• Lydia Ojuka Riley

Self Care For Your Pelvic Floor

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

Vagina. There, let’s just get that out there with the knowledge that other taboo topics like “urinary leakage” are sitting in the dugout.

Pelvic floor health has become something I can easily discuss in casual conversation, in fact, I pretty much want to shout about it from the rooftops! I made a few posts on Instagram during my pregnancy and postpartum that made my close friends and acquaintances comfortable with openly up to me about the intimate details of their nether regions. And what I'm hearing is a sad story of normalizing dysfunction, complete negligence, issues that really do impact a woman's wellness.

Therefore, I consider it an honor to bring the topic into the light because I believe the taboo nature of the topic is the single greatest reason that such neglect and maltreatment are tolerated.

self care for your pelvic floor

I remember when I had my oldest daughter twelve years ago. I think I had a relatively routine experience in a hospital. I needed a little help getting the labor going and I remember pushing as hard as I could while laying on my back, receiving quick stitches in my perineum, and leaving with a cute little baby. I didn’t see the doctor again until six weeks later, where after a quick exam, I was cleared for “everything.” My experience wasn't particularly bad, especially when you consider that birth injuries are so incredibly common, but I now know that my care was in no way complete.

I believe that every single woman can benefit from pelvic floor rehab... From any woman who has carried a child—even c-section mamas—to women who are getting older. We should all be seeing a pelvic floor pelvic floor physical therapist as a routine part of our annual wellness screenings. It is so important to stay on top of this because gravity and tissue atrophy will take their toll as we carry children and age.

During my recent second pregnancy, I studied a lot about childbirth because I planned an unmediated birth. My anxiety about anything diminishes when I fill my head with knowledge, so I started to study and familiarize myself with all- the- natural- birth- stories. I noted how many times pelvic floor issues were mentioned (like, a ton) and I decided that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I also noted that being in my mid thirties, stress incontinence, leakage, back pain, hip pain, and tummy dissatisfaction were becoming a normalized part of my peer group. This became apparent not only in my circle of friends, but also in the peeing accidents of cross fitters on tv, jogging/running concerns of mamas and grandmas around me because of leaking, or friends sprinting to the bathroom during a particularly funny joke... Not to mention the regular topic of dissatisfaction during intimacy because of decreased sensation and/or pain. All these and more, normalized as if its just a part of womanhood.

The medical solutions for all these issues are very extreme and don't always work, so I think doing a bit more on our own can bump up our quality of life as women. My own pelvic floor issues were my constant low back and hip pain, as well as my diastasis recti (ab separation.) I’m an athlete, so it always bothered me that I was having so much pain in my movement. On top of this, my tummy didn’t reflect my fitness efforts, and it just felt unsupported. I always felt like something was off, but I didn’t know it all came down to my pelvic floor.

I'm sure there are tons of great doctors in hospitals, and not every midwife is as great as mine, but my goodness, I have to give a HUGE shout out here about the midwifing model of care. My postpartum care was outstanding. My midwife - the badass, skiing, fly fishing, world traveling Adrienne ( Lord may we have more midwifes as badass as she is- this is my prayer - Amen) did not let me leave her care without checking my stitches several times in the days and weeks after my baby was born to make sure I was healing normally. She gave me great pointers about my posture and alignment while carrying a little one around. She also gave me several great referrals for a pelvic floor specialist after checking my diastasis recti and educating me on the fact that it was related to my pelvic floor. This small thing absolutely saved me. I remember spending YEARS after my daughters birth looking for the miracle ab system that would close my diastasis and flatten my tummy. The referral she gave me: @belliesinc, has a very simple 6 week postpartum program that focuses on “belly breathing” and uses the ancient technique of mother roasting with a gentle ab wrap to wear around your waist. With that said, here are my CORE (hehe - you see what I did there ) takeaways about the pelvic floor that I learned from my pelvic floor guru Kim Vopni who is @vaginacoach on Instagram ( I feel like we all need a vagina coach). She is also the founder of @belliesinc . FOLLOW HER YA'LL- thank me later.

1. Prevention really is worth the effort. If you are currently pregnant, check out her “Prepare To Push” program. I saw a pelvic floor physical therapist, but a virtual coach is also a great option when you feel just flat out HUGE and don't want to leave the house. To be honest, I also learned WAY more from her programs than I did at my PVPT.

2. Learn how to do Kegel exercises. The saddest fact about my pelvic floor health is that I had not been properly Kegel-ing my entire life. Most of us learn to focus on the squeeze, but this is unfortunately incomplete. @vaginacoach has a few excellent cues for the Kegel. One of them being that an essential part of the Kegel is connecting it to the belly breath. Once those connect, you are on your way!

3. Visualize your favorite cue as you do the movements. In @vaginacoach -es video, you can listen and find the one that works for you. She regularly hosts a private 28 day Kegal mojo challenge where she polls the participants on their favorite cue—most love the blueberry cue, but I was a jellyfish girl myself. Watch the video above to understand what I mean, and to take advantage of her advice yourself!

4. It’s not always about making things tighter. For those of us who feel like things changed as a result of pushing a watermelon out of our vaginas, we can often put the emphasis on tightening and contracting above all else. It surprised me that much of the pelvic floor programs include a decent amount of releasing because we can be holding a lot of tension down their. In the tailwind of Kegel mania that we all live in—with everyone seeking tight barre, yoga and pilates abs—it’s actually quite common to have excessive tightness that is creating pelvic floor weakness. If you've experienced trauma or even perceived trauma from childbirth or painful intercourse, you may need to really focus on releasing that emotionally in order to heal physically. We sometimes forget that a complete Kegel also involves a complete open release part of the movement. I love @vaginacoach - es cue called, “blossom the buttocks” for this.

Well, that's it. My hope is that we may all have the confidence to jump on the trampoline, cough, run, and sneeze without the leg cross of desperation; to laugh our heads off without worry; and to have an enjoyable and healthy sex life for years and years to come.

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