New moms, it's time to tone your "lady parts"
Sure, you want to lose the pregnancy pounds, but what about getting your pelvic floor back in shape, too?
Learn why it's crucial to get strength back down there — your partner will be glad you do, too.
Get to know your after-birth vagina and pelvic floor
Women's health physical therapist, Cindi A. Prentiss, MBA, PT, OCS, Cert. MDT, LMT, explains, "The muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor may become overstretched and weak during childbirth. During delivery, the perineum may feel numb with bruising and soreness, especially if you’ve had a large baby, tore the perineum or had an episiotomy. A weakened pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, decreased sexual enjoyment or sagging of the bladder and uterus onto the pelvic muscles."
If you have a C-section, it doesn't mean you're out of the woods. Prentiss explains, "The weight of the pregnant uterus, along with hormones that relax the ligaments may create pelvic floor weakness."
Meet your new best friend, the Kegel
Kegels are the first exercise you can do immediately after delivery.
"Imagine that you don’t want to pee or pass gas," Prentiss explains. "Kegels are considered an isometric exercise, and contraction of the pelvic floor muscles need not be more than 50 percent of your strength. Utilizing accessory muscles, such as the inner thighs and buttocks, can also help strengthen the pelvic floor. Don’t freak out if you can’t feel the muscles working or are unable to stop the flow of urine. Continue to try!"
Try these strengthening exercises
Prentiss recommends doing clam shells and ball squeezes.
To do a clam shell:
- Lie on your side with your knees in the fetal position and your back against a wall.
- Slowly lift the top knee up — like a clam opening — while leaving your feet together.
- Slowly return to starting position. Perform 10 reps. You may progress to a resistance band, as you feel stronger.
- Perform a Kegel while the legs are apart.
- Relax the pelvic floor while the legs are together.
To do ball squeezes:
Prentiss says this exercise can be done lying on your back with the knees straight, lying with the knees bent or while sitting:
- Place a soft, small ball or pillow between your knees and gently squeeze your knees together. Hold for five seconds, while performing a Kegel at the same time.
- Relax five seconds. Perform 10 repetitions.
- Progress to holding 10 seconds and relaxing 10 seconds.
Did we already say do your Kegels?
During the weeks following childbirth, "Perform Kegels throughout the day, at red lights, when a commercial comes on the TV or when the phone rings," Prentiss says.
"Vary the types of Kegels you perform. 'Quick flicks' are quick contraction/quick release Kegels that simulate a cough or sneeze. 'Elevator Kegels' are pelvic floor contractions at various intensities."
Not only will Kegels help your vagina get back to normal, this exercise will help other things get back to normal, too.
Prentiss adds, "Performing Kegels during intercourse can help strengthen as well as increase sexual enjoyment."