Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by NOLA Pelvic Health.
4 Tips to Prepare Your Pelvic Floor for Birth
After the results of a positive pregnancy test sink in, you may find yourself creating a to-do list in preparation for the baby’s arrival. Making a registry, setting up a nursery, and finishing up those long forgotten house projects may be at the top of the list. But did you know that you can also add preparing your body for labor and delivery to that list?
There are many things you can do to help physically prepare for birth.
What happens to the pelvic floor during pregnancy?
The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that sits at the base of your pelvis. These muscles help stop the flow of urine and gas, support your internal organs, play a role in sexual activity, stabilize the pelvis structure, and help with blood flow. During pregnancy, your uterus, which sits on top of the pelvic floor, is continuously growing as the baby grows. As a result, the pelvic floor muscles lengthen during pregnancy, which can result in weakness and decreased support of your pelvic organs.
Just as your pelvic floor lengthens during pregnancy, your abdominal wall similarly and visibly, lengthens to accommodate your growing baby (or babies). This can lead to the occurrence of diastasis recti and poor pressure management. In addition, the ligaments that stabilize your pelvis relax due to changes in hormones, allowing your hips to widen throughout pregnancy. As a result, your muscles work harder to provide stability during everyday activities like walking, stair climbing, and lifting. With all of these pregnancy changes in addition to the hormonal roller coaster, you may experience pelvic heaviness or pressure, urinary leakage, diastasis recti, constipation, and low back or hip pain.
What can I do to prepare my pelvic floor for birth?
Fortunately, there are effective strategies to help prevent pelvic floor and core issues and help get you prepped for birth.
- Connect with your pelvic floor muscles
Being able to contract your pelvic floor to strengthen weakened muscles is key, but so is learning to relax your pelvic floor for bowel movements and knowing how to push during a vaginal birth if that’s your plan. Contrary to popular belief, your uterus pushes your baby out, not your pelvic floor. During a vaginal birth, your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and lengthen so the baby can come on down the birth canal. Working on this ahead of time can help decrease pushing time and increase the effectiveness of your pushes.
2. Practice pelvic and hip opening stretches
Throughout labor, your pelvis opens at different levels as your baby is moving through: first the inlet (or the top of the pelvis) opens, followed by the mid pelvis, then the outlet (or the bottom). During pregnancy, prepare your body for labor by doing regular stretches that help your pelvis open at each level. Stretches such as a deep squat, single knee to chest stretch, child’s pose, and others that can help relax your pelvic floor and promote optimal opening of your pelvis for baby’s different positions in the pelvis during birth. Think of birth like running a race, you want to practice and train before race day similar to how you want to prepare for birth. Working with a pelvic health therapist to practice these movements ahead of time is key!
3. Perform perineal massage
Perineal massage, typically started at 34 weeks of pregnancy, helps soften the muscles surrounding the vaginal opening to prepare for childbirth. This gentle yet effective massage technique helps keep your perineum (the area between your vaginal and anal openings) flexible and prepared to lengthen naturally during delivery. Performing this technique regularly prior to birth can help reduce the severity of perineal tears and decrease perineal pain postpartum.
4. Work with one of our pelvic floor therapists
Pelvic health therapists can help address pain, leakage, prolapse, and other pregnancy related conditions not just during pregnancy, but can also help you prepare for both a cesarean or vaginal birth and support you during your postpartum recovery. With a thorough evaluation, your therapist can help create an individualized treatment plan, teach you effective pushing strategies and birthing positions, help educate your partner or other birth support person, and help you modify or perform exercises to maintain optimal core and pelvic floor strength throughout your pregnancy.
What you really need to prep for birth
Pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum period can feel like an overwhelming time in your life, especially with mixed messages from social media, parents, and friends. But it doesn’t have to be! With a pelvic health therapist on your birth team, you can feel confident and prepared as your due date approaches.
Have more questions? Contact us at [email protected] or 504.814.3615 to learn more.
About the author
Ashley Holstein is a doctor of physical therapy and pelvic floor therapist at NOLA Pelvic Health. She specializes in pregnancy care, childbirth preparation, postpartum recovery, trigger point dry needling and healing pelvic floor issues affecting women and moms at all life stages. In her free time, she enjoys reading, attending festivals, and spending time with her husband and two kids.