16 Aug Sex & your pelvic floor after childbirth
Congratulations, on your new baby! Congratulations on the sleep deprivation, the feeding, the nappy changes and your attempts at maintaining a respectable level of presentation. No wonder you’ve had zero time for you, your significant other or your pelvic floor!
Google “how long after giving birth can I have sex?” or “when can I exercise postpartum?” and enjoy the blackhole of questionably accurate recommendations. You’ll find articles like How to hold your wee and Kegels to tighten your pelvic floor, which if done incorrectly may make matters worse. So, how can you optimise your pelvic floor function so you’re ready to re-create that magical night that put you in this situation in the first place? Let’s explore!
What is the Pelvic Floor and is it functioning well?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the base of the pelvis which are responsible for maintaining continence, and are right in the thick of the action during sex. Throughout pregnancy, these muscles can be placed under additional pressure as your posture changes to accommodate your growing baby. If not addressed correctly, this posture can continue postpartum and cause pelvic floor health issues such as incontinence or difficulty enjoying intimacy.
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is one of those issues which can arise during pregnancy and postpartum. It can result from a variety of factors including weakness or tightness of the pelvic floor or sensitivity of the muscles around the bladder. This can be improved with specific exercises which target trunk and core control. Unfortunately, doing your Kegels incorrectly can cause hypertonicity and exacerbate the condition, so it’s always best to consult an expert. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be able to assess the quality of your movement and prescribe an exercise plan specifically for your needs.
So, when is it safe to have sex?
Everyone is different and it’s important to listen to your body. If you are experiencing SUI, pain with urination/sex or any other discomfort in the pelvic region, consult your obstetrician immediately. Many women use their 4-6 week postpartum appointment to discuss any issues and talk about sex after childbirth. If you’re pain free, you may be good to go!
You should remember that sex is a full body activity and does not use your pelvic floor in isolation! You will need to improve your pelvic floor health as well slowly increase your fitness and overall strength. If you’re looking to start exercising post-childbirth, chat to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. They will be able to assess your postural changes and then prescribe the exercise that is most suited to you, your body and your new role as a mum.
Finding an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) to work with is kind of like finding your sexual partner, it’s important to find the one that you feel comfortable with! To find an AEP near you, click here.