Because our Pelvic Floor has an intimate relationship with our abdominals, having a healthy “Core and Floor” during pregnancy can help you find your waistline after baby is born!
These exercises are fabulous for keeping your Core strong during pregnancy, or starting back into abdominal work postpartum and are helpful in avoiding and rehabilitating Diastasis Recti (separation of abdominals) No Crunchies necessary!
(but that’s another blog series!)
Working the ‘Inner Core’ muscles should not burn like abdominal curls do. These are your endurance muscles. To challenge these muscles, we can ‘trick’ them into working with an unstable surface like a stability ball or disc under your hips or by moving our arms and legs and trying to keep our torso stable.
Watch that your belly doesn’t bulge outward or bump or tent down the centre.
*Click the links below to view these exercises in video:
Knee Stirs (elevate your torso on a soft bolster or wedge if pregnant)
During pregnancy, once that beautiful belly is starting to show, consider working your core by moving your whole body, arms or legs while using your core breaththroughout. This not only gives you a core work out but upper or lower body workout too! It doesn’t need to be strenuous to be work. We call this functional core work. Here are a few video examples of functional core work: *click the links below to be taken to the video:
Can we just be really real and intimate with each other for a moment? 1 in 4 women experience bladder problems (Leaking!)
1 in 3 experience bladder problems and/ or pelvic pain during sex P.S. a healthy pelvic floor will keep embarrassment out of the bedroom and make sex more enjoyable.
I am not an exception to any of the above statistics! In fact I once went to the hospital due to inexplicable pain and the doctors were totally stumped. It was only after learning more about my Pelvic Floor that I realized the culprit was likely Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. While incontinence and pain are very common, it’s not normal and it can be prevented and helped.
Let’s recap what we already know from this blog series. We know where the Pelvic Floor is located. We know the Pelvic Floor has a special relationship to our Inner Core and that it must be strong and flexible.
Well, if all of this wasn’t enough, it also needs to know how to move at different speeds! This final step is what is going to get us to those goals!
We need the muscles of our Pelvic Floor to maintain a constant engagement throughout our days to hold up the contents of our abdomen and we need those muscles to be able to react quickly against sudden abdominal pressure: LAUGHING, SNEEZING, COUGHING, running, jumping and all our other pregnancy and mom goals! For simplicity, lets say that we need to know how to work our Pelvic Floor in a powerful, plyometric style (exerting maximum force in short intervals), “fast twitch” and for endurance (the ability to withstand wear and tear, lengthy physical stamina), “slow twitch“ engagement.
Here are some exercises to help you find both types of engagement.
A complement to our Wide Leg Stretch last post, this Wide Leg Squat in Parallel (or Plie in 2nd) can help to build proper strength.
Separate the legs just wider than the width of your shoulders, preferably with the knees and toes facing forward (alternatively, this can be done with legs turned out, but this should be avoided if there is a known issue with any sort of prolapse) Put a little more weight into our heels than toes and squat – bending and stretching your knees. Try to keep your torso upright (this time, don’t lean forward)
Using your “Core Breath” with the squat- Inhale to bend your knees and Exhale to straighten your knees. Do these squats slowly, matching the length of your breaths to the length of the movements. Keep your Pelvic Floor engaged and lifted throughout. This works the endurance or slow twitch fibers of the Pelvic Floor.
Parallel squat Turned out squat
Let’s add on…
Pause when you’re almost at the deepest part of your squat. Push into your heels to help activate your glutes (bum cheeks) and your hip muscles, and start to come up but stop yourself from coming all the way up with a short, fast Exhale to engage your core muscles, including your Pelvic Floor, as quickly and strongly as you can. Inhale to release as quickly as you can, and drop down into the squat again. Think of this as a pulse with and accent upward. Aim to be powerful with the Pelvic Floor like a striking action on the contraction. Recruiting the extra muscles of the hip, bum and legs will assist your Pelvic Floor and give you some lower body work. Start with 3 pulses and rest, several times. As you become able to contract and release quickly, you can work your way up to 5 pulses and eventually 10 pulses.
Take it up a notch
Once you’ve mastered the wide leg squat, here’s a variation that will make you work a little harder and take much more concentration on the core and floor. Switch your breath for this one – Exhale as you step out to the wide leg position and squat contracting the core and floor. Inhale to pull the legs back together (use a little inner thigh) and straighten your legs. This works for endurance and the stepping out action is plyometric for fast twitch integration. For an example: https://www.instagram.com/p/BRLVW6ZhdUi/?taken-by=ruthruttandoula
Hovering on Knees Or Bridging
Start sitting on your heels with feet together and knees apart at about a 45* angle. Using the “Core Breath” Exhale and lift your bottom off your heels (about half way between sitting and being right up on your shins) thinking of pulling the knees toward centre (but don’t actually move them) you should feel the muscles of your upper inner thigh, your glutes (bum cheeks) and maybe a little of the outside of your hips engage. Inhale and release.
For Bridging lie on the floor or a Mat, knees bent and about hip width apart. Using the “Core Breath” Exhale and lift your bottom off the Mat trying to keep your torso long not bowing, and using the glutes more than your hamstrings. Inhale and release. Maintain the contraction of the Pelvic Floor and core throughout both of these exercises.
Let’s add on…
This time hold the hover or the bridge and keep the inner core engaged. With a short, fast Exhale, engage your Pelvic Floor (in and up), as quickly as you can. Inhale to release as quickly as you can. Repeat 3 times and then release the squeeze. Work up to 5 repetitions, and then 10, as your ability and strength increases.
**Inner thigh work can be uncomfortable for some pregnant persons and could contribute to Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. If you feel any pain in the pubic bone area with these or any exercises, stop! Likewise, not all pregnant persons will feel uncomfortable lying on their back for bridging and we do not recommend spending much time lying in this position exercising. Stop if you feel uncomfortable, breathless or lightheaded. In general, keep pregnant person’s heart above baby’s heart when reclining**
Let’s counter some of this inner thigh focus with the outer hip and thigh muscles, which work together with the Pelvic Floor and protect the pelvis and low back.
Maintain the integrity of your Inner Core and Pelvic Floor throughout and complete 5-10 repetitions of each of the Clam leg variations that you see in this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTBxN0rhInt/?taken-by=ruthruttandoula Some movements should feel like you really have to think to keep yourself from wobbling and some will create a little burn on the outside of the thigh, hip and glute. Don’t forget to repeat on the second side!
Follow me on Instagram @ruthruttandoula or come to a class to keep crushing your Pregnancy and Mom Goals!
Did you know that many of the symptoms of a weak Pelvic Floor are the same for a tight Pelvic Floor?
I think we commonly associate weakness with slack or lengthened and stretched out muscles but tight muscles can be weak and lack integrity too. A tight or hypertonic Pelvic Floor does not mean it is strong, it means it doesn’t know how to release and function well. (to truly know if you’re weak or tight, one needs to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist)
Along with some ill affects on our daily life pre or postnatally, at tight Pelvic Floor can make the pushing stage of labour much more work. Some women inadvertently “hold” the baby in during the pushing stage.
In the last posts we’ve spent time getting some awareness and engagement of our Pelvic Floor, now let’s look at giving it some down time.
These stretches should be appropriate for just about every one.
Lean forward with arms on a stable surface. This opens the distance between the pubic bone and the tailbone. Separate the legs, nice and wide and turn them to parallel. This opens the distance between your sit bones. This position in itself is a Pelvic Floor stretch. Use your core breath exercises and images from the last post to help you bring awareness to the Pelvic Floor.
Lunge gently from side to side. You should feel a stretch or lengthening feeling down your inner thigh and possibly through your Pelvic Floor. If you don’t feel any stretch, try separating your legs wider and be sure your tailbone is slightly lifted. Then try bending and stretching the knees together with the torso centered.
Breath easily and with a focus on stretching and opening the Pelvic floor. Keep your jaw and shoulders as relaxed as possible. This is a great example:
This should feel lovely and relaxing and is often a place women naturally want to labour. If you’re are pregnant, this is a great place to spend some time imaging the birth of your baby. Much like an athlete visualizes the positive outcome of their sport, you too can put some positives vibes out there!
Another option is to rest on a slightly elevated surface (a wedge or a soft bolster) with the legs butter-flied or up the wall. Alternatively, this can be done lying on your side with one leg up the wall and then turning over to do the same on the other side.
Since the Hip and Glute muscles often work together with the Pelvic Floor in most of our daily activities (we call them “co-recruiters”) it’s great to give them a stretch too. The “Figure Four” stretch standing, sitting or on your back is a great one.
To further release this area, the Franklin Method Pelvic Floor & Glute release with a semi firm ball is just the trick! Squeeze your glutes and press firmly onto the ball, then release. Do this several times. Then use the ball to massage the glutes, hip and hamstrings. When you remove the ball you should feel dropped and open on that side. Repeat on the second side.
**Be aware if you have piriformis syndrome or sciatica as this can put a lot of compression on the muscle and nerve. Stop if symptoms get worse**
What needs to be as flexible as your tongue, as strong as your abdominals and is incredibly important to the pregnant and postnatal body?!
Well, yes, but I was referring to your Pelvic Floor!Along with the transversus abdominis, multifidi and diaphragm, the Pelvic Floor is considered part of the “Inner Core” or “True Core”.
What does the Pelvic Floor do?
These muscle systems work together to stabilize the pelvis, lumbar spine and rib cage when stress is placed on them… ummm, like during pregnancy or when carrying a newborn baby around.
The Pelvic Floor muscles help to hold the pelvis together and connect the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone). Daily, they work against gravity to hold up the contents of the abdomen and control what comes out, and when!
During pregnancy, the weight of a growing uterus and baby put a great deal of extra load on these muscles. Two of the most obvious and uncomfortable issues with a weakened Pelvic Floor are incontinence and hemorrhoids. A strong Pelvic Floor is needed for a more comfortable pregnancy.
Looking into the pelvis at the muscles of the Pelvic Floor.
Why do we need a healthy Pelvic Floor?
A healthy Pelvic Floor is also essential for childbirth. Equally as important to a strong Pelvic Floor is a flexible Pelvic Floor. During birth it must know how to release, relax and expel! This flexibility can make pushing more effective, and therefore, possibly shortening this stage of labour and making it less exhausting.
After the birth of a baby, including a Caesarean birth, the Pelvic Floor is compromised and needs special attention to heal and function well. We highly recommend all postnatal bodies to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist within the first six weeks of recovery.
A physiotherapist will be able to let you know specifically what to address within your body. If unattended, a dysfunctional Pelvic Floor can lead to a host of uncomfortable and undesirable affects including:
Urinary Stress & Urge Incontinence .
Pelvic organ prolapse .
Chronic pelvic pain .
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) .
And can even contribute to back pain and cause mummy tummy. .
Don’t panic! Appropriate and safe exercising will help with blood circulation and delivery of oxygen to these important muscles as well as exercising the muscles themselves.
Let us show you how to show your Floor some Love!
Make sure you stay tuned, all week, for the rest of this great 4 part series all about your Pelvic Floor!
“When are you going back to work?” well-meaning friends and family want to know. Half of them assume you are going to be devastated to be away from your baby- the other half laugh that they bet you can’t wait to start the daycare transition. The truth? Could be anywhere in there if you’re like most mamas I know.
Leaving my first born felt like leaving my arm behind. But I also liked carrying a purse instead of a diaper bag, and all the adult conversation that my job entailed. Mixed feelings- up and downs- hallmark feelings of a mama at the end of maternity leave.
Whether you are going back to work after your first baby or your third, the transition from maternity leave to daycare can be really hard — on you and your baby. The goodbyes can be heart-wrenching no matter what and you might wonder if you and your baby will survive this tough time. You are not alone mama!
You and your baby will survive- and thrive. Here’s how…
What to do before:
Decide what kind of transition is best for you and your child. Some children and parents do better with a gradual daycare transition. Over the course of a few weeks, slowly increase the amount of time spent with a caregiver, or at a daycare, until full days are reached. Other children and parents find that after an initial get-to-know-you phase, it’s better to start the new routine right away.
Play lots of object permanence games. Hide-and-Seek, Peek-A-Boo, hiding and finding favourite toys. This helps teach your child that you are always there even if he can’t see you and that you will always come back.
Give your child a transitional object. A baby might have a stuffy or blanket to remind her of home and an older child could have a locket with a picture of her parent(s) in it. You can also give your child something of yours that will also have your scent, like a scarf.
Make a picture book of “Who Loves Baby.” The caregiver can look at it with your child during the day if/when the emotional pangs of missing you start to set in.
Try on your work clothes before the first day back! Even if you have lost much of your pregnancy weight, your clothes might still fit differently. If you are breastfeeding expect engorgement at first and wear clothes that accommodate your breast changes.
Fill your freezer. Make sure there are plenty of easy meal options for the first few weeks of the transition so that you can focus on spending time with your baby or child when you get home from work and daycare. Host a going-back-to-work party and get your friends to bring you a dish for your freezer. Even after the initial adjustment many parents like to do some cooking on the weekend to make the week easier.
Develop and use a connection ritual. You can use this to send your baby/child off feeling embraced by you and to “collect” them when you see them again. My grandmother used to tell me, “I love you dearly, dearly, dearly” every time we said hello, goodbye, goodnight or good morning. My eldest son and I had a ritual of 5 kinds of kisses that we always gave each other – “Cat Kiss,” “Smooch,” “Fish Kiss,” “Butterfly Kiss,” and “Dog Kiss.” Your child will feel more connected to you and confident and you will create a ritual that he will remember forever.
Support your child by finding a “go to” support person at the daycare. Your child may have more than one caregiver; see if one person can be her main source of comfort and connection. It is very important that your baby has someone to bond with. (This is a big reason why I like home daycares– but a good day care centre should also be able to provide some continuity for your child.) Take a picture of this person and your child together and put it on your fridge. Treat her like a member of the family.
What moms wish they knew: You don’t necessarily have to prepare your baby for a new reality when they are still at home. Before your mat leave is over, it’s not necessary to wean your baby or teach them to fall asleep without you. Babies are amazingly competent and usually have no problem with 2 routines. At home your baby might require half an hour of nursing or rocking to fall asleep, while your caregiver will likely be able to get him to fall asleep with 2 minutes of back patting in the Pack-n-Play. Many moms would swear that their daycare workers have a magic fairy dust that helps their babies settle to sleep with superhuman speed. And many daycares are very flexible with stroller sleeping (or whatever else your babe needs to get some ZZZs). If you want to continue a breastfeeding relationship outside of daycare hours, you, your breasts and your baby will be able to adjust to this new schedule. No need to wean.
During the daycare transition:
Get extra sleep and get some exercise if you can. If you’re depleted it will make the transition harder for everyone.
Expect your baby to be clingier. This is normal and good. They are showing you how to meet their needs and their needs are for increased connection with you when you are together. This won’t last forever so try to enjoy all the extra snuggle time.
Plan to devote the first part of the evening to your baby. Spend the first 30 minutes reading, playing, breastfeeding. Be prepared for baby to want you as soon as he/she sees you. One mama told me that she sneaks into the house so she can change before her baby sees her so she is ready to play and reconnect as soon as she sees her baby. Make sure to get them laughing and do some physical play. Laughter and time together helps you and your baby process the day and your separation from each other.
Allow yourself to grieve. Recognize your emotions as they come up – acknowledge them and let them move through you. The only way out of a feeling is through it.
Don’t be surprised if you feel like a completely different person. Our priorities often shift when we become parents. Maybe you’re not as driven as you were before. Maybe your interests have changed. This is a new chapter of your life!
Expect more night wake-ups during the transition phase. Baby may nurse a lot at night to make up for lost daytime feeds, or just for extra cuddles because he/she misses you. Try to top them up as much as possible during daytime hours when you’re together. If it appeals to you, consider the family bed. Some parents find that night togetherness helps them feel better about being apart during the day.
Don’t forget to make time for YOU. It can be easy to spend half the day devoted to work and the other half devoted to family. Try to carve out some time to do something just for you. Walk to work occasionally. Take yourself out for a fancy coffee. Take a bath in the evening.
Be a slacker- give yourself a break. During this transition time your house may be a mess, you may feel like you’re dropping all the balls. Go into survival mode for a while. It will get easier (we promise). When possible, ask for help or outsource, It is impossible to do it all.
What moms wish they knew: It’s normal to have mixed feelings. You might miss your baby so much it feels like your heart is breaking. But you also might be happy to be back in adult company again doing meaningful work. It can be fulfilling to trade a diaper bag for a purse and eat lunch with other grown-ups. Acknowledge that you are a human with complex and sometimes contradictory desires.
Explain to your child what will be happening. It is important to say “Mama/dada always comes back.” This is important to do before daycare starts and to continue it all through the transition. Even a young child will be able to understand some of what you are saying, especially if you have read separation stories and played object permanence games.
Focus on connection- even when you say goodbye. Draw your child’s attention to when you will be together again. Often we say things like “Oh it will be so fun to… play with your friends, play with the toys they have, play outside” etc. This is understandable- we want our child to feel good about the separation from us so we focus on all the fun she will have. But as you separate from your child- let her know when you’ll be together again and what will happen when you are reunited. “When I pick you up at 5 I will have a snack for you and we will have a big snuggle and walk home together.”
Greet your child’s caregiver warmly and with enthusiasm. Your child has to feel your confidence in the person you have entrusted with his care.
Do not sneak out! Always say goodbye to your baby/child. If you sneak out, it’s easier for you not to hear them cry but it’s harder for your baby. It teaches her that you could disappear at any time and creates tons of anxiety.
Use your special connection ritual to say goodbye. Don’t forget to remind your child explicitly that you always come back.
Make your goodbye cheerful, quick and confident. Your baby has to know that you believe she can handle this!
When you are together again- take a few minutes to “collect” your child emotionally and re-connect- even after a short separation. A special greeting or “hello” ritual helps your child know he’s back in the warmth of your affection and makes the rest of your day easier.
One mama I spoke to recently had these words of wisdom about the transition back to work:
“It’s a huge lesson in letting go of control and allowing other influences to shape your child. It can feel like the first step in accepting that though your child is OF you he is NOT you… Managing your own stress and anxiety and not projecting that onto your child is often the hardest part. I cried in my car after every drop off. Thoughts like “He’s too little… He can’t handle this…” haunted me. 6 weeks later he was thriving. We– mostly me– had survived.”
Yesterday my doula friend was over with her kids.We were chatting over coffee about the newest parenting course I had been certified in… and then, blood curdling screams.It was my older son, having an epic meltdown, which evolved into the biggest freak out of his entire life. This was the kind of tantrum that pushes all your buttons and triggers you so deeply that you need to devote a therapy session to unpackage it all.The kind that leaves both you and your child utterly exhausted, physically and emotionally.
All these thoughts and worries ran through my head after my friend showed herself out.The irony of the timing, with me showing her my new parenting workshop notes.What right do I have giving advice to parents, when things are so far from perfect in my home?Will my friend let her kids still play with mine?Does she think I’ve created a monster?Is this a reflection of my parenting?Logically I know, that I am parenting from my heart, with empathy and a lot of patience, and that I would not, could not do it any differently.But these doubts sometimes creep in (EGO)!
When I share inspirational thoughts, stories and memes on social media, the last thing I want to do as an educator is to make parents feel less-than, but it happens, just like it happens to me.Many parents appreciate the information or anecdotes, but some may feel like they are failing when their life doesn’t match up to what they see through Facebook coloured glasses.And that is the last thing I want to do. My goal is always to empower families. Then one day it dawned on me, I was in Psychotherapy residency,future therapists were participating and sharing their personal stories, issues and challenges, and I realized –we help others because we too needed help, and maybe still do. This post has been percolating for a couple years now, and I feel I owe it to parents to keep it real and share some truths.
I don’t always take my own advice.
And I am tired because of it. I know how to recover when I have reached burn out status.Go to bed earlier, lay off electronics 1-2 hours before bed, drink smoothies and reduce processed foods.But it has taken years to get to the point of knowing my signals of burn out and remedy accordingly.I am still working on the proactive part of the equation, I still require help in this area, and that is ok!
My house is a mess.
I try! And I find having a clean and organized home pretty key in my personal quest for balance. I’m not so good at letting the mess go, as many a poignant meme would suggest.Alas, sometimes it is more pressing to get down on the floor and get dirty with the kids.So for sanity’s sake, I go outside with them so I can be present and not annoyed by the cluttered kitchen and messy beds. When guests come over and my house is clean, I am secretly quite excited by my luck!But just so ya know, if I go to your house and it is messy, I am also excited and it kinda makes me like you more ☺
I fight with my husband.
We have been together for over 15 years and are the best of friends.I can teach couples how to resolve conflict respectfully, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired sometimes, hurt sometimes, and veer off the most healthy of scripting when I bring up an issue with my own husband.Marriage can be tough.Marriage with children, tougher!But I love him beyond words, and know in my soul that there is no one else on the planet I could imagine growing old with, so we work at it. Moment to moment, one day at a time.
I love wine and coffee…
Sometimes we eat fast food…
I raise my voice…
I get anxiety…
I use the ipad too much…
I still have so much to learn…
And I feel isolated in my choices.
+The isolation when my first son was born was so heavy. All the dreams I had of mommy play-dates when I was pregnant were shattered when the intensity of caring for a little human came to be. The polarizing philosophies to muddle through with all the cattiness and politics just made a hard situation nearly unbearable some days.I wanted desperately to be validated for doing what was so instinctual yet in some ways counter-culture.So I sought out some like minded parents via the interweb, I ate up all I could about developmental psychology, took parenting class after class and began studying psychotherapy.My mission is to empower parents.To eliminate all the shaming around not just the kids, but people of all ages/races/backgrounds.This is the essence behind what I do.
As it turns out, my sweet friend Julie had no expectations that my house and family always look like my Instagram account.Her being present during a moment of realness actually helped facilitate us growing closer.That’s what we all need.To be freed from the pressure to live up to some façade of perfection.Even us parenting experts know –the struggle is real, and you are so far from alone.Let’s vow to raise one and other up from here on out, get out from under our clouds of shame and be ok with wherever we happen to be in our own journeys!