Pelvic Floor Health with Aliya of Box Wellness
So What Exactly is the Pelvic Floor Anyway?
I became familiar with my pelvic floor when I was dealing with ongoing and extremely uncomfortable lower back and sacrum pain. In yoga class I'd always heard the term “endange your core”, but never fully understood where that was and what that truly meant?
The Pelvic floor I've come to discover, is an extremely important muscle for so many aspects of the bodily function. If you’ve ever sneezed or laughed too hard and couldn’t hold your pee, it is an indication of a weak pelvic floor. New moms know all too well that they simply can’t hold their bladder in the same way they used too! It helps in areas like…
- Incontinence (urinary, fecal, and/or gas)
- Pelvic organ prolapse (a condition where the pelvic organs have lost structural support)
- Pelvic pain
- Painful sex
- Diastasis recti
- Back, hip, sacrum or coccyx pain
- Women who are not currently experiencing signs of dysfunction, but are looking to recover well from birth
In this blog we get to the bottom of this mysterious area of our body by speaking with Pelvic Floor Therapist Alyia of Box Wellness Co.
Q: Alyia, what is the pelvic floor?
A: The pelvic floor is a set of connective tissue and muscles that sits at the bottom of your pelvis. It's sort of like a bowl or a hammock that makes up the literal "floor" of the pelvis. It attaches to the bones of the pelvis - the pubic bone in the front, the tailbone in the back, and the sit bones on either side. Our pelvic floor has some pretty important jobs - it's responsible for keeping us continent (keeping the urine, feces, and gas in until we want it to come out), it helps support our pelvic organs (our bladder, rectum, and uterus if we have one), it helps stabilize our pelvis and spine, plays a role in sexual function + pleasure, and helps circulate fluid around our body.
Q: How did you get into this field?
A: That's a good question 😊 I've been a physiotherapist for over 12 years, but really got into the world of pelvic health after the birth of my son 7 years ago. I had a great pregnancy, but after he was born, I was experiencing some pelvic floor dysfunction - and I was 100% blindsided by it! Even as a physiotherapist, I didn't have a clue as to what was going on "down there" and didn't pay any attention to my pelvic floor or preparing it for birth. I honestly didn't know that I should or could. I went to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist postpartum to address my issues and that's when I fell headfirst into the world of pelvic health. I signed up for every continuing education course I could in order to be certified to practice as a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, and I haven't stopped learning since. I really didn't want any other person to feel as lost or confused as I did when I had just given birth. Now, I'm 40 and am trying to really arm myself with knowledge and information about the changes that happen during perimenopause and menopause - I don't want to go into this next phase of my life feeling lost again! It's now my passion to educate others on all things pelvic health and changes that can occur throughout our life.
Q: How does having a baby impact the pelvic floor?
A: Being pregnant itself is a lot of additional work for the pelvic floor - there's extra weight to carry (a whole baby + placenta + more!), changes in our posture and muscle support, hormonal changes and more. So even before birth, the pelvic floor is impacted. When it comes to actually delivering the baby, a vaginal birth can lead to pelvic floor trauma - tears, swelling, and pressure related issues are common. A c-section avoids some of these issues, but is major abdominal surgery and has recovery considerations that are certainly different from those following a vaginal birth. Regardless of how a baby is born, the pelvic floor is absolutely involved. It's common to experience some weakness or laxity of the muscles + tissue postpartum, and also common to experience pelvic floor dysfunction like leaks, pelvic organ prolapse, painful intimacy, and more. But just because these things are common, I don't believe that we should accept them as our new normal; there are ways to improve and manage with the support of a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
Q: How do we get connected to these deep core muscles? Do I really have to do 100 kegels a day?
A: Haha! No, please do NOT do 100 kegels a day! The thing is that a kegel, or a pelvic floor muscle contraction, might not be what every single one of our pelvic floors need. Sure, if we know that our muscles are weak because we have had them assessed, then kegels might be a part of our story. However, if we are someone who has pelvic floor muscles that are overactive, doing more contractions may make our issues worse - or even create issues! It's a tricky one because some of the signs of a weak pelvic floor like leaks or a feeling of heaviness can also be signs of an overactive pelvic floor. I always recommend that people have their muscles assessed before deciding to do kegels - or learn how to do a quick assessment themselves! Personally, I love teaching that our breath is the best way to connect to our deepest core muscles, not kegels.
Q: How do I maintain good pelvic floor health?
A: I love this question. My tops tips to maintaining good pelvic floor health are:
- stay hydrated - aim for half your bodyweight in ounces.
- avoid constipation - this is a secret key to pelvic health.
- move your body every day - a walk, yoga, strength training, pilates; anything counts.
- intentionally relax your muscles - your pelvic floor muscles as well as your belly, jaw, bum muscles and thighs.
- lower stress - did you know that our pelvic floor is a common area to "hold" our stress?