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Prenatal Fitness and the Pelvic Floor - How Does it Effect Labour and Delivery?

Emilie Haynes, MPT works with a patient
Emilie Haynes, MPT, Owner of Full Moon Physio

Myth: You shouldn’t exercise too much during pregnancy or your pelvic floor will become too tight to give birth. Truth: While athletes (and other very fit people) do tend to hold more tension in their pelvic floor muscles, there is NO evidence to show that this will stop them from having a healthy birth. So what do we know? Well first of all exercise is just about the best thing you can do for you and your baby during pregnancy so don’t stop that because of pelvic floor concerns! Pelvic floor muscles that are overly tight can increase the length of your labour - specifically they may increase the length of your pushing phase. They have not, however, been shown to increase your risk of tearing, episiotomy, vacuum/forceps or c-section. In fact, having a strong pelvic floor decreases these risks.

A model of the female pelvic floor
The Pelvic Floor Muscles

Many who look at those research conclusions would say that having a tight pelvic floor would be an overall good thing. The problem here is that when it comes to muscles, tight does not equal strong. And when it comes to giving birth, being able to release and soften your pelvic floor muscles is more important than being able to squeeze them. In my perfect world, every child-bearing human would have access to a pelvic floor physiotherapy assessment during their pregnancy. Every body is different so in a prenatal assessment, clients learn about what is happening in their individual pelvic floor muscles and work on exercises to find the right balance of strength and tension for them. Most importantly, they learn the techniques to consciously release and soften the pelvic floor that can be so helpful during labour and delivery. If you are feeling intimidated by the internal part of a pelvic floor assessment don’t worry - it’s always optional. An internal vaginal assessment is the most accurate way to check the tension in your muscles but if it isn’t for you there is still lots we can work on from the outside and any release techniques you need to know can be taught this way as well.

Emilie Haynes, MPT

Registered Physiotherapist, Owner



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