My name is Lynda I am a Personal Trainer and Registered Nurse, and the owner of Puff Fitness.
Nobody told me to do my pelvic floor exercises and that it was for life that you had to do them, or that it was hard to do them, or that there are specialist people who can help with this.
What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you right? Wrong! Let’s wind back the clock on this story.
So I had been nursing for about 10 years and decided we decided to have a baby. I was working as a staff nurse at Starship Hospital when I realized I was pregnant.
Excited as you are when you get pregnant, it’s all good but invariably you have to get the baby out. Well my baby was over due. She is what they term a 42-weeker. Never mind the size or gestation she still had to come out.
So I wouldn’t dilate and they gave me an epidural in the end. I pushed for what seemed like an eternity but no she wasn’t coming today. In fact it was the next day she did come at 2am.
The reason why she didn’t come was that she was posterior. She was facing the wrong way. Anterior presentation is easier to get out. I was fed up, I was so sick (literally ) of pushing. They decided to put a ventouse suction on the babies head to get her to move. Thing is my body was so over it and so needing the baby out that I pushed with all my might at the wrong time and then I tore.
Well at least the baby was out. But then I bleed horribly and delivered a huge overused placenta (4kg)!
*Pelvic floor dysfunction risk factors here to date:
✔️ Carried a baby through a long pregnancy.
✔️ Was in the pushing stage for ages.
✔️ The baby was posterior so was not in a favorable position for birthing.
✔️ I had a ventouse which is an instrumental delivery.
✔️ I tore.
✔️ My baby was 8lb 7oz a decent size for your first.
So you know you plod on. Nobody had mentioned pelvic floor exercise. All I knew was that it was sore and raw. I got put on iron because I had bled so much. This caused constipation*. Just what a girl needed!
So you sort of get over that hurdle then you are told your baby needs heart surgery. But that’s another blog.
22 months later I had given birth to my second baby by elective c-section. (I had decided that I was not going to go through the raw vaginal deal option.) You so do not get off scot free with a c-section neither does your pelvic floor – just saying.
So no pelvic floor exercise in between pregnancies. I now have a sore tummy and a toddler and a newborn. Sweet. All good. You just carry on with all the sleeplessness and lift and lug while your body is still repairing itself. It is called motherhood I believe.
Ok so still not having any recovery work on my body I decide to go to the gym and see a women personal trainer. I did sit ups* and cycling. This was in Auckland then we moved to Hamilton.
Awesome change of city and got myself into a gym with a crèche and I was away laughing. The irony is that in end I wouldn’t be able to laugh with out wetting myself.
You see I was now in a gym I had had two babies close together. No one had told me about the importance of postnatal recovery exercise or pelvic floor exercise.
I was loving life. I was off doing 10km runs* 3-4 times a week. I built up to this. I hadn’t even been into exercise as a kid apart from tennis*. I was doing heaps of heavy weight training* – leg press* loaded, wide, deep squats* sit ups* and reverse curls* and bit of explosive training*. Something was going to go. Which muscle would it be?
Nobody took me aside and said: “Lynda you know you are training at quite high intensity* at the moment, and you have had two babies, maybe we should switch you to a pelvic floor safe option where you can still get you heart rate up, and have you exercised your pelvic floor muscle, never mind the ones in the mirror!”
But nobody mentioned the words pelvic floor.
I just carried on. I was addicted to the exercise buzz, and my pelvic floor was getting a thrashing at the gym and during running and at home doing all the things a mother does which is massive. But we don’t think about it until things go wrong do we? I certainly had no idea my exercise regime or everyday activities had such an impact on your pelvic floor.
Even if things go wrong, there is a degree of acceptance. “Oh well you know, you have had a few babies and your heading towards 40 and that’s what happens, we all leak.”
Wrong so wrong.
So after leaking occurring during speed training* with running* and sometimes playing tennis in a quick direction change* and sometimes on the trampoline* with the kids, I did nothing. No body knew I was leaking. So it was my secret.
The thing is that my pelvic floor muscle had weakened. And it would weaken further if I did nothing. It was going to get embarrassing.
Things were soon to change to make things less secret. Laughing with a full bladder on a hot summers day in Disneyland with a thin dress on. This was the turning point. Oh my gosh. The flood gates opened.
I was laughing at this gigantic over sized bee that was flying around everyone. So there I was I had wet my pants and dress in public. There was no hiding it this time. We’re were there until 9pm a full day at Disneyland. It was only 12pm.
It was a long wet day. This was the turning point. Leaking to that extent had me in a panic. I was off to some chemist in Los Angeles to get myself some tena pads, until I could get home and seek help.
I went to see a Women’s Health physio as soon as I could in Wellington. She did an internal examination told me I in fact had some strength there and she gave me some exercises to do to build my pelvic floor muscle endurance. This fixed me.
I still need to work on my pelvic floor exercise everyday and I have changed my exercise regime to be more pelvic floor safe. When I lift something I know how to coordinate this with my pelvic floor. Now I am in control not out of control.
When I forget to do my pelvic floor exercise for a while I may experience leaking again until I get back on track. If I have had a bad cold with lots of sneezing and coughing I really make sure I do extra pelvic floor exercise around this time and I have learnt how to do ‘the knack’ to prevent leaking during these times.
That is me.
Somewhere along the way in this journey I retrained as a personal trainer. I wanted to focus on Women’s Health and Fitness. I now have a list of post-grad certificates.
The more I learnt the more I realised that my focus was going to be a pelvic floor safe exercise provider. This is my base exercise philosophy. I have now trained and continue to train in restorative exercise for the pregnant, postnatal and menopausal women.
I love what I do everyday. It feels fantastic that by education we can get the message out to protect your pelvic floors. Very cool.
The moral of the story above:
Please realise that being pregnant and birthing are both huge for the pelvic floor and the rest of your core. Even if you have had a straight forward pregnancy and birth or c-section.
Your pelvic floor has had to handle for 9 months:
- A growing baby at around 3.5kg at term.
- A placenta well mine weighed 4kg on an overdue pregnancy.
- Amniotic fluid.
- Extra weight gain.
- Relaxin and progesterone relaxing muscles and ligaments.
You have not birthed yet. Depending on what kind of delivery you have may increase your risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction. C-section ladies have had connective tissue layers cut through on the way to get the baby out. This alters your core connections. You will have scar tissue that can tighten and needs to released in lots of cases. You have had major surgery.
Do not rush back into mainstream exercise just because the baby is out. OMG take your time so much had happened and is still happening in the recovery process. It can take up to a year to recover your body. Give yourself this time.
Get in touch with people who know how to set you up to be core conscious for life. Because pelvic floor exercise is not just in the postnatal period it is for life. More babies, menopause, aging, these things are effecting your pelvic floor.
There are so many non birth or pregnancy related risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction too. We go through the list to make you aware when I see you.
DO your pelvic floor exercises. Do make sure you do my postnatal recovery exercise programme. This sets you up to be super core conscious for life.
Please be informed about pelvic floor safe exercise options: http://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au/pages/pelvic-floor-first-app.html.
This is so important if you have risk factors like I had for pelvic floor dysfunction and is especially important if you are leaking or have prolapse issues.
Keep active and do the sport or the activity you love, but just remember your pelvic floor needs to be as strong as the exercise or activity you wish to undertake. Protect yourself from exercise induced pelvic floor weakness. Do this by strengthening you pelvic floor and the learn how to get this pelvic floor on and activated during the hardest part of the exercise.
You can do this. Be informed, and be empowered. Live life with pelvic floor confidence.