“Ouch, you want me to do what? My bloody kegels? No way – right now I have zero idea what is going on down there and there is no chance I can lift/squeeze/move/contract/relax anything from the waist down!”
Don’t panic – we’re not going to tell you to complete the dreaded pelvic floor exercises as soon as the cord is cut… The first stage in helping your pelvic floor muscles recover after giving birth is simply rest. Like any sports injury, the muscles and tendons may be bruised and swollen and need to be given time to recover. For the first 1-2 days after birth, don’t try to work the pelvic floor with kegel exercises at all and lay in a horizontal position (to remove the effects of gravity – sitting isn’t enough) as much as possible. Ice may also help reduce the swelling and discomfort; just be sure to gently dry the area after use.
After a couple of days of rest, it is important that you do try to re-connect the neural pathway for your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor contractions do not have to be long or hard at this stage – just gently squeeze, lift and then relax a few times every day.
And yes, this is where the structured kegel exercises come into play.
When you can hold a maximal pelvic floor contraction with zero pain, it is time to build endurance. And yes, this is where the structured kegel exercises come into play. Gradually work up to holding the pelvic floor for 10 seconds, 10 times in one ‘exercise session’ – try to do this at least once every day!
It is also important to practice squeezing and lifting the pelvic floor quickly to protect yourself when coughing or sneezing, for example. Repeat the fast contraction, and relaxation (this phase is just as important!), up to 20 times, 3 times a day.
Remember, the first port of call if you are: experiencing any pain when doing these exercises, if you are unsure if you are doing them correctly (many women bear DOWN when they think they are contracting their pelvic floor), or are not progressing as you think you should, is a check with a Women’s Health Physio.
Pelvic floor issues are common, but do not have to be normal.
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Beaches Pelvic Physio – pelvic floor muscle retraining stages