The link between mental and physical health is inextricable, arguably. But never more so than in pregnancy and motherhood.
In the second half of my talk, the case for a physio check up post birth being standard was explored – along with the acknowledgment that there is a very human flaw in pelvic floors – we don’t take any time to nourish and notice our floor. And dysfunction thrives in this neglect, especially if we accept it as inevitable and ‘normal’.
What can we do to sex up the pelvic floor so you don’t find it boring? Arguably the sexiest set of muscles in the human body? Answers on a postcard please, I’d really love to know….
A 2013 poll revealed women are too embarrassed to seek help.
Many women who develop continence issues following childbirth are suffering in silence because of embarrassment over the taboo condition.
One in two women responding to the survey conducted by Netmums for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said they had never spoken to anyone about their problem.
Only 31 per cent said they had spoken to their husband or partner, while just 19 per cent had discussed it with their mother, sister or other close relative.
Six in ten felt the subject was ‘taboo’ and 56 per cent said they felt embarrassed about the problem, with 16 per cent feeling ashamed about it.
Most worryingly of all, three quarters of women said they had never sought help from a health professional for this treatable condition.
In 2013 the CSP and RCM launched a joint initiative to prevent and reduce incontinence among women following pregnancy and birth.
Half of women responding to the poll said that they were currently experiencing a problem with leaking urine (49 per cent) following the birth of their baby and just under a third said they used to have the problem (31 per cent).
The project aimed to ensure women are made aware of the importance of pelvic health and taught how to exercise and maintain the pelvic floor muscles. The joint initiative aimed also to raise awareness among other professionals of the need to make quicker referrals for treatment.
Ruth Ten Hove, professional adviser at the CSP, said:
‘Continence issues can take a terrible toll on people’s lives, as this survey shows. Understandably, people find it a difficult subject to discuss and don’t seek help, which can cause the problem to worsen. But it doesn’t need to be this way – physiotherapists are experts in treating the condition and can make a big difference.’
Physio has now (just last month) been recommended as the standard pathway of care –but how long will this take to implement? There are 800 Women’s Health Physios in the UK currently, and 700,000 births a year in the UK.
CSP professional adviser Ruth ten Hove again:
‘The teaching of pelvic floor muscle exercises during pregnancy tends to fall between different health professionals.
Even if some people are being told about these [pelvic floor] exercises, they often don’t get the information at the right time or realise they have to carry on doing them.
It is really important that this becomes part of normal practice.’ This is key – pelvic floor rehab is for life. But, according to mums I have surveyed: Pelvic floor exercise is ‘boring’ and ‘makes you feel guilty for not doing it.’
How can we circumvent this human flaw?
It is so important that midwives and other professionals connect the physical with the potential psychological consequences and think about all the issues around a woman’s wellbeing and quality of life.
‘Midwives should be checking antenatally if everything is ok with bowel and bladder function, not just at booking in, but as they build up a relationship with the woman, because it is a sensitive subject. They have got to be proactive and reiterate on a few occasions that if a woman thinks there is something abnormal, not to be afraid to seek help.’ Mary Steen, former professor of midwifery at the University of Chester.
Pelvic Floor Meditation
I do Pelvic Floor Meditations on Monday evenings on my Instagram live and in my Facebook group. Meditation taps into the rest/digest nervous system response – ideal for softening the pelvic floor and tuning into its full spectrum of release and engagement –vital for proper function. I feel like this might be the missing link in encouraging us to ‘do our pelvic floors’ – try to enable simply a connection to our body and soften into how we feel a bit more. In body and in mind. Looking at it as replenishing and nourishing rather than something that we ‘have to do’.
Once you’ve established your connection to your pelvic floor through your breathing – and I would have a look at the Squeezy app if you need a bit more guidance about this – then you can begin to implement this awareness into your day to day.
Breathing and pelvic floor are inextricably linked: the diaphragm descends and widens on your in breath, and so does your pelvic floor in synchronicity. On your out breath, pelvic floor and diaphragm both lift up in a doming shape. They both have to be firing effectively, and together, in order for there to be optimum pelvic floor support for your movement.
Breathe well, your pelvic floor function will follow.
‘Blow as you go’
Before you lift your baby, push your buggy up a steep step, take your toddler out of the bath, are about to sneeze: take a deep breath and actively lift up your pelvic floor on the exertion. This will stimulate your natural corset of strength and pelvic floor support.
View pelvic floor healthcare as essential daily maintenance for LIFE, like brushing your teeth.
Imagine if you didn’t brush your teeth every day for the rest of your life…