As women, we live in this one body, yet, we still have a difficult time bringing awareness to the pelvic floor muscles and learning how to contract and relax these muscles. This is a topic that surprisingly, not a lot of women are well educated on. I love addressing the pelvic floor muscles, their roles in our health and how they can change with pregnancy and birth.
The pelvic floor muscles offer many functions to our bodies: they are supportive to our organs, they help pump/ circulate fluid in as we breathe in and out, they aide in sexual function, they control opening and closing of our openings and stabilize our SI joint, pelvis, hip joints and lumbosacral joints. The muscles run from the front of the pelvis at the pubic bone, to the sits bones and attach to the SI/ tailbone area. When functioning properly, the pelvic floor muscles should fire prior to movement of lifting children, laundry, jogging, grabbing a glass of water etc. So it is important to continue to focus on your pelvic floor muscles through all phases of life.
Your "core" is made up of your diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominus and your mulitidus muscles in your low back. So, as you can see, doing abdominal exercises for your "6-pack" muscles, will not target the true core.
With life, we generally create habits. Even within our bodies, we tend to do things the same way most of the time. For example, we tend to carry our children or purse on the same side of our body. This can create compensations to certain tissues and joints, especially during pregnancy and postpartum. For instance, during pregnancy we may stand with our bum tucked under, our abdominals stretched and tightness in our backs to hold us up with our growing belly/ uterus. After birth, our bodies stay in a similar posture, with weakened tissue and we start moving throughout the day making new compensations with carrying an infant or a toddler. Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you fire and re-train your core the proper way to improve your core support during pregnancy and postpartum.
One day, I hope it becomes a natural thing for a women to be seen at least once during her pregnancy and then get an automatic referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist postpartum to check on how the pelvic floor is functioning prior to beginning an exercise routine. I believe many women would benefit on a prenatal visit with a pelvic floor physical therapist, to figure out how to make their pelvic floor muscles function properly and then what posture and body mechanics would be beneficial to avoid to promote a healthy pelvic floor. Then postpartum, addressing women's pelvic floor strength, endurance, coordination and any areas related to pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti or scarring from cesarean birth or perineal tearing. I think so many women are doing too much too soon instead of giving their bodies enough time to heal postpartum prior to jumping back on the exercise train. Remember, it took your body 9 months to grow that baby (ies), so give it grace with healing. You will be glad your took your time and were smart with your healing and exercise, instead of rushing back into things.