Motherhood is beautiful—this we can agree on. Not so beautiful? Dreading every sneeze, jumping jack, or any other form of lower-half motion that can cause you to (inelegant description alert!) pee yourself a little.
Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean! Hey, it’s common even in women who haven’t had kids! So let’s discuss some pelvic floor health 101—basic tips on what it is, why things are how they are, and how to improve it.
I recently interviewed the amazing Marina Castellanos, MPT, a physical therapist based in Westchester County, NY, for my talk show and podcast, We Gotta Talk. We dug into the importance of pelvic floor health and so much more.
Before we start talking about how to make things better, let’s talk basics. What is the pelvic floor, anyway? It’s not just your bladder:
“The pelvic floor refers to the hammock of muscles that run from our pubic bone in the front to the tailbone in the back.” It has many functions, and one of them is continence—ie. being able to hold our urine.
But as you’ll read a few paragraphs down, having good pelvic health can also improve digestion and sexual health. So there are tons of benefits to working on this.
But first things first…
Having had three kids—one C-section, two VBACs—I can’t believe how ignorant I was to this! Marina says it’s all about the length of time you’ve been experiencing any form of incontinence.
If it’s been just a few weeks since giving birth, she says it’s totally normal to experience some leakage. But beyond that, you’re likely dealing with some pelvic floor damage.
Nope, nope, and … nope! Here’s what Marina had to say:
“A lot of people think it will get better with time, or that it’s normal if it doesn’t get better … I’m sure you’ve heard maybe older generations of women talking about this happen[ing] to them after they had babies. You hear friends talk about it, so it’s something that’s common but it doesn’t mean that it’s normal. Really, leaking urine at any time really isn’t normal.
Aside from when you were really newly postpartum in those first few weeks [where] you might experience some leakage because you’re still healing. And then beyond that point if you have urinary leakage that keeps persisting, say, after 3 months, 6 months, a year? The longer it goes on the more it’s likely to persist.”
When women talk about how to improve pelvic floor health, the one word you hear time and time again is “kegels”—voluntary contractions in your pelvic floor that are supposed to help strengthen the area.
But do they even work? The short answer, according to Marina? Yes, but only if you’re doing them right; and even then, they may not be right for you.
“The problem with that is that pelvic floor health is so much more than kegels … and most people do kegels incorrectly.”
Yep. You heard that right. All that squeezing may have been for naught. But don’t worry! Marina is here to help us get our form right.
“To do a true kegel or pelvic floor contraction … we’re just talking about squeezing the muscles of the pelvic floor. The best way I can describe it is if somebody were to attempt to pick up a blueberry with their pelvic floor and pull it up and into the body.
It sounds very weird, very strange, but that’s really the best cue that I can give verbally without giving a check on them myself. Doing a manual assessment is definitely much easier to teach somebody how to kegel because there’s much more feedback and education I can give them.”
So here’s the thing: Proper pelvic health isn’t just about continence and sexual health. It’s also related to your digestion. This shocked me, but makes total sense when you hear Marina describe it.
She says a lax pelvic floor can get in the way of proper elimination. (That’s code speak for poop.) That means, if your pelvic floor isn’t in good shape, it can feel like poor digestion. And that’s why, when she’s treating her patients, Marina tells them to think about their health holistically:
“Really it’s back to basics–good nutrition. You wanna have soft and mushy stool. You know, poop matters! So you wanna take a look at what’s coming out of your body and make sure it looks okay.
If it’s hard to have a bowel movement, that’s definitely a surefire sign that you have pelvic floor dysfunction.
You want to take a look at how often you are urinating; what is the color of your urine; are you getting enough hydration and just really walking? Walking is so great for your pelvic floor mobility and for your hip mobility and everything else in your body.
The number one thing I give to probably everybody is really breathing–just working on getting some deep breathing into your belly [and] into your ribs, because that’s really going to have a direct effect on your pelvic floor whether it’s weak or whether it’s tight, because our pelvic floor movement and coordination is directly related to our breathing.”
Check out my podcast with Marina here, and watch the show in its entirety below. She’s a wealth of information and I’m so grateful she shared her wisdom with me!
And don’t forget to Like the show page on Facebook so you can get more great info and interviews like this!