Giving birth is an incredible experience… but it can take a toll on a woman’s body. If after giving birth your hips and back ache, or you are ‘leaking urine’ you may need to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Karin Westlen-Boyer, DPT from Alta View Hospital joined us to share five exercises new moms can do at home to regain strength. She explained the pelvic floor as a web of muscles, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissue that stretches (like a “trampoline”) across the pelvic bone. It provides support to the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. The pelvic floor helps these organs work properly.
1. Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises include contracting pelvic muscles as if you are trying to avoid passing gas or stop your urine stream. Westlen-Boyer said you can begin these exercises two weeks postpartum. She recommends doing only five, three times per day. Squeeze the pelvic floor for three seconds, then release for three seconds, and work your way up to 10 seconds.
2. Strengthen your tummy
Do not crunch! Westlen-Boyer said that crunches work the bigger stomach muscles, but you should aim to strengthen the deeper stomach muscles first. Additionally, crunches can widen the deeper muscles, and that’s exactly what we want to avoid.
Westlen-Boyer suggests getting on all fours instead, let the tummy relax completely toward the floor, but don’t let the back sag. She said to imagine a cup of tea balancing on the lower back. Take a deep breath in and engage pelvic floor muscles by closing all of the openings. As you exhale, gently pull the lower tummy into the spine as if zipping up your pants.
Westlen-Boyer explained that during pregnancy the spine’s curves are exaggerated (called swayback, when the spine curves too far inward) and ligaments also get looser in the joints. This is all normal to accommodate the baby, and to stop us from losing our balance. But after delivery, she said we have to correct those curves.
Westlen-Boyer recommends standing as proper as possible, as if you have books balancing on your head. The shoulders should be flat without slumping forward. Lift the breast bone and keep arms down by your sides. Then draw in the stomach muscles.
4. Knack Exercise
Think of these as a well-timed Kegel exercise. Westlen-Boyer said you can do a knack when there is increased downward pressure such as when coughing, sneezing, lifting, blowing your nose, rising into a standing position from sitting, and stepping heavily. Contract the pelvic floor right before and during these times. Westlen-Boyer said as you engage the pelvic floor, the abdomen and spine are strengthened because they’re supporting each other.
5. Get your rest
Resting may seem almost impossible once the new baby arrives, but it’s important to make this a priority, Westlen-Boyer said. Lack of sleep delays healing, and can cause problems down the road.
Learn more postpartum tips, at the Free Live Well Community Workshop. The workshop begins at 6:00pm on November 28 in the Oquirrh Mountain Classroom at Alta View Hospital (9660 S. 1300 E. Sandy). Visit altaviewhospital.org for more information.
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