Rachel Welch created Revolution Motherhood, an online fitness program, out of the experiment of rehabilitating her own postpartum body. She is motivated to share these tools with every mom on the planet so that you too can be at ease, happy, and living the adventure of motherhood in a pain-free, healthy, authentic body.
Below Rachel shares with Nyssa her advice for postpartum pelvic floor healing.
The first thing to know about your pelvic floor is that it is connected to the rest of your body,
most particularly to your abdominal muscles and diaphragm. While it may feel very separate, pressure-filled, and extra weak or tight during pregnancy and post-childbirth, it can heal and recover full functionality.
The pelvic floor is defined by a group of muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons that essentially form a diaphragm of support for your lower body organs (bladder, rectum, lower intestines, and uterus).
When we think about a ‘strong pelvic floor’, most of us imagine building muscle tone, like a strong bicep. However, when we are talking about the pelvic bowl, we need to shift the imagery away from ‘functional’ equaling ‘strong’.
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 integration begins with deep breathing: full, 3-dimensional expansion followed by slow, relaxing exhales.
Deep breathing cultivates ease, relaxes muscles that are tense, and awakens muscles that haven’t been firing.
When it comes to charting a course for healing your pelvic floor, it begins with getting an accurate diagnosis of function and/or injury; some muscles might be turning “on'' while others may be overstretched, tight, or slightly damaged (all common post-baby). Here’s where to begin:
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.
Begin to fuse your pelvic floor work into more full-body, integrated exercises that rebuild external strength against the internal stability of your functional pelvic floor.
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.
This change can 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.
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artwork: joseph beuys
image: courtesy rachel welch
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.
With 20+ years of experience teaching and studying human physiology, yoga, barre, Eastern medicine, and fitness, Rachel has forged lasting relationships across the medical and fitness industries.
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.
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