I've worked with several women recently who told me that their prolapse / leaking symptoms either started or worsened, as a result of going to the gym or going to an exercise class. Some of these women had mild or moderate prolapse symptoms and had been told the class was prolapse friendly. Sadly, they all linked exercising post pregnancy or starting an exercise class to the start of, or worsening of their symptoms.
After pregnancy, it's really important to strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles again properly, or there's the potential that you'll run into problems now, or more typically after the menopause. Lets focus on what we can do to keep ourselves strong and help prevent issues creeping in. But how can you tell whether you're ready to go to a class, without inadvertantly causing yourself problems now or in the future?
I'm going to share a few thing you might want to consider, to help you make that call:
Exercises that engage your abdominal muscles, create an increase in internal pressure. Does this matter? Yes. Because if your core and pelvic floor aren't strong, any weakness can be weakened further or bulge under that pressure increase. For postnatal women, it's typically the pelvic floor and the front of the tummy (the connective tissue at the front of the tummy that gets stretched during pregnancy). And exercises don't have to be super intensive for pressure to increase internally.
If you're leaking or getting heaviness during exercise, your body is telling you to stop. I'm not kidding when I say that there are some classes which actually encourage women to use their free 'products' (incontinence pads) during classes if they are leaking. If you're getting symptoms, they'll get worse if the muscles are being compromised. Please stop and get advise from a women's health physiotherapist.
Your body can take several months or longer to recover from pregnancy, vaginal birth or caesarean birth. Your 6 week GP check doesn't mark a specific point in your recovery. I know that when I went along I thought I'd had the all clear, and I think so many women think the same. You might be fine, but it's worth considering getting your recovery nailed to help you recover fully after each pregnancy.
There are some tell-tale sign to look out for that might indicate your pelvic floor and core need some deep strengthening to help prevent problems developing. If you're getting any low heaviness, in your back or tummy, particularly during your period or at ovulation - this can be a sign that things are just not as well held in place internally, as they used to be. You can also get a similar feeling if you lift children / carseats / use slings. If using tampons is difficult now, or if sex is uncomfortable, these are also signs that things need strengthening.
Pelvic floor exercises have their place, but they are only part of the picture. Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the supportive hammock of muscles under your pelvic organs. If you want to strengthen the deep muscles surrounding your pelvic organs efficiently and your deep core and pelvic floor - Hypopressives are a great way to do this. They get your pelvic floor working with the diaphragm, creating a deep contraction of the pelvic floor and core as you do the Hypopressives breathing. All with your tummy in a state of low pressure - hence Hypopressive. I would highly recommend every woman learns Hypopressives as a skill for life, and a tool to keep their deep core and pelvic floor strong, and protected.
If you've got symptoms there is so much you can do to improve things so you can get active again, and I work with a lot of women who either achieve excellent symptom improvement or get rid of mild symptoms altogether, with Hypopressives. If you've had a baby and want to get ahead, it makes complete sense to work to strengthen your core and pelvic floor before you have symptoms, than to address them after you do.