So you’re four months postpartum and you FINALLY took that Tracy Anderson class you’ve been putting off, and, much to your horror, you discovered you could barely get through the opening sequence without emitting little droplets of pee all over your leggings.
“Moms go through so many changes in their body and lifestyle that we shouldn’t have to pee in our pants when we do things,” says Jamie Jones, a pre and postnatal corrective exercise specialist and certified doula. “This is that thing that all of my friends suffer from and we all joke about it, but it doesn’t have to be the norm. It’s just not fair.”
Jamie is passionate about helping women understand their pelvic floor before and throughout pregnancy, so that they can recognize the muscle in advance and prepare for inevitable muscle weakness. “I always joke that women have no clue what their pelvic floor is until they have a baby and then sneeze, and then it’s ‘Ohhhh, that’s what those muscles are,’” says Jamie. “It doesn’t matter if you had a vaginal birth or a c-section. Those muscles hold it all up.”
“I always joke that women have no clue what their pelvic floor is until they have a baby and then sneeze.”
Jamie says 60 percent of postpartum women either have a super tight pelvic floor following childbirth that’s known as hypertonic (cue painful sex and that feeling of never quite emptying your bladder) while 40 percent have an overly loose pelvic floor known as hypotonic (hello drops of pee everywhere). Fortunately, whether you fall into one group or the other, doing the correct kind of kegel can help with strengthening and recovery.
To do a correct kegel, Jamie leads them through a proper “range of motion” exercise, not the “clench super tight and release” move that women have been taught over the years. “That can overly weaken muscles or put them in a place of spasm,” says Jamie. Instead, she starts by helping clients find their pelvic floor muscles by having them sit straight up on a chair or a yoga block in a nice lifted posture with a relaxed neck and shoulders. She then has them rock side to side to find their sits bones or basically your butt bone, and rock forward to back to acknowledge the space between the pubic and tailbone.
“The full range of motion for a kegel exercise is to think of think of your sits bones as elevator doors. Inhale into the diaphragm as the muscles lengthen and then melt or soften them as you exhale, drawing the sits bones together,” says Jamie. The key is to squeeze the glutes to feel like you’re stopping the flow of urine, but with the pressure of lifting up a blueberry. It’s not a super tight squeeze.”
Jamie finds that most women are doing their kegels too severely, which can cause over weakness. “Lift a blueberry in your vagina and rectum and don’t squeeze, but rather inhale to release the blueberry down and exhale to back up,” she says. “Do it for two minutes. You don’t want to over-kegel.”
Jamie advises to do these modified kegel moves once or twice a day. If you hit three months postpartum and it hasn’t improved, or if you’ve been doing it for three months, Jamie suggests calling in a physical therapist for more prolonged work for an internal assessment.