Last Wednesday I attended a talk at Orthoquest Pedorthics by Physical Therapist Corinne Wade. Corrine is the Okanagan’s resident pelvic floor guru. The talk was a basic public education session, not focused on pregnancy-related topics, but there are a few take-aways that I believe are very relevant to the soon-to-be pregnant population. Here are the highlights.
The pelvic floor is part of a greater functional system.
It is not isolated. The core is like a closed cylinder with the diaphragm as the roof and the pelvic floor as … well… the floor. The abdominal and back muscles form the walls. This integrated closed-cylinder called the core is responsible to maintaining intra-abdominal pressure. When you breath in, the diaphragm expands down to fill up the lungs and the pelvic floor responds by belling down as well. The opposite happens when you exhale. This sophisticated dance is important maintaining your structural integrity and for keeping everything up inside of you that is supposed to stay up inside, if you catch my drift
The pelvic floor is a postural muscle.
It is structurally innervated similarly to the postural muscles of your spine. This means that it needs to maintain a steady muscle tone – not too tight and not too loose -, have endurance, and be able to respond quickly and appropriately to sudden changes in intra-abdominal pressure. It must be able to both contract and relax fully. You do not and should not contract these muscles fully and hold them tight all the time, walking around clenching. Understanding the type of muscle you are working with will help you choose appropriate exercises to develop those muscles.
You should practice your birthing positions throughout (and before) your pregnancy.
I loved this piece of advice. Squatting down with your bum to the ground (or “ass to grass” as my strength coach husband would say) opens up the space between your sit-bones by 30%. That’s a huge opening! And it is considerably more advantageous to expelling a baby (aided by gravity with your pelvis in an open position) than say, laying on your back compressing your sacrum, closing up your pelvis, and not allowing gravity to work for you. Sooo…. can you squat? Pain-free? Bum all the way to the ground? Do you squat regularly? If the answer is no, then you have some work to do (and not just for birthing a baby; this is an important full body movement to be able to do to avoid injury, play with your kids, and maintain physical function).
There were so many more practical pearls that I could share – like how the orientation of your pelvis can facilitate your ability to activate these muscles (hint: go see your chiropractor), how to do a PROPER Kegal (hint: you lift up, not just squeeze), and why “leakage” during physical activity and “pooching” your belly are really bad – but you don’t want to listen to me ramble in someone else’s area of expertise. The moral of the story is: understand, integrate, and develop a functional, loving relationship with your pelvic floor… and squat more.