So you’re pregnant, or thinking about it and have heard countless horror stories of haemorrhoids and bladder control never being the same following childbirth. Well, rest assured, it doesn’t need to be that way!
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of the group of muscles referred to as the core. This sling of muscles supports the bladder, bowel and uterus.
Not surprisingly, the pelvic floor is under intense pressure throughout pregnancy from the enlarged uterus. Nevertheless, if you can take a little time out of your day strengthening your pelvic floor, there’s a good chance you can prevent haemorrhoids and urinary stress incontinence. It may also contribute to easier delivery and better birth! Yay!
Being familiar with how to identify and activate these muscles is the first step to a strong pelvic floor and here are a couple of ways to do that.
Next time you go to the toilet, aim to stop or slow the flow of urine midway through emptying the bladder, then after a moment of two, relax the muscles. You have just exercised your pelvic floor! This is done purely to identify the pelvic floor muscles needed for bladder control; it’s not an exercise you need to repetitively perform.
Another method to identify your pelvic floor muscles is to imagine stopping the flow of urine and holding in wind at the same time. Now here’s how to activate them… Try and lift, then squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe. Keep in mind that nothing above the belly button should tighten or be tense. As the deep abdominal muscles work in conjunction with the pelvic floor, you may experience some tensing and flattening of the lower part of the abdominal wall. Try tightening your muscles really gently to feel just the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing in. Try not to try too hard however; the emphasis should be on “gentle”.
It is important to remember that pelvic floor muscles need to be able to lift, hold and relax. Over-engagement may cause the muscles to become tight, fatigued and over time - weak. After a contraction it is important to relax the muscles. This will allow your muscles time to recover and prepare for the next contraction. It’s also really important to avoid holding your breathe, so make sure you focus on your exhale.
Remember that this is an internal exercise and correct technique is vital. Doing pelvic floor exercises the wrong way can be bad for you, so please see a continence professional if you cannot feel your muscles hold or relax.
Once you master the art of locating and contracting your pelvic floor muscles, you may like to participate in our Prenatal Exercise video for some tips on how to challenge them a little more.