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Post-Delivery Core and Pelvic Floor Exercises, Meditations, Recipes and Educational Content

By Lauren Browne 

 

Whether you are currently pregnant, preparing for delivery, 6 weeks post-partum or 2 years post-
partum, working on your breathing pattern should definitely be a priority! So how is breathing connected to our pelvic floor and why is it so important?

Our pelvic floor (the basket shape of muscles that sits at the base of our pelvis) works as part of a larger
“team” or system known as our core. The core can be described as a house. The pelvic floor is our
basement foundation, the abdominals the front wall, the obliques and lateral glutes are the side walls
and the deep back muscles and glutes the back wall. The roof (an extremely important piece of any
house) is represented by the diaphragm muscle.

 

The Diaphragm Is Underutilized

 

The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle that sits below our rib cage. It is our strongest and largest
breathing muscle but is often underutilized in many women.The most common strategy I see in women with dysfunctional pelvic floors is to breathe from theirchest, neck and shoulders. Breath holding during day to day tasks often co-exists with this breathingpattern as well. As women we are often told to stand up tall and suck our belly in. Try taking a deepbreath while gripping your abs and sucking your belly in. I bet you’ll find it pretty tough!

 

The Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor Work Together

 

It has been well established in the research community that our diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles are
coupled together. This means the action of one causes a reaction of the other. When we breathe in the diaphragm flattens and pushes the pressure DOWN. The belly and rib cage expand and the pelvic floor lowers and RELAXES to accommodate for this pressure. When we breathe out the diaphragm rises back up into a dome shape. The belly and rib cage return in and the pelvic floor rises, tightens and CONTRACTS.
Just like we should be continuously breathing in and out throughout our day our pelvic floor should be
relaxing and contracting in response. A break down of this system can lead to a pelvic floor that is
always contracting (too tight) or relaxing (too loose). This can lead to pelvic floor issues such as pain,
bladder or bowel leakage, prolapse, diastasis recti etc.

 

So What Should You Do to Work on Your Breathing?

 

Begin during pregnancy! As your baby grows inside of you, the diaphragm’s ability to flatten becomes
more difficult. You will often feel short of breath and resort to breathing any way possible to get that
oxygen in.

Take a few minutes every day and lie flat on your back. Put your hands around your lower abdomen or
ribcage. Think about breathing in slowly and gently into your hands. Watch for any excessive movement
of your chest and shoulders or tightening of your neck. Breathe in and out of your nose or in through
your nose and out through your mouth. Once you feel more comfortable with this start practicing in sitting and standing. Think about your breathing while walking, exercising and driving. Watch that you’re not holding your breath when reaching or lifting for items.

Seek out an assessment from a licensed pelvic health therapist. Because no two people are the same, a
therapist will be able to assess what’s going on in your body and teach you strategies and exercises to
prevent any issues during labour and thereafter. Prevention is always key!
Happy breathing everyone!

Lauren Browne is a registered Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and Certified Strength and
Conditioning Specialist practicing in Victoria British Columbia, Canada. She provides in-home
physiotherapy for women of all ages including pre and post-partum populations. You can learn more
about her at www.laurenbrownephysio.com or check her out on social media @laurenbrownephysio

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.