Rachel Welch is a women’s health advocate and postnatal fitness expert and pioneer. Her life-elevating fitness method empowers women with the knowledge and skills to understand, heal and embody motherhood from the inside out.
She frequently partners with physicians and pelvic physical therapists to treat and strengthen pre and post-natal conditions including rehabilitating scar tissue adhesions, organ prolapse, incontinence, and diastasis recti.
With Rachel’s Revolution Motherhood’s App, moms receive support, enthusiasm, positivity and motivation, at each stage of their pre and postnatal journey. Experience over 500 On Demand classes on your schedule, or drop in to Rachel’s monthly live class for direct access and personal support for a daily movement practice that’s realistic for a busy mom life.
The first thing to know about your pelvic floor is that it is connected to the rest of your body, in particular, to your abdominal muscles (transversus abs, or TVA) and diaphragm (the big muscle that sits inside your ribcage and helps you breathe). It relies on deep breathe and upper abdominal strength in order to perform its anatomical function of supporting your pelvic organs.
The 'pelvic floor’, or PF, is defined by a group of muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons that essentially form a lower body diaphragm of support for your bladder, rectum, lower intestines, and uterus. This pelvic floor system connects your pubic bone, tail bone and inner sits bones to one another. This is a brief anatomical overview, but it helps form a picture of how a hammock of support is suspended underneath you and forms the gateway to your trunk.
It wants to be able to relax and release, which is 50% of its function — to relax to allow for elimination. It also wants to be supportive and resilient like a springy trampoline that can stretch against sudden increased pressure like sneezing and coughing but rebound back up into its neutral position of supporting your pelvic organs and continence.
This dynamic between tension and relaxation is part of a bigger picture of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) that spans your lungs, diaphragm, core muscle system, and pelvic floor.
Understanding IAP will help you feel how much the pelvic floor will spontaneously begin recovering when you focus on the muscles above the pelvis, most particularly, your transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, QL, and outer 3 gluteal muscles.
This integrated strength begins with deep breathing: full, 3-dimensional expansion followed by slow, relaxing exhales.
Deep breathing also has the added benefit of cultivating ease, relaxing pent up mom tension and awakens muscles that haven’t been firing.
See a pelvic floor specialized physical therapist (PT). They will most likely perform an internal and external exam to determine where the weakest links in the connection from your pelvic floor to your abs lie. Your PT can manually release tension and help you engage and release evenly through breath and mindful contractions. Your PT will also help you with an accurate diagnosis of function and/or injury. For instance, it is very common post birth for some muscles might be turning “on'' while others may be overstretched, tight, or slightly damaged. Conditions like incontinence and pain during intercourse are often created more by tight and restricted muscles than just ‘weak’ ones. Your PT will help you relax + zero in on a vaginal, rectal or full pelvic floor kegle that integrates with your upper abdominal muscles. This is a crucial step to beginning to rehabilitate your abdominal muscles as well.
Begin to fuse your pelvic floor work into consistent Transversus Abdominal strength training. These exercises can be short and to the point - 10 minutes a day changes everything. Make sure that your exercise program is progressive and building into full-body, integrated exercises. Essentially, don’t stay with PT alone, you need to build strength while continuing to support your body + nervous system’s rebalancing efforts. The daily activities of mom’ing take a very real toll on your body. Your recovery needs to include movements like soft foam rolling, foot/hand therapy and neck and shoulder releases that dissolve daily tension so that you can build reliable and consistent strength in your core, glutes, arms, back and chest.
Translate your mindful fitness habits into daily mom activities. Take a moment to think about what activities you ‘prepare’ for because you know they are going to be hard or painful to perform; maybe those activities are folding the stroller, putting your baby into a high chair, bending over the crib, wearing your baby in a carrier, sneezing, bending over, standing to do the dishes, sitting or lying down and getting up.
Chronic pain tends to become a constant background reality that we adapt to as moms. It slowly creeps up on you and changes your sense of ease, increasing anxiety, and decreasing patience.
So, begin to notice what activities you dread the most. Then look at how to change those moments into easier activities performed from a functional core, generating benefits that go far and beyond having a toned 6-pack.
These mindful mom shifts will begin to alleviate chronic worry and stress in the mind, lift your overall mood and improve your self-confidence, an essential component to maternal mental health, and a key component to building resilient stamina and motivation to keep showing up for your personal workouts and self-care.
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