5 Common Myths About Birth & Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
5 Common Myths About Birth & Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
December 6, 2022

5 Common Myths About Birth & Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

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5 Common Myths About Birth & Your Pelvic Floor Muscles.
5 Common Myths About Birth & Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

Most women or birthing people have a few misconceptions about their pelvic floor muscles and the role they play in birth. In order to really understand what the pelvic floor is tasked with during birth, it’s helpful to understand its shape, function and make-up.

What are pelvic muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles are a basket of skeletal muscles that sit at the bottom of the pelvic bowl, and they are responsible for keeping us continent and supporting our pelvic organs (bladder, uterus/cervix and rectum), as well as a sexual function. They contract and relax just like any muscle in our body, and when they contract, they move in toward the vagina and up toward our heads. You’ve probably heard of a “kegel”—this is an upward contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, and it often is taught as “squeeze your vaginal muscles like you are trying to stop urine or hold in gas.”

During pregnancy, these muscles have to work overtime, because now they have a growing baby and uterus, a whole new organ (the placenta), an increase in blood and fluid volume, and shifting in the pelvic bones to contend with. While it is very common for birthing persons to experience pain, urine leakage and vaginal heaviness, it is not normal.

Here are give popular myths about birth and pelvic floor muscles:

1. Kegels help make vaginal births easier and help push a baby out.

Nope! Kegels are actually the opposite of what the pelvic floor muscles need to be doing for a vaginal birth. The pelvic floor muscles have to be able to lengthen and release, not contract, when the baby is making their way down the birth canal. The muscles have to “get out of the way,” so to speak. A Kegel, or a contraction, tightens the muscle and doesn’t allow it to soften and lengthen. Birthing people actually need to train for birth by learning how to push effectively, lengthen their pelvic floor and bear down, not contract.

2. Tight pelvic floor muscles affect cervical dilation.

The pelvic floor muscles have nothing to do with the rate and the amount your cervix dilates. But, if the pelvic floor muscles are tight and have a hard time relaxing, it can make cervical checks, vaginal exams and ultrasounds painful and uncomfortable.

3. Everyone innately knows how to “push.”

I would disagree. Most people can bear down and lengthen their pelvic floor muscles without instruction and training, but there are lots of new parents who don’t know how. This is not a movement that is innately known, and there are many outside factors (like scar tissue, constipation, trauma, past injury, activity level) that can make this movement challenging or difficult. We need to train for birth like we train for any physical activity or sport, with movement-specific techniques.

4. How you breathe during birth doesn’t affect your pelvic floor muscles.

Actually, did you know that the pelvic floor and the diaphragm (the muscle that helps with breathing) work together? Yup! Breathing is coordinated with pelvic floor movement. I like to teach “open mouth breathing” during pushing, versus holding your breath, chin to chest, pushing. We see less pelvic floor trauma with this technique, as it allows for a better exchange of pressure and force.

5. It’s normal to leak pee, experience pain during sex and pelvic organ prolapse after having a baby. It’s just “part of having a baby.”

One million percent false. There is no way that this is correct and it is not proper medical treatment or advice for people seeking help with those issues. Common isn’t the same as normal, and being told to wear a pad, drink wine with sex to make it less painful or ignore the symptoms is NOT good care. Pelvic floor physical therapy, or going through online programs like what I have created, can help give you easy solutions to these very real, life-altering problems that are often times dismissed as “normal,” when in fact they are anything but.

The pelvic floor muscles are an amazing group of muscles that do a lot for us and our changing bodies during pregnancy and after birth. We should be thinking about recovering fully after delivery, and not sweeping these concerns under the rug. The alternative to dismissal is action and advocacy. Ask your providers for recommendations for pelvic floor physical therapy, or visit us at marcycrouch.com for more information about our online programs, and get the support and answers you need. #novaginaleftbehind


Marcy L. Crouch, PT, DPT, CLT, WCS received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, completed a Women’s Health Residency program in Dallas, where she focused on all aspects of pelvic floor dysfunction, pregnancy and postpartum musculoskeletal issues, and breast cancer rehabilitation, and obtained her WCS, which identifies her as Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health Physical Therapy. You can take one of her classes as thedowntheredoc.com or follow her @thedowntheredoc

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