This week on The Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast I am joined by friend Nikki over at the BelleMethod and we’re talking all about pelvic floor health!
Nikki is a women’s fitness expert, Master Pilates Trainer, and passionate pelvic health advocate. She even created her own evidence-based fitness program for pregnant and postpartum women called The Belle Method.
If you’ve been a long-time listener of the podcast, you know I’ve done previous episodes on pelvic floor health. This is SUCH an important topic to discuss – which is why I invited Nikki to come on and have this convo with me today!
We talked about pelvic floor strength after birth, diastasis recti, signs that you may have pelvic floor weaknesses (or tension), getting back into fitness post-birth, and more!
Guys, birth is hard on your body – it really is! And it’s completely understandable that pelvic floor issues post-birth are common – but that doesn’t mean they have to be normal! This week Nikki and I are discussing just that – so let’s dive right in!
Meet Nikki and learn about her platform
Nikki is a pilates instructor, IVF mama of two, and at the time of recording, she has a three-and-a-half-year-old and a 17-month-old. She’s from Toronto, Canada and really she is most passionate about educating mamas about the pelvic floor!
She wants mamas during pregnancy and postpartum period to feel empowered to feel confident to really prepare their bodies and be proactive whenever possible.
More specifically she likes to help mamas recover from things like prolapse, incontinence, diastasis recti and postpartum
What is your pelvic floor? How does it relate to fitness?
Next, to help set the stage for our conversation I ask Nikki to talk about the pelvic floor generally and how it relates to fitness. She dives into this answer by talking into the general anatomy of the pelvic floor.
Here’s how she explained it:
“Basically, your pelvic floor is all the muscles in the bottom of your torso. So, some people call it like a hammock, or a basket connecting your pubic bone, your tailbone, and your two sitz bones…[The pelvic floor provides] support and stability, sphincteric function, sexual function, and it has a sump pump function.
So, your floor, as you can tell now, has a lot of functions. And it’s important that we know sort of how to support the pelvic floor [especially] as your pelvic floor, has a lot of strain, like when you’re pregnant. Think of like a bowling ball on a trampoline. That’s essentially the visual I like to paint for women. By the time you’re in your third trimester, that’s kind of what’s going on.
So, we really want to do our best to stay connected to the pelvic floor during pregnancy. And Newsflash, that doesn’t necessarily mean mindlessly doing Kegels.”
When you tune in you’ll hear Nikki elaborate even more on the pelvic floor, how we tend to hold tensions down there, and even a bit of debunking some of the common thoughts surround Kegels!
What are some signs that you need to strengthen your pelvic floor after birth?
When I ask Nikki this question she explains that there is a continuum of symptoms surrounding the pelvic floor based on whether it is too tense of too loose/lax.
She also says that you can have a mixture of both! Kind of like how you have a knot on one of your shoulders and not on the other.
During the episode, she gives a lot of information on both of these scenarios (and how they can co-exist!), but here I’ll break down some of the key signs for you!
Tight Pelvic Floor: Hypertonic
- Pain with sex
- Chronic constipation
- Urinary hesitancy
- Low back pain
- Unexplained pelvic pain/achiness
Lax Pelvic Floor: Hypotonic
Can you talk about some common myths you hear about postpartum women’s bodies?
As we continue our conversation, I ask Nikki to talk about common myths surrounding postpartum women’s bodies specifically when it comes to pelvic floor health.
Immediately she starts discussing incontinence/bladder leakage, and the myth that this is just normal and something we need to deal with! She is passionate about helping women realize it doesn’t have to be like that you CAN heal from leakage.
On a more serious note, she discusses how light leakage and incontinence now is associated with more serious incontinence as you get into you r 60s, 70s, and 80s. If you heal it now, your outlook will be so much better!
Then she dives into the topic of diastasis recti. You’ll hear Nikki talk about how our abdominal muscles are meant to stretch and expand during pregnancy to make space for human life. Yup! Diastasis (to some degree) has to happen!
But there are a lot of things you can learn and do proactively throughout your pregnancy to prevent permanent damage and help them move back into place.
What’s the best way to get back into a fitness routine after birth?
Nikki’s biggest piece of advice is that you need to go slow, but you need to start sooner than you think! She discusses her frustrations with the postpartum care in the US and Canada, particularly in relation to simply “clearing” people for fitness with no other support.
Nikki goes on to talk about how that creates a fear of movement entirely because they don’t know where to even start. She says you want to find your “goldilocks zone” where everything is just right.
She recommends starting with breathing even a few days after birth to reconnect with your pelvic floor, because right away you need to be physical (picking up baby, car seats, etc.). She also talks about stretching, alignment, and some glute activation in those first few weeks before your 6 week “clear”.
Tune in to hear Nikki talk more specifically about the research surrounding postpartum fitness, running, and so much more great advice!
Wrapping up the episode
At the end of the episode, I ask Nikki to talk about where to find a qualified PT who specializes in women’s health. And I ask her to share her best advice for mamas that are currently pregnant.
Here’s a snippet of that,
“Learn about your body, learn about the state of your pelvic floor, learn about how to connect to it. And don’t be afraid of movement.”
We talk a bit about what exercises are good and bad postpartum (spoiler alert – she says none are bad, it’s just all about how you do them!).
About Nikki Bergen and where to find her
Nikki Bergen is one of North America’s most sought-after women’s fitness experts. She has dedicated her life to creating programs that create choreography from science, each one designed to enable women to ditch the guilt, heal diastasis recti, improve prolapse and stop leaking.
Nikki’s passion for helping women has driven her to become a Master Pilates Trainer, a renowned expert in Pre and Post Natal Fitness, and a passionate Pelvic Health Advocate.
An evidence-based approach to movement led Nikki to create The Belle Method: a ground-breaking exercise program designed to support women from pregnancy and birth prep to postpartum rehab & beyond. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young children.
Connect with her: