Updated: Sep 8, 2020
One of the first things I tried to work on postpartum was voluntarily contracting my transverse abdominal muscles. This was a piece of cake for me Pre-baby. As a PT, it’s something I feel like was hammered in to me since grad school-anyone with low back pain gets TA work! That’s not how I treat anymore, however the importance of the TA postpartum is huge. If we can’t contract our abdominal muscles, we are missing 1/4 of our core. When we think of the “core”, people tend to only think of six pack washboard abs. However, the core is a three dimensional cylinder-it’s made up of the pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, diaphragm, and low back muscles. Ideally, we want these components to work together to optimize pressure in the system-think of it like a piston. As you inhale, your diaphragm contracts or pulls down, your belly expands as your abdominal muscles relax to fill your lungs, and your pelvic floor relaxes. On the flip side, when you exhale, your diaphragm shortens again, moving up, your abdominal muscles draw in as they help to push the air up and out, and your pelvic floor contracts and moves up. I’ll be honest, this sounds easier than it is. I have a hard time feeling any sort of pelvic floor contraction right now. It’s easy to compensate with your rectus abdominal muscles and “suck in” during the exhale rather than engaging your TA muscles. I think it’s helpful to have one hand on your belly as you inhale so you feel the expansion, and the other hand right along the inside of your pelvic bone feeling for a firming up under your fingers as you exhale (rather than sucking in and your muscles moving away from your fingers). When you exhale, think about your pelvic floor as an elevator, slowly rising up floor to floor, rather than like a rocket ship quickly going from relaxed to fully contracted.