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Pelvic Floor Considerations for the Female Athlete

Here at Core, we are huge proponents of strength training all of the time. But during the postpartum period, it becomes especially important. 


During pregnancy, the body is in a constant state of physical and physiological evolution. During delivery, regardless of whether vaginal delivery or C-section delivery, the body undergoes significant and rapid changes to the abdominal wall, pelvic floor, and pelvis. During the postpartum period, the body must again adapt, while also trying to recover and care for a baby. 


These physical, hormonal, and physiological changes, plus the new demands of caring for a child, place a lot of strain on different structures in the body. Think bladder, pelvis, low back, upper back, wrists, and even the brain. But that strain, and the symptoms that often come with it - like pain, incontinence, low energy levels, etc. - can be combated through strength training. 


Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of strength training during the postpartum period: 


1. You’ll improve your abdominal muscle and connective tissue tension, coordination, and strength 


2. You’ll improve your pelvic stability, which in turn can improve or prevent pain around the pelvis. In fact, you can improve the stability around all of your joints, which is so important when ongoing hormonal changes mean more laxity in your ligaments 


3. You’ll improve your pelvic floor muscle function and strength - yes, even without doing a single kegel - resulting in subsequent improvements in incontinence, pelvic pain, prolapse symptoms, sexual function, etc 


4. You’ll decrease your risk of injury 


5. You’ll gain trunk and upper body strength to help cope with the demands of caring for a newborn including breastfeeding - if applicable - and holding and lifting them, especially as they get heavier 


6. You’ll improve your bone density. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period mean decreased bone density, meaning increased risk of stress fractures. Strength training is the best way to combat this 


7. You may notice improvements in postpartum anxiety and depression. Exercise has been shown time and time again to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, including in postpartum populations. (Caveat: Exercise should never be the only intervention for mental health concerns. Definitely make sure you talk to your doctor and get a therapist, too!) 


8. You’ll feel empowered! When you become a mom, suddenly life may feel less about you. And that can be a beautiful thing! Humans are meant to be social, caring creatures. But many new moms find it hard to make time for themselves, or even feel guilty when they do. But as they say, you can’t pour into someone else’s cup if your cup is empty. Taking time for exercise allows you to fill up your own cup, so that you can show up for others and have more to give. Plus, you’ll feel like a strong, badass, super-mama.


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