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As a Former Olympian, I Focused on Health in the Present—But My Dad’s Experience With Kidney Disease Has Shown Me the Importance of Discussing Family Health History

Looking back is as important as looking forward.

A lot can happen to your body during pregnancy. You may begin to swell in unexpected places, find your balance is off, have trouble sleeping, and even experience pain or discomfort in your pelvic floor. While all these symptoms are normal and likely to subside after you give birth, your pelvic floor’s strength is just as important during pregnancy as it is in your recovery process afterward, which is why postpartum pelvic floor exercises are so important.

“The literature shows that women who do proper pelvic floor exercises postpartum, experience less leaking, less pain, and less prolapse,” says Marcy Crouch, DPT, WCS. (Pelvic floor prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs weaken, causing these organs to descend into the vaginal or rectal areas.) “It’s important that we rehab these muscles the correct way, especially after they just held up a growing baby for nine months, and then had to do the opposite for birth. Muscle tears, C-sections, and other physical trauma need to be thought of the same way we are thinking about shoulder and knee surgery.”

The pelvic floor muscles are located at the bottom of the pelvis and support all of the organs in this region including your bowel, bladder, urethra, and more. You can think of them as creating a hammock under these muscles, and when they are strong, they help to keep in urine and feces, support sexual function, and also help to support a baby during pregnancy. Just like any other muscle in our body, your pelvic floor can be conditioned and strengthened.

The benefits of doing postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Most women are cleared for sex and exercise at six weeks postpartum, once all the tissues have healed, but you can begin some pelvic floor exercises, like breathwork, well before this timeframe.

“I really encourage rest for the first three days, just really rest,” says Jami Wilson, PT, DPT, pelvic floor physical therapist and co-founder of Empower Physical Therapy. “Really the first week would be ideal where we’re just taking that time for our body to heal and recover, but we can immediately start doing some breathwork, to engage back into our diaphragm or abdominal muscles of our pelvic floor.”

While breathwork is great, jumping into any exercise without giving your body proper time to heal can have risks; however, pelvic floor physical therapy when practiced correctly, is safe and effective, and can usually be implemented a few weeks after birth. Performing postpartum pelvic floor exercises can ai

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