This isn't a fairytale but there is a moral to the story. Exactly eight months ago I was squatting in the hospital corridor after experiencing on-and-off early labour for a week. I distinctly remember grasping the handrail on the wall and sinking myself right down towards the floor; swaying, sighing, breathing baby down. This went on for hours and as midnight came around I thought to myself: "All this bearing down is going to wreak havoc on my pelvic floor".
Eight hours later I gave birth with the assistance of a vacuum - my first assisted birth - and the Obstetrician was just as shocked as I was when she announced that I hadn't torn (surprisingly the only time I have torn is during my second birth - in the water - these things you can never predict). Granted, I came out of the birth relatively unscathed and whilst the initial recovery was easy I have noticed that the long-term effects cannot be ignored; my core and pelvic floor is in need of strengthening and my sacrum is soft and sore - very sore. Of course, it's all related, especially now that my cycle has returned.
Most women believe that it takes six weeks to recover from a vaginal birth. In my opinion, it takes a lot longer (my GP agrees with me). At your six week check-up its not uncommon to still feel sore, swollen and stretched. And your pelvic floor? Personally, I find that if I lift anything too heavy in those first few weeks or if I'm on my feet for too long I experience a dragging feeling; it's uncomfortable and impossible to ignore. If this isn't a cue to put your legs up the wall and practise a few kegels I'm not sure what is.
Generally I find that women are eager to share stories about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding but anything regarding the pelvic floor is shrouded in silence. When I was teaching pre-natal yoga classes I would bring the topic to the table most weeks and yet regardless of my enthusiasm for the subject most of my students were pained to talk about it. Why is that? My only guess is that the repercussions of a weakened pelvic floor are uncomfortable, embarrassing and stressful. Indeed, most women would rather deal with it later.
Please, don't wait till later.
I've never had any leakage issues but I am intent on maintaining the regular habit of pelvic floor exercises to hopefully prevent weakness and its associated symptoms in the future. I'm also passionate about normalising this issue for women - of all ages. We have to start talking about this and the conversation needs to be ongoing.
In my quest to prompt discussion, I agreed to trial and review the PeriCoach - the first training device, web portal and smartphone app to take the guesswork out of pelvic floor muscle training. It was invented in Australia and is now available to buy here as well as in the US and UK. It has been developed in conjunction with healthcare professionals, including women's health physiotherapists.
So how does it work? Yes, you insert it and yes, it's connected to your phone via bluetooth. Technology, hey?! The sensor on the device detects pelvic floor muscle activity and measures the strength of each contraction, prompting you to contract (squeeze!) correctly and effectively. If you are working with a health professional, the data reading can be accessed and tracked by them, too.
I'd love the open the discussion in the comments to hopefully normalise the issue of weakened pelvic floor. Feel free to comment anonymously if you wish. Did you notice a distinct weakening of your pelvic floor after pregnancy and birth? Do you suffer from LBL and, if so, what are you doing about it? Are you keen to strengthen your pelvic floor but find it hard to incorporate exercises into your daily routine? This post is sponsored by PeriCoach. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Practising Simplicity.