If you haven’t heard of or considered your pelvic floor muscles before you fell pregnant then that is very common. However now that you are pregnant (congratulations) it is really a perfect time to tell you why this group of muscles is so very important and why it is just so beneficial to exercise them.
Your body is amazing, and pregnancy is a time when you will certainly become aware of this. During pregnancy, your body will change quickly and dramatically. These physical changes that occur (largely due to hormones) as well as postural changes and growing bump will strain, lengthen, and weaken many of the muscles particularly around your pelvis and abdominal wall.
For some women, these changes will mean that the pelvic floor muscles do not work as effectively as perhaps they did pre pregnancy. You may start to notice that you leak urine during pregnancy, experience heaviness or a dragging in your perineal area or even struggle to control your bowel and wind function as easily. On the other hand, you may not experience any of these symptoms. BUT the pelvic floor is just like any other muscle, to keep it in tip top shape it needs to be exercised otherwise pregnancy changes and childbirth may mean it doesn’t work as efficiently or effectively, perhaps not now but postnatally.
What does my pelvic floor look like?
- Your PF is the bottom of your core (imagine a blown-up balloon), which ultimately consists of your diaphragm at the top, the front is the transversus abdominis (deep tummy muscle), and the back is the deep (back) multifidus muscle.These four muscles work together like gears in a machine.
- The PF muscles stretch like a trampoline from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). Like all other muscles in our body, it contracts and relaxes.
- It has 3 holes (the urethra, vagina, and anus). The PF normally wraps quite firmly around these holes to help keep the passages shut.
- Your PF is made of fast and slow twitch fibres which is why we get you to carry out long holds and quick flicks.
3 common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy (NB this list is not exhaustive)
- Leaking urine
- Difficulties controlling bowel and wind function
- Pelvic organ Prolapse
- Your floor supports your bladder, bowels and uterus and stops them sagging / prolapsing.
- Your floor stops you leaking wee, poo and wind!
- Your floor supports baby as it grows
- The stronger your floor the better your orgasm!!
- Your Pelvic floor contributes to pelvic and spinal stability which can help improve low back and pelvic girdle pain.
- Doing your PF exercises will help your tummy recover more effectively postnatally. This is because when you squeeze your floor you co-activate the deep tummy muscle (transversus abdominus), the starting block to all ab workouts.
- Exercising your pelvic floor during pregnancy will improve your postnatal recovery and reduce your chances of pelvic floor dysfunction postnatally
- During a vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor will lengthen and stretch as baby is delivered so when you exercise your pelvic floor remember relaxing your pelvic floor is just as important as squeezing it (see top tips).
- Even if you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy by doing your pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy you can improve your symptoms
- Whether you deliver your baby vaginally or via caesarean section you can experience pelvic floor dysfunction simply due to the changes around the pelvic floor that occur during pregnancy, so it is important to exercise your pelvic floor no matter how you plan on delivering your baby. Of course it is just as important to continue to exercise it postnatally no matter how you deliver your baby
- Experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy and postnatally is very common but NOT normal. This is not something you must live with and treatment is available (see below).
Top tips to protect and improve your pelvic floor health during pregnancy
- Avoid constipation. Straining to open your bowel will place unnecessary pressure on your pelvic organs and pelvic floor. Keep well hydrated, eat plenty of fibre and do not strain to open your bowels. If constipation is an issue, please discuss this with your midwife or GP
- When you lift, do not hold your breath. By holding your breath, you again will place unnecessary strain on your pelvic organs and pelvic floor. Instead, if you are lifting, exhale and squeeze your pelvic floor as you lift.
- Do your pelvic floor exercises. Hollie will carry out pelvic floor exercises with you throughout your Bump Plan workouts. When you do your pelvic floor exercises aim to do them in an upright position (ie sitting). Squeeze and lift your back passage. Aim to hold for up to 10 seconds (if your PF is weak you will not be able to initially hold it for 10 seconds, but work up to this.) Now relax your PF which may take a few seconds. Repeat up to 10 times. Now carry out some quick flicks, squeezing back passage quickly but slowly releasing! Repeat 10 times. Do not hold your breath when you do these exercises. Aim to do this regime at least twice a day (three times is the ideal).
- If you are experiencing any signs of pelvic floor dysfunction during or after pregnancy see a pelvic health physiotherapist who can help you manage and improve your symptoms. Your GP will be able to refer you to someone local to you or you can see a pelvic health physiotherapist privately.
If you enjoyed reading this article on the pelvic floor by Emma Brockwell and would like to discover more about prenatal fitness and your changing body I would love you to check out and try my pre & postnatal plan ‘The Bump Plan’ out for FREE today – simply click here to get started