A successful pregnancy and healthy postpartum recovery involves many supportive pillars, one of those being a good connection to your pelvic core and the awareness of how this physical space feels within your own body.
Connecting to the pelvic floor throughout your pregnancy is important, however connecting does not mean just strengthening the pelvic floor muscles but also being able to both contract and relax them with ease. The tightness of our pelvic floor can limit the progression of labor (since the lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles is what is needed for a vaginal birth) so it is important to learn to how we can relax and 'let go' of our pelvic floor muscles and get used to doing so, especially towards the end of pregnancy.
Around weeks 32-34 of pregnancy, begin doing gentle movements and stretches to promote your pelvic floor lengthening and to familiarise with the sensations within this space.
Keep in mind that none of these should cause pain or discomfort and if you are experiencing any type dysfunction, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist who will be able to help you to modify your movements and stretches as needed. If you are symptom free, then you can do the following every day leading up to your delivery.
5 PELVIC FLOOR LENGTHENING EXERCISES:
Pelvic Floor Lengthening on Knees: Kneeling upright on a comfortable surface with a straight back, stack your ribcage over your spine and ensure your bum is 'tucked in'. - Inhale through your nose allowing and feeling the pelvic floor muscles to descend downward through your upper thighs and towards the floor beneath you. - Exhale out the mouth (relaxed jaw) keeping the pelvic floor muscles lengthened and open. - Be sure to keep your hips and abdomen relaxed the entire time. - Do this for 5 minutes embodying deep cycles of inhaling and exhaling, trying to relax deeper with every exhale
Large Exercise Ball Hip Circles: Sitting on top of a large exercise ball. Spread your butt cheeks so that your pelvic floor is connected to the ball. - Keep your feet planted and circle your hips at your own pace, 10-15 times in each direction while inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth (jaw relaxed). - Use your breath to help keep your hips and pelvis relaxed.
Hands/Knees Hip Circles: On your hands and knees, allow your belly to relax (which will naturally create a small arch to occur in your low back). - Circle your hips back (towards your feet) and around 10 times in one direction and then switch. - As you circle towards your feet, try not to round your back, but rather keep your tailbone reaching long (towards your toes) to open up your pelvic floor. - Remember to inhale and exhale deeply as you physically 'soften' to let go of your hips and pelvis.
Single Leg Lunge: On a soft, supportive surface, directly come down on to one knee and put the other foot in front of you with your knee bent. Both knees should be turned out slightly and you can use a wall or stable piece of furniture for balance. - Gently lunge forward and backward 10-15 times - As you move into the lunge breath in deeply through the nose - As you move out of the lunge(jaw relaxed) and letting go the entire time. Repeat on the other side.
Supported Deep Squat (on meditation pillow or bolster): Start with your feet wide and turned out. - Lower yourself down onto a pillow/bolster/seat (as low as you can comfortably go) while still keeping a slight arch in your lower back. - Once here, hinge your upper torso forward slightly to whatever is comfortable. (You should feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs). - Breathe in through your nose allowing the pelvic floor to lengthen, exhale through your mouth (jaw relaxed) as you keep the pelvic floor relaxed and lengthened. - Continue in this position for 3-5 minutes embodying deep breaths.