experience of childbirth many women shut off to this area of their body, as they might feel scarred by the experience or scared of what they might feel or see. All these feelings are completely understandable but ignoring this area will only exacerbate the issue. Once the swelling has subsided, I highly recommend pushing through your fears & looking at your vagina in a mirror. Your vagina & pelvic floor have an incredible ability to recover after childbirth. Trust your body will do what it needs to in order to heal & work on reconnecting with this area as soon as you can.
Breathing is such a simple yet powerful tool to help prevent stress/tension manifesting in our mind & body. Our breath impacts our autonomic nervous system – slow, deep, quieter, regular breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages the body to heal itself. Diaphragmatic breathing is the most effective way to relax muscles, including your pelvic floor. It involves breathing using your diaphragm rather than your upper lungs. This encourages a softening of the muscles helping to prevent an overactive pelvic floor. To learn diaphragmatic breathing click here.
5. Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a yogic practise that involves guided affirmations, meditation through imagery of the body & connection with the breath. It has been shown to be effective in inducing physical, mental & emotional relaxation and therefore reducing stress & tension.
6. Body scanning
When we’re stressed, we tend to hold tension in our muscles without realising. By bringing your attention to your body & scanning it for tension, you can teach your muscles to ‘let go’. Start by bringing your awareness to your face, releasing your clenched jaw; move to your shoulders, softening them away from your ears. Move to your stomach, gently breathing into your belly releasing any ‘sucking in’; move to your butt, softening your butt cheeks. Lastly bring your awareness to your pelvic floor, breathing into your belly, letting your pelvic floor soften. Do this at different times throughout the day.
Our mind is heavily linked to our body. So much so, emotional stress can manifest itself in our physical body. Childbirth & having a newborn can be emotional & stressful, which can contribute to tension in the pelvic floor. Finding ways to reduce your stress is vital for both your mental & physical health. I believe that taking time to relax when your baby sleeps is essential for all new mums. Whether you sleep, rest, read your book or meditate, you need to fight the urge to do chores & instead prioritise yourself.
8. Expert help
In addition to the above advice, the most comprehensive way to prevent & manage overactive pelvic floor muscles is to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Make sure they are experienced in pelvic floor pain & have post-graduate qualifications.
Knowledge is power. Understanding your body & how you can help prevent an overactive pelvic floor is an important lesson to learn. Instead of waiting for problems to strike, take matters into your own hands & implement the above 8 strategies.
Let’s empower each other by sharing this message with a girlfriend.