Health

Post-baby bodies: How your pelvic health can affect your mental health

We don’t just have to deal with saggy skin, stretch marks and baby weight after we’ve given birth. New mums may also suffer with urinary incontinence, pelvic prolapse and diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation).

And these things, along with having to worry about whether or not you may wet yourself when you jump, laugh or sneeze, can really take its toll on our mental health.

It’s an issue which could impact us for many years after we have given birth.

10 ways your vagina changes after you give birth

How our pelvic health after giving birth can affect our mental health

In fact, a new survey found that 87% of women said dealing with pelvic health issues after birth had affected their mental health in some way.

What’s more, 50% of postnatal women revealed they had experienced pelvic organ prolapse or a weaker bladder after becoming a mum.

Setting unrealistic goals on how to get your post-baby body back on track can often result in a serious loss of confidence.

Post-baby bodies: How your pelvic health can affect your mental health

Women with urinary incontinence were more likely to develop postnatal depression

One study by McMaster University found that women with urinary incontinence after giving birth are almost twice as likely to develop postpartum depression as those without incontinence. 

“We were surprised to find that urinary incontinence is a risk factor for postpartum depression,” says lead researcher Wendy Sword, a professor in McMaster University’s School of Nursing.

“Urinary incontinence following childbirth has not received much attention as a factor contributing to postpartum depression and we do not yet fully understand the reasons incontinence is linked to depression.”

Urinary incontinence is not an uncommon problem after giving birth so women should not feel embarrassed by it.

It’s important they talk with their doctors and medical health care providers about any of their concerns.

4 AWESOME exercises to help you improve your pelvic floor

How to look after your pelvic floor

Looking after your pelvic floor should be a key consideration for all women – especially mums and it is surprisingly easy to do once you understand how to do it.

At The Healthy Mummy, we are passionate about raising awareness about pelvic floor health with all women.How-to-look-after-your-Pelvic-Floor-women-doing-yogaYou will also find that our postnatal exercise routines in The Healthy Mummy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge app ensure that you are not putting undue pressure on your pelvic floor and after working out to these – as well as having a very effective workout, you will also come away with a new appreciation of taking care of your pelvic floor when exercising.

It’s no surprise that the pelvic floor is compromised after pregnancy but the good news is that there is plenty you can do to improve its function and avoid incontinence and vaginal prolapse.

It is also vital that you optimise your pelvic floor recovery and strength before overloading it with other exercises. It can take three months or more for these important muscles to redevelop their strength post-baby so remember to take it easy.

Tips for a healthy pelvic floor

  • Perform quality pelvic floor strengthening exercises three times per day
  • Include pelvic floor in your general fitness routine
  • Avoid any exercise or activity in the home that strains your pelvic floor, in particular, high impact, heavy lifting and anything that makes you strain or push down on your pelvic floor.
  • And always recruit your pelvic floor before you lift, perform an exercise or an activity that challenges your bladder control such as when you cough, laugh or sneeze

Pelvic floor long hold exercise

The pelvic floor needs endurance to support your bladder and bowel all day every day, and power to quickly provide that extra control when you cough, laugh or sneeze.

Here is an excellent excellent exercise to cross train the pelvic floor – perform 3 sets daily to strengthen your pelvic floor.

  1. Sitting or standing, lengthen your spine and relax your neck and shoulders
  2. Visualise the muscular sling running from your pubic bone to your tail bone.
  3. Breathing naturally, draw upwards and inwards around your back passage as though you’re are trying to avoid passing wind.   Now bring that lift through to the front as though you are trying to stop the flow when you are going to the toilet.
  4. Hold this lift as high and as firmly as you can. Breathe normally and check that all other muscles especially your buttocks, hands and feet are relaxed.
  5. The aim is to gradually increase the length of time you can hold your pelvic floor, say from three breaths initially to five or even 10 breaths eventually.  It is really important to completely relax your pelvic floor in between each lift for as long as you held the contraction.

Repeat three to five times.

How-to-look-after-your-Pelvic-Floor-women-sitting-on-exercie-ball

How to tell if the exercise you are doing is too much for your pelvic floor

You will know the exercise is too much for your pelvic floor and you should decrease the intensity if, whilst performing the exercise, you notice:

  • You are bearing down rather than lifting  your pelvic floor
  • Loss of bladder control or bladder leakage
  • Heaviness or pressure
  • You are unable to feel or engage your pelvic floor.

If you have any concerns about your pelvic floor strength or function then the best advice is to visit a women’s health and continence physiotherapist who can offer specific advice.

Help! My Bladder Leaks When I Exercise!

What to know about muscle separation post-pregnancy

Try our Post Pregnancy Workouts in our 28 Day Challenge

And for the ULTIMATE SAFE, EFFECTIVE & TRUSTED Post Pregnancy Workout – see our EXPERT workouts now available in our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge App

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Join the 28 Day Challenge for full access to the workouts

Join the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge

We also have our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge which has modified exercises for mums with pelvic floor issues or muscle separation.

Our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge includes:
  • 28 days of at home exercise routines (no gym needed) – with video instruction
  • Customisable and breastfeeding friendly meal plans
  • Time-efficient exercises for busy mums – under 30 mins
  • Challenge combines Pilates exercises with interval and circuit training (HIIT)
  • Suitable for basic to advanced fitness levels
  • Home to thousands of EASY-TO-MAKE recipes!

You can check out the challenge here – 28 Day Weight Loss Challenges

jennifer
written by:

Jennifer Hartnett

Jennifer is our Senior News Producer with a passion for trending news and lifestyle stories. Jennifer spends the rest of her time running around after her son Kian.