Pelvic Floor Exercises Guest blog by Midwife, Lesley Gilchrist of My Expert Midwife
Why do I Need to do Pelvic Floor Exercises?
Your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles in your pelvis which keeps your bladder, bowel and uterus in the correct place. Like any muscle, if it is not strong enough it won’t work as effectively and for some women this causes a loss of urine, known as stress incontinence during exercise, sneezing or coughing especially if you have had heavier babies and more than three. Having a caesarean section doesn’t necessarily protect your pelvic floor from the stresses of childbirth and some research has shown the same level of stress incontinence can be seen in women who have had 3 or more caesarean sections. It is thought now that the pressure of your baby, growing uterus, fluid around your baby and the placenta on your pelvic floor throughout pregnancy also causes weakness to it.
When to do Pelvic Floor Exercises? – During Pregnancy & Postnatally
In order to reduce your risks of pelvic floor weakness it is extremely important to do regular pelvic floor exercises. You may wonder how soon after your baby’s birth you can begin them and provided you do not have a catheter sited the answer is ‘immediately’. However, you don’t need to wait until after your baby is born, in fact if the pregnancy itself can cause weakness and damage to the pelvic floor then during pregnancy and the earlier the better is the best time to start. The problem with them is that most women simply forget to do them but they are extremely important. During pregnancy you can attend exercise classes and pilates is an excellent form of exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor along with all the other muscles that become stressed in pregnancy such as your back, legs and pelvis.
How do I do Pelvic Floor Exercises? – Pilates Classes & At Home
Even if you can’t get to a regular pilates in pregnancy class you can strengthen it by performing simple exercise as you would with any muscle that needed strengthened. First of all you need to decide on a trigger for doing them, something that will remind you to do them such as every time you wash the dishes or eating meals. Ideally they should be done three times per day but you may need to work up to this. At first you may feel that you have little tone in these muscles and can barely do them but persist, it will be worth it.
You need to sit comfortably and without clenching your buttocks or stomach muscles try to clench the muscle around your urethra, the tube you pass urine from. Some women find it easier to imagine that they are trying to prevent themselves from passing urine. Next, squeeze your vagina and then the muscles around your back passage as if preventing wind from escaping but remember not to clench your buttocks. Once you have the muscles tightened around them lift them upwards as you tighten. Hold this for up to ten seconds if you can then relax and repeat up to ten times. As your pelvic floor strengthens you will be able to hold the squeeze for longer and do them more frequently. After a few months you will start to notice the results including a greater sensitivity during intercourse. You should continue with these exercises even when you feel that they have worked as they need exercise to remain strong.
Following the birth of your baby, when you do pass urine or open your bowels it is important that you do not strain. When you open your bowels place a wad of toilet paper in front of your back passage and press firmly, this should make it more comfortable. It will also help if you drink one to three litres of fluid a day however if you are breastfeeding you may need more and you should drink to thirst.