When it isn’t about your Pelvic Floor

I am invested in educating women about how their bodies work, especially during the times of great change such as pregnancy, postpartum, menopause and beyond.I came into this work due to the frustration I had with finding information when I was first pregnant in 1987. My journey has taken me into the world of traditional midwives, scientists, physiotherapists, energy healers and more. I have been incredibly lucky in my choice of teachers. They stand among the best in the world.

But at the end of the day, the journey to the truth is very much a personal one. It entails a faith and trust in the ability of the human body to create, cure and balance itself. It requires of us the ability to listen, deeply and without restrictions, what our body is telling us. It requires both art and science to determine what is best FOR US and not the general population.

As movement educators, our teaching should be guided by the energy of the body in front of us and not necessarily by the standard guidelines in  your book. They are just that- guidelines. We all have to start somewhere but we are not expected to stay.

We must respect the human body’s capabilities and look at it from a standpoint of what is it is doing right rather than imply a problem. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the birthing of a child. So often, women are blamed for the difficulties they have in giving birth. Their bodies are somehow inefficient, their pelvis’ too narrow, their baby too big. It is the environment in which they give birth that probably has more of an impact on the outcome of the birth than the condition of the woman’s body. After all, women have been doing this for years. It is in our biology, our memories, our very DNA.

When it comes to childbirth, I am hearing so much more often now that women are blaming tight, or hypertonic pelvic floors as the cause of their birthing problems. Sometimes this may be the case but most times, it is not.

While everyone is pointing the finger at the hormone relaxin and being afraid of the laxity and instability it causes, lets take a look at what the female body (wonderful as it is) is really doing.

The hormone relaxin combines with an increase of estrogen and progesterone to create what I prefer to call suppleness in the pregnant body. This suppleness, which is strength plus flexibility, allows the pregnant body to adapt to the rapid changes that are taking place, physically, in the woman’s body. Rather than creating an instability, this suppleness is creating strength. So working hard to maintain  stability by creating muscular strength is contradictory to what the pregnant body is trying to achieve. The pregnant body’s suppleness allows for joints to shift in order to better hold the body together. The suppleness allows for falls that don’t injure, muscles that allow for the opening of the body, and fascia that stretches without losing it’s tensegrity.  In the Pilates world, the general consensus is to try and maintain a neutral spine and “correct” alignment with the thought that this will help eliminate the common ailments such as  back ache, leg pain and pubic symphasis derangement. However, this compound the issues instead. If the body is left alone, most problems will be lessened.

Building strength in the pelvic floor (and abdominals) in time for the birth is also a contradiction in terms of the physiology of the pregnant body and there are many prenatal exercise programs that promote this. But if you really understand the changes that are taking place physiologically during pregnancy, you will also understand that regardless of how much you exercise to maintain that core, your hormones are working even harder to maintain an environment of suppleness and relaxation, whether you like it or not!

So when I hear the stories of a difficult birth and  the blame is put on a tight or hypertonic pelvic floor, I beg to differ. Nature has made it so we can give birth under any circumstance, BUT nature did not intend for us to be controlled while doing it.

Most problems may arise due to positions during birth- lying down is not recommended, it prevents the sacrum from nutating or lifting to open the pelvis. Rocking and circular movements, which are essential in getting the baby through the birth canal are also restricted when the mother is strapped to the bed.

Most women, if not all women, are equipped to give birth naturally. Yes there are circumstances where an emergency C section is required but usually not because the mother has over exercised.

In a number of instances, the baby can become stuck almost at the end of its journey through the birth canal. This may not be due to that hypertonic pelvic floor, nor even a narrowness of the woman’s pelvis, but the position of the pelvis at that moment in time. I have been to births where all that was needed was an asymmetrical shift in the pelvis and the baby just shot out!

So what does this all mean to us as movement educators? I say, allow Mother Nature the freedom to do what is necessary. We don’t need to be strengthening or releasing the pelvic floor, or strengthening the abdominals, or lifting weights so we can carry our babies. What we can do as teachers, is make sure each client has an awareness and understanding of their own body and not our opinion of it.Offer the correct information so the client can make an informed choice regarding her workout and birth. As teachers we merely guide, we do not dictate.

Each of us needs to be LISTENING to our bodies and taking our cues from it. That’s how we come into the truth. Our own truth. Everything else is pure conjecture.

And when we find others who have also come to that same point of truth, we know we have accessed information that is available to all and none of it is exclusively ours. You can’t copyright universal truth.

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