Maternity Physio and Pelvic Health

Mums who run- how to make it leak-free

dark blue woman runningGoing for a run is a quick and convenient way to grab some fresh air and head space. But going for a run after having a baby might not be as straightforward as it was before you became pregnant. Why?

Well, growing a baby inside of you stretches the muscles and soft tissue that hold your pelvic organs up and inside your pelvis. Then throw in the usual stretchy hormones associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding into that mix and you`re getting less stability and more stretchiness. So the impact of running is going to put a demand these  structures and put your pelvic organs at risk of falling down with gravity and impact. This is called pelvic organ prolapse and affects a staggering 50% of women after childbirth. You can read more about postnatal pelvic organ prolapse (POP) here.

Most of us will have taken a break from running towards the end of pregnancy, so you are kind of starting from scratch with some sleep deprivation thrown in for good measure. So my main message here (which you may have figured out by now) is to take it easy, build up gradually and watch out for signs that you`re pushing it too soon. Like:

  • Pain (anywhere)
  • Heaviness (in your undercarriage)
  • Leaking (having to wear a pad to run perhaps)
If you ignore these signs, you are putting yourself at risk of a prolapse (pelvic organs dropping into and maybe out of your vagina!). So don’t push it ladies, its just not worth it. Try the top tips below first or get a referral to a Pelvic floor Physiotherapist who can assess what is going on down there.

Top Tips to make your transition from bump to run go smoothly

1. Align yourself

Look at yourself sideways in the mirror. Are you straight? Are you leaning back? Are you sticking your hips out in front? Do you stick your ribs out? The way you stand is the way you run- so get it right in standing and it should become second nature and carry over into your running style. Good alignment will also ensure you are breathing efficiently and that your pelvic floor is firing to keep you dry. So it really is key.

2. Breathe

When you have your alignment correct, don’t forget to breath. Its amazing how many times I catch myself holding my breath, its a habit and this can happen whilst you are putting in the effort on your run. Did you know your pelvic floor fires as you exhale? It works in team with your diaphragm so if you`re not breathing properly you cant rely on your pelvic floor to keep you dry. Breath fully and deeply into your diaphragm. As you run your lower ribs should be moving , not just your upper chest.

3. Don’t swish your ponytail (if you got one)

Run like you are leaning into a strong wind (hence the ponytail not swishing) because its leaning against your neck). A bit like you are looking for ten pound notes, that may have been dropped. This will decrease some of the drag on pelvic floor by you landing heavy on your heels. It will also align you nicely so the diapraghm and pelvic floor are working as a team. Thus keeping avoiding pesky leaks.

4. Relax your abs

A lot us are sucking in our gut the whole time without even realising it. The problem with doing this during the day or on a run is that it causes a pressure to build inside our abdomen. That pressure is going to take the path of least resistance, so if our pelvic floor is weak it will push down on that- hence a leak. So let that tummy go peeps.

5. Condition your body

You can`t go from straight from the delivery room to the thread mill. There has to be a process in between to condition and strengthen the muscles like the lower legs, glutes and pelvic floor. Get strong to run, these are stepping stones you owe your body to take, the reward is not wetting your pants, yay!

If this doesn’t work, then an MOT is a good idea, to see what is going on with your pelvic floor, alignment breathing etc. There are also lots of internal and external supports out there which can keep you dry and comfortable on a run, If you like to run, then good but don’t put up with having to wear an incontinence pad to do it. Its not good for your body (as the leaking is trying to tell you something is not right) or your self esteem. You truly, truly deserve better than that.

If you would like more info on tips discussed check out The excellent Julie Wiebe on you Tube