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Birth Preparation: Why you should see a pelvic floor PT during pregnancy

Delivering a baby is equal to an athletic event. Just like we would spend several months training for a marathon, all pregnant women would benefit from training for their upcoming birth. Not only is it important to prepare for your birth and delivery, but it is also important to prepare your body during the first few weeks and months postpartum.


What happens during birth?

Your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles that surround your vagina, must lengthen and relax in order for the baby to descend into and out of the vaginal canal.


The levator ani muscles, the deepest pelvic floor muscles, stretch between 25% to 250% during childbirth.

That is a lot of stretching! At Whole Body Wellness, I love working with pregnant women to prepare their bodies for their birth of their baby.


What can I do to prepare for birth?

Pelvic floor physical therapy! Pelvic floor physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts! We are experts in making sure your muscles function optimally, including your pelvic floor. Below, I discuss different components of the birth preparation.


Pelvic Floor Stretches

Pelvic floor, hip, and back stretches are great ways to prepare your pelvic inlet and outlet for birth. The baby needs to be able to enter the pelvis (inlet) and exit the pelvis (outlet). I recommend starting these stretches as early as your first trimester! It is so important that your muscles stay mobile, supple, and hydrated, and the best way to do that is MOVE and STRETCH! A few stretches you can do include happy baby, child's pose, cat/cow, and downward dog. In each stretch, I recommend performing deep diaphragmatic breathing into your pelvic floor. If you don't know what that means, find out in your physical therapy session!


Click here to learn more stretches to do during your pregnancy!



Perineal Massage

I also recommend perineal massage! This is an important part of birth preparation because it teaches you to become aware of your pelvic floor muscles, and prepares those muscles for a BIG STRETCH! All women should do perineal massage, and can be started as early as 30 weeks, especially if you have a "tight" pelvic floor.


Perineal massage does not guarantee that you won't tear. Most women do tear. Instead, the massage prepares you for what that BIG STRETCH feels like and trains you to respond in a soft and relaxed manner, rather than tense and stressed.


Perineal massage is thoroughly discussed during your physical therapy sessions. Click here to learn more about perineal massage.


Breathing and Pushing Techniques

One thing you have control over during the birthing process is your BREATH! Breathing into your diaphragm and pelvic floor is important because it helps you connect to your deep core muscles, which are responsible for helping progress labor. When the baby comes "knocking" at your perineum, picture a soft, open, perineum and vagina that your baby can easily slide through. Practicing pushing techniques in different positions is also helpful, as you never know what position you'll be in!


Labor Positions

A common way to deliver your baby is laying on your back. However, laying on your back can potential increase your risk of getting a tailbone injury. Knowing various positions to labor in is important to ease labor and improve comfort.


Interested in starting pelvic floor physical therapy! Contact me to schedule an appointment!


References:

Svabik, K.et al. (2009). How much does the levator hiatus have to stretch during childbirth? BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Volume 116, Issue 12. ⁣


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