by Elizabeth Evans
Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist & Mother of boys 2.5yrs & 4.5yrs
Tummy time for babies is a topic that many health providers discuss with new mums however what is frequently missed in these discussions is the importance of tummy time exercise for new mums.
Far too often I see mums in the clinic who have been given NO advice on how to care for their tummies post-partum. Most women are not aware of the important role a physiotherapist can play in the care of their pelvic health during and after pregnancy.
Pregnancy weakens the Pelvic Floor (PF) muscles due to the weight of the growing baby and pregnancy hormones, which soften the ligaments in the body and PF. There is not much we can do about the pregnancy hormones but we can strengthen our PF muscles so that they can provide the best support possible. Whether you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or have already had a baby, research shows that when you do your PF exercises your PF muscles will recover more quickly after the birth.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
The PF is the base of the group of muscles often called the ‘core’ in the tummy region. These muscles are located in your pelvis and stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone to the tail bone and from side to side. The PF muscles work with your deep abdominal and back muscles to stabilise and support your spine. They also help control the pressure inside your abdomen to deal with the pushing down force when you lift, move or carry a weight.
There are minimal changes in the PF function in women after a caesarean section (although pregnancy will still have affected your PF). It's a very different story for vaginal births. During delivery, your PF muscles are stretched and there may be muscular tears when the baby passes through. In many women, the muscles return to normal over the next few months however some women notice that the muscles are different after childbirth. There is an increased risk of injury to the PF if: Baby was quite big, you were pushing for a long time, you needed help to have your baby (vacuum or forceps) or you have had a very quick birth. Overstretching the PF muscles is quite common with large muscles tears less so. It’s no wonder that after childbirth, your PF muscles can feel quite weak and it may feel as if things are dropping down or ‘everything is going to fall out’ when you stand up or walk around.
Before starting a pelvic floor training program, it is important that you can identify that you are using your pelvic floor muscles correctly. That is where Physiotherapy can play a role and set you on the right path.
For further information and assistance book a consultation with Physiotherapist Elizabeth Evans.