Resources for Preventing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction After Pregnancy

Childbirth Connection's Pregnancy Topic on Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

We provide in-depth coverage through our Pregnancy Topic to help inform you about preventing pelvic floor dysfunction when giving birth:
  • Preventing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction introduction discusses concerns about effects of various labor and birth interventions on pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Options for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction has subpages that look at the impact of vaginal birth in comparison with cesarean section, as well as the effect of several obstetric interventions: electronic fetal monitoring, epidural analgesia, pushing position and technique, staff pressure on your abdomen, vacuum extraction and forceps, and episiotomy
  • Best Evidence for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction includes a look at preventing pelvic floor dysfunction, including the impact of many maternity practices and effects of kegel exercises and other approaches to prevention and treatment
  • Tips & Tools for Pelvice Floor Dysfunction describes the many actions you can take in pregnancy, when giving birth, and throughout life to prevent or resolve pelvic floor problems.

Other Childbirth Connection Resources to Help You Prevent Pelvic Floor Problems When Giving Birth

  • Cesarean section, an in-depth pregnancy topic that helps you understand all of the trade-offs that are involved in having a cesarean as opposed to a vaginal birth
  • Advice for Women About Avoiding Routine Episiotomy, our advice to women about how to avoid routine episiotomy
  • What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Cesarean Section (free PDF), with summaries on pages 7 and 28 to help you prevent pelvic floor problems
  • Choosing a Caregiver, an in-depth Pregnancy Topic to help with a crucial decision that greatly affects your likelihood of experiencing many maternity interventions, due to the broad range of practice styles among caregivers
  • Choosing a Birth Setting, an in-depth Pregnancy Topic for help with an important decision that goes hand-in-hand with choosing a caregiver (and practice style can also vary greatly from one place of birth to another)
  • Cascade of Intervention, which shows how one intervention often leads to others that are used to monitor, prevent or treat the side effects

Resources for Common Interventions and Pelvic-Floor-Friendly Comfort Measures, Pushing Positions and Other Labor Strategies

The Birth Book, by William Sears and Martha Sears, a pregnancy book
pregnancy book
The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth (1994), by William Sears and Martha Sears. (See chapters 5, 11-12.)

In this helpful resource guide, the Searses cover the gamut of possibilities, and teach readers what they need to know to take control of their own birthings. The Birth Book is divided into three parts: "Preparing for Birth," "Easing Pain in Labor," and "Experiencing Birth." You'll find details about vaginal births; cesareans; VBACs; water births; home births; best birthing positions; drugs; pain; how to design your own birth plan; the humor, chemistry, and sexuality of birth; and pages and pages of birth stories. Chapter 3 is especially relevant to choosing your birth setting.

Learn more about The Birth Book from Amazon

The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth by Penny Simkin, a pregnancy book
pregnancy book
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions (3rd edition, 2008), by Penny Simkin. (See especially chapters 3-4, 6.)

Wise resource to help your spouse/partner, friend or another companion give you the special and powerful gift of continuous support as you give birth. Includes many labor "comfort measures" and strategies for difficult labors that can make all the difference for you.

Learn more about The Birth Partner from Amazon

How to Get Through Childbirth in One Piece! by Elizabeth Bruce, a pregnancy book
pregnancy book
Get Through Childbirth in One Piece! How to Prevent Episiotomies and Tearing (2001), by Elizabeth Bruce.

Using only the latest research, Elizabeth Bruce, MA, CCE, shows you how to take responsibility for your own birth. Helpful subjects include: proven advice for avoiding perineal damage before, during, and after delivery; why a tear is preferable to an episiotomy; optimal positioning for delivery; the benefits of waterbirth, doulas, and midwives; how to choose a good care provider; building your confidence to birth; and inspiring stories from real women who have birthed babies, large and small, with their perineums intact

Learn more about Get Through Childbirth in One Piece! from Amazon

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, a pregnancy book
pregnancy book
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, (1999), by Henci Goer. (See chapters 5, 7-9.)

Learn more about The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth from Amazon

Picture Showing How the Muscles, Bones and Major Openings (Sphincters) are Arranged Within Your Pelvic Floor

The following picture can help you understand why some things can protect and some things can harm your pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor Anatomy
picture of the pelvic floor anatomy
©1981 Sheila Kitzinger and National Childbirth Trust.
Used with permission.

Picture Showing Location of Episiotomy Cuts

The following picture shows where a midline episiotomy cut (the most common type in the U.S. and Canada) and a mediolateral episiotomy cut (the most common type in other parts of the world) are made. Note that the baby's head is "crowning" and ready to be born.

Episiotomy Technique
picture of an episiotomy technique cut with scissors
©1981 Sheila Kitzinger and National Childbirth Trust.

Pictures and Learning More About Assisted Delivery with Vacuum Extraction or Forceps

Vacuum Extraction, with pictures of vacuum extractors and an accompanying article for physicians that includes situations in which vacuum extraction may be helpful, conditions for its use, how to perform the procedure, and potential harms to women and babies

Forceps Delivery, with pictures of forceps procedure and an accompanying article for physicians that includes situations in which forceps may be helpful, conditions for its use, how to perform the procedure, and potential harms to women and babies

Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada: Guidelines for Operative Vaginal Birth (PDF), recently updated professional guidelines for use of vacuum extraction and forceps with close attention to the supporting research

Resources and Advice About Kegels and Other Pelvic Exercises, Prenatal Perineal Massage, and Pushing During Childbirth

Continence Foundation: Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women, detailed instructions for performing kegel exercises

The Female Pelvis, by Blandine Calais-Germain, a pregnancy book
pregnancy book
The Female Pelvis: Anatomy & Exercises (2003), by Blandine Calais-Germain.

The book begins with a description of the functional anatomy of the pelvis, & how it responds to pregnancy & childbirth. This is followed by a series of specific exercises, initially for self-discovery, & then to increase the flexibility, strength, & coordination of the pelvic functions.

Learn more about The Female Pelvis from Amazon

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Exercising Your Pelvic Muscles (PDF), detailed guidance for performing Kegel exercises

University of Michigan: Promoting Effective Recovery from Labor, PERL Project team brings nursing, midwifery, medicine, and bioengineering expertise about childbirth and urinary incontinence, and provides guidelines on perineal massage, pelvic floor exercises  and spontaneous, mother-directed pushing

© 2016 Childbirth Connection. All rights reserved.

Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 9/7/2012