Childbirth Prep: A Pelvic Floor Perspective
What's the big hype about pelvic floor prep classes for childbirth?
We train our muscles and body for marathons, sports, and athletic competitions--So why not train our body for something as important as childbirth? Learning about your pelvic floor, how to coordinate your breathing, and understanding how your hormones interact during labor is as important as warming up before the super bowl!
Ladies, childbirth is the same. We are like athletes getting ready for the big game and when we are ready, we can peform to the best of our potential.
I would not necessarily consider myself an athlete, but I did play soccer back in the day and I can remember the routines. We practiced a few hours a day to get ready for games and we worked our butts off. Childbirth is no joke--I definitly felt like a sweaty soccer player during the second half of the world cup while giving birth.
Listen, I took a few birth prep classes and they were amazing! I learned all about the stages of labor, creating a birth plan, breathing, positions of comfort and some other important stuff. I felt ready for the whole childbirth thing.
BUT, we don't know what we don't know until we know it.
I guess you can say I was lucky. I had a relatively quick labor and delivery. I stayed home for most of my laboring as I was more fearful of being sent home from the hospital for false labor. I had done a lot of yoga and I think that was helpful when it came time to "push" and breath! And man did I push! I pushed even when there weren't contractions. I was ready to get this baby out!! It took about 20 minutes of active pushing, a little episiotomy (a little more tearing) and my baby girl entered the world with a healthy cry.
I hurt down below for about 5 months after my first childbirth. I sat on an ice pack for at least a month! Walking was painful, getting up from sitting hurt and I wasn't prepared for that. I also wasn't prepared to be pregnant again 7 months after she was born.
Needless to say the second pregnancy was a challenge. I felt like my baby was going to come sliding out after only 5 months! I knew I was going to have her early because I had no strength to keep her inside. Thankfully, I was wrong. She was born at full term and I had an easier second delivery. I had no tearing, no episiotomy and I could actually roll over in bed comfortably AND chase my toddler around without pain!
After having children, my perspective changed. I started to inquire about the pelvic floor and began my journey of pelvic health education. The light bulb went on and I realized there was so much missing from my prenatal prep class. I probably could have had an even easier first childbirth if only someone taught it to me prior to childbirth. And now I am on a mission to share with the world what I wish I knew my first go around!
Going into childbirth naively may be blissful for some. But for me, I wanted to know it all. I wanted to be ready and feel like I was in control of my body (as much as I could be, let's face it, things happen and may not go as "planned" and I was mostly ok with that). Part of my plan was, be flexible and adapt along the way. Most importantly, know that you are not a failure if you take a different path...you completed the journey and did what you could to get there safely.
The thing is, there was NO PELVIC FLOOR CHILDBIRTH prep class being offered. No one told me that where the baby travels through can be prepped for childbirth. It is not just that--it is psycological too. The connection between your mind and the pelvic floor can either slow or speed up the progression of labor.
I believe that part of why my labor actually progressed quickly (now that I know what I know), was that I had a history of horribly painful menstrual cramps. That sensation of contractions was not new to me and my brain. Therefore, I accepted the pains without fear.
If you are anything like me and want to know all you can, then do yourself a favor the first time (or if its your second, the second time) and add to your list of classes a specific pelvic floor birth prep class.
In a prenatal pelvic floor birth class (well, at least in the one I teach), you will learn about the anatomy of your pelvis (muscles, bones, etc), you will understand the concept of what happens during childbirth (from a neuromuscular perspective..this means what the muscles do to allow the baby to come out and how the nervous system affects the muscles during this time). I teach some lovely exercises to get your hips and pelvis moving easier, strategies to get your mind, pelvic floor and vagina ready for the sensation of stretch and techniques to ease your fears for an easier childbirth.
I remember when I was pregnant, every woman shared their birth stories with me (whether they were good or bad). Most of these stories were not helpful for my journey through labor and delivery, but one piece of advise stuck with me. I was told, "the pain I was going to feel is a good pain. It is the sensation of the baby coming down the canal into the world." I changed my belief on pain. Ingrained in my brain was the concept that pain can be safe and does not always mean warning, danger ahead. Yes, pain is there to protect us, but during childbirth, it is inevitable and I learned to accept it. It helped me on a mental, physical and hormonal level more than I understood at the time.
Many women that come to my prenatal prep class are second time moms. They had a not so glamourous first childbirth and are seeking an easier experience the second time around. They wonder why they didn't learn this stuff before. But like I said, we don't know what we don't know until we know it!
P.S. If you skipped down here to bottom because you like to read the ending first, you missed a little inside story about me and how I came to teaching my pelvic health prenatal class.
P.P.S. If you are a local mama to be, you may click here to sign up for my Prenatal Pelvic Prep Class. Its called Below the Bump and the next one is Saturday, Jan 26, 2019 from 12:30-2:30pm. This class is offered quarterly! Love to see you there :)