Slowly regain strength and power with these practices.
In the simplest terms, the postpartum body is the body of someone who has given birth, whether vaginally or by c-section. This body has been through a lot—gestating and carrying a baby, birthing that child, and maybe nursing the baby as well. Whether it’s been eight days or eight years after birth, that body is still postpartum.
There are certain things that can happen to the body during pregnancy and childbirth, and a lot of people assume these changes simply last forever. Peeing while sneezing, lower back pain, a weakened core, painful intercourse, and many other postpartum symptoms are sometimes considered par for the course, and many women never get help for these symptoms.
But having a baby doesn’t mean you just have to “deal”—there is so much you can do for a postpartum body. Yes, it takes time, but the body can be strong and powerful again. And you definitely don’t need to pee every time you sneeze!
Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
In later pregnancy, the baby has some weight to it. It is sitting on the mother’s pelvic floor, all while smooshing the other organs out of the way. Vaginal delivery opens and stretches the vagina, sometimes leading to tears, but even with a c-section, the weight of the baby and the hormones that relax and weaken the body’s tissues can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s best if you can see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to get personalized help for your pelvic floor during your pregnancy, but here are a few things to think about.
For some of us, the pelvic floor becomes “too loose.” But what we don’t realize is that it is often also too tight. Birth can be received as an injury by the body, and when there is an injury, muscles can tighten and spasm around that area in order to protect it. Tight muscles don’t strengthen very well.
Kegels with Breath
Kegels, which are basically voluntary contractions of the pelvic floor, are most often prescribed for pelvic floor issues. There are many ways to do Kegels, but the best way to start is with the breath.
Lay down with your knees bent, feet on the floor. This takes pressure off the pelvic floor and can allow you to focus on fully engaging and fully relaxing. As you inhale, relax the pelvic floor as much as you can. Imagine a flower blooming, the area around your genitals relaxing open towards your feet. On the exhale, imagine you are trying to pick up a blueberry with your vagina and draw it up as high into your body as you can. As you inhale, relax and release the blueberry, letting it go. Repeat this for 10 breaths.
Afterward, spend some time really relaxing the pelvic floor as much as you can. Let your breaths be deep and full, and soften as much as you can into this area. In an ideal world, the pelvic floor lifts and lowers as you breathe, like the bottom of a balloon filling with the inhale and deflating with the exhale.
Gently massaging the pelvic floor area can be really helpful (as long as you get the OK from your practitioner after initial injuries have healed). You can do this with a small, soft ball, sitting on the ball and rolling it around your sit bones. You can also massage your perineum in the shower or bath, which can be helpful during pregnancy as well. Simply place a little pressure on an area that feels tight or tender, and relax into the pressure as you exhale.
Pelvic floor rehabilitation can take time, patience, and practice. But a little bit every day can get you a lot closer to feeling healthy and well in your postpartum body.
In case you missed it: “Caring for a Postpartum Body (Part 1).”