Ever since the birth of my second daughter two years ago let’s just say that I have had a topsy-turvy relationship with a certain district of my body, otherwise known as my pelvic floor. Because the truth is (and I’m sure a lot of us will admit to this) that this was the area that got abandoned and completely forgotten about. But as a result I can tell you that I have been paying the price for it.
Firstly I should start by saying that I have a pretty small frame – I’m five foot four and slim(ish!) and definitely not made for carrying big babies. Well little Dee Dee didn’t get the memo on this so when she was in my uterus she began to grow and grow rapidly. By the time I was six months pregnant I had a massive bump and people were constantly asking me when I was due. When I told them that I still had three months to go a few jaws definitely dropped to the floor and got fractured. Some even believed that I must be carrying twins (which I knew I wasn’t). So by the time I reached my third trimester I was finding it difficult to walk and by the time I got to the last two weeks I was sitting down the entire time. Needless to say it was no surprise then when she eventually came out and was a whopping 8lb 13 oz! This girl was big, a whole 3lb bigger than my first daughter who was born at just under 6lb.
So after her birth and the initial hullabaloo that is the first few months with a new baby we began to settle down and get into a routine. My body was healing and I was starting to feel a little normal again. However it was only then that I started to discover the areas that had not recovered fully from the pregnancy and they were mostly centred around my pelvic nether regions. When you are pregnant you begin to hear a lot of talk about your pelvic floor from midwives and nurses but I’m not sure if most of us were listening as closely as we should have been. Well it turns out that those muscles can become pretty weakened after nine months of carrying a baby and now I can compile a list of pelvic problems that I have been left to deal with. Where do I start….
- Ok the first big one was the unexpected coughing / sneezing. These are the ones that you have no time to prepare for, the sneeze that catches you completely off guard. And before you know what to do boom it’s out and you suddenly find that you have leaked a little bit down below at the same time. I remember vividly this happening one day when I was out in the garden, I did a massive sneeze totally out of the blue and all of a sudden I could feel my trousers wet. I immediately ran inside to get changed, which is absolutely fine if it happens to you at home but completely mortifying if it happens when you are out and about.
- The next thing I discovered after the whole unexpected sneezing or coughing a little too hard was the problem with running. I suppose that if these weakened muscles cannot control themselves when my body shakes with a sneeze then they are not going to cope very well when I try to go out running -which they did not. The first couple of times I only got about half a mile down the road when I could feel the leaking again. This was not hard running by the way, just light jogging but I straight away had to bring it back down into a walk. When I arrived home earlier than expected my husband would turn to me in surprise and say “What are you doing back so soon?” to which I would mumble “nothing” under my breath as I made a bee line for the stairs to again get changed and into fresh clothes.
- As if leaking issues weren’t enough I started to have problems with my back. These constant shooting pains running up the right-hand side, starting in my right butt cheek and running right up through my lower back. This coupled with dull aches in my upper back left me with no choice but to seek help. So I went to my lovely friend the osteopath who was fantastic and managed to get right to the root of the problem – that dreaded pelvic floor again! It turns out that I have a tilted pelvis, again due to muscles down there being severely tightened and weakened from the birth. So along with treatment (lets not go into the details), I have a series of stretches and exercises to do to strengthen up that entire area.
So ladies if I can impart one piece of advice to you all today (whether you are currently expecting or have already had your baby) – pay attention to your body and your pelvic floor. I know how easy it is to forget when you are so consumed with taking care of everyone and everything else first but you have to try. And also listen to your district nurse! When she tells you to do those Kegel exercises, do what she says! Don’t turn your head dismissively away when she starts to give you the lecture, thinking that these exercises don’t really apply to you and you will be fine. You won’t. You are not above the Kegels. And if you want to cough, sneeze or run in peace (if running is your thing), then you will listen to and do what the lady says. Trust me it could save you a multitude of problems in the long run!