Throughout pregnancy and even afterwards you’ll find the words ‘pelvic floor’ are thrown around frequently. We know that we should be doing our pelvic floor exercises, but do we really understand what that involves or why they are so important?
This blog will hopefully shed some light on the matter and ensure that you safely perform what is in fact a very crucial part of your exercise regime throughout your pregnancy.
So what exactly is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is very much what it says on the tin – it is the ‘floor of the pelvis’. The exact name of the muscles within this group are called:
- Levator Ani – pubococcygeus & illicoccygeus
These are very important muscles that act as a support for our bladder, uterus and bowel as well as the contents of the abdomen. They originate at the front on the pubis and attach at the back on the coccyx. These muscles are then split through the middle to allow for the urethra, vagina and anus.
Why are they important during pregnancy?
Throughout pregnancy and after the birth, not only are you drained emotionally, but your body is put through a lot of physiological stress, especially on your pelvic floor and abdominals.
By maintaining a strong pelvic floor, you start to prepare these muscles not only for the birth, but the extra pressure created by the additional weight of the baby in the later stages of pregnancy.
Why do we need to pay particular attention to the pelvic floor?
The reason it is so important for everyone to maintain strength of these muscles is that they enable us to maintain control when we sneeze, cough, are sick or even when we find ourselves laughing out loud with friends.
And although this blog is aimed at pregnant women, if you have a male figure near by thinking they don’t need to worry, perhaps ask them if they want to be incontinent in later life! Yes that’s right…without control of these muscles as we get older, then just like any other muscle that is not strengthened, it will lose its ability to support any pressure applied internally.
Some simple exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor during pregnancy
There are 2 types of exercises:
- Slow contractions
- Fast contractions
Let’s start with the slow contractions. You can perform these in the position you find most comfortable, whether that be standing doing some household chores, sitting whilst at your desk or even lying down in bed.
- Now imagine you have an urgent need to urinate, but instead hold internally from your back passage. Use a ‘pulling’ up and ‘tightening’ action and once you have it, hold on to it!
- Once you have control increase the area you are holding round to the front muscles. It takes a bit of practice but once you’re there it will be like second nature.
- Hold for about 6 seconds and release. When you release try not to just let go in one fast release. Instead let go with control and take a few seconds.
Frequency – you can perform these exercises as many times as you remember during the day. Try and aim for at least 4-5 if you can however, performing around 4 with each go.
Now onto the fast contractions. Once you’ve mastered the slow contractions these should be fairly easy. Again these can be performed in the same positions as your slow contractions. The main difference is that you perform these exercises with a very quick movement/action.
- In one go, pull up and tighten the back and front passage.
- Hold for 1 second and then release with control as before.
Frequency – you can also perform these exercises as many times as you remember during the day. This time try and aim for at least 4-5 per day, performing around 6 with each go.
AVOID the following when you perform these exercises
- Ensure you do not perform any of these exercises whilst urinating as this can cause infections.
- Ensure you breathe as normal and at no point hold your breath. Use this time to relax and take some time out during the day.
- Do not tilt your pelvis – when you first start doing these exercises perhaps try them in front of a mirror. Watch your posture and try and maintain a neutral position throughout, whereby your shoulders are back and relaxed and your pelvis is not tilted forward or backward.
- Do not tense your buttocks or abdominal muscles – really concentrate on the pelvic floor muscles throughout the exercises. The movement is not coming from your external muscles, instead think about a long queue at the ladies toilet (we all know how that feels by now!) and you’re wishing you hadn’t had that large glass of water 20 minutes earlier!
Looking for more advice on pre and post-natal exercises? Check out the other be.fit blogs coming soon.