Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. It is important to do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen these muscles. These exercises should become part of your daily routine, not just while you are pregnant but throughout your life.
If there is one exercise that you do, make it Pelvic Floor Exercises. Getting your pelvic floor muscles fit and keeping them that way will give you the best possible bladder control now and in the future.
How does pregnancy affect my pelvic floor?
Being pregnant can place large amounts of stress on your pelvic floor and its muscles. Your pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy. Pregnancy symptoms such as constipation can stretch and weaken your pelvic floor further.
How do pelvic floor exercises help me?
Pelvic floor exercises, if performed regularly, can help to protect you from incontinence during and after your pregnancy. The more you use these muscles, the stronger they will be. If you haven't been shown how to do pelvic floor exercises during antenatal classes, ask your midwife about them at your next visit.
Good pelvic floor muscles can support the extra weight of pregnancy, may help shorten the second stage of labour and, by increasing your circulation, may assist in healing the perineum (the area between your anus and vagina) after birth. Another benefit of these exercises is that women with strengthened pelvic floor muscles are more likely to have orgasms during sex and have a more satisfying sex life!
How do I find my pelvic floor muscles?
Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and trying to stop your flow of urine mid-stream, at the same time. The feeling is one of "squeeze and lift", closing and drawing up the front and back passages. Some women will feel more happening at the front and some will feel more happening around their bottom. Don't worry too much about this, as long as you can feel a tightening, a squeeze or a lift somewhere between your front and back passages!
Of course, that sounds easy enough. But the catch is that you have to squeeze and lift without:
• pulling in your tummy
• squeezing your legs together
• tightening your buttocks
• holding your breath
In other words, only your pelvic floor muscles should be working.
Pelvic floor exercises may be taught in a number of different ways. Here is one way:
STEP 1 Sit forwards on your chair and place your feet and knees shoulder width apart. Relax your stomach, chest and leg muscles. Breathe normally.
STEP 2 Close your eyes and imagine that you want to stop yourself passing wind or urine. The muscles that you are using are the pelvic floor muscles.
STEP 3 Now squeeze or contract these muscles tightly around your back and front passages and slowly lift your pelvic floor using these muscles. Imagine your muscles are lifts and squeeze upwards. Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds as firmly as you can, then release.
STEP 4 Repeat this squeeze and lift movement 10 times.
Try to do a set of 10 pelvic floor exercises (as described under topic 'Learning how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles') 6 times each day. If you have discomfort from overworking the muscles when you first start, then reduce the number of exercise you are doing and gradually increase them after the discomfort stops.
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