Pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and after childbirth
pelvic; floor; muscles; exercises; vagina; uterus; bowel; bladder; control;
outlet; stress; incontinence; ligaments; continence; urine; leaking;
During pregnancy there is increased pressure on the pelvic floor, and childbirth can stretch and damage the pelvic floor muscles. Also during pregnancy, hormones soften all the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic outlet so that the baby's head can be pushed out during birth. It is important to do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen these muscles.
During pregnancy there is increased pressure on the pelvic floor, and childbirth can stretch and damage the pelvic floor muscles so that you may have some slight leaking of urine, especially when you laugh, cough or run. This is known as urinary stress incontinence.
Also during pregnancy, hormones soften all the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic outlet so that the baby's head can be pushed out during birth. Even women who have a caesarean section to deliver their baby may have a weakened pelvic floor simply due to the strain and weight of the pregnancy.
Urinary stress incontinence is common during pregnancy and after child birth.
- More than half of women having their first baby and 1 in 3 women who have already had a baby experience some amount of leaking of urine.
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.
The pelvic floor is made up of a layer of muscles stretching like a tight hammock from the pubic bone in the front, to the base of the spine.
Your pelvic floor supports your bladder, vagina, uterus and bowel and is very important for bladder and bowel control. Your pelvic floor muscles also play an important role in sexual pleasure.
pelvic floor muscles
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 use to do this 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 as firmly as you can for as long as you are comfortable, then release.
- STEP 4 - Repeat this squeeze and lift movement as many times as you can before the muscles tire.
It is important that you single out your pelvic floor muscles in this exercise program - this means no tightening of the muscles in your thighs or buttocks and no movement of your back.
Do not bear down or strain during these exercises. Breathe normally and naturally while contracting your muscles. It is useful to count aloud if you find yourself holding your breath.
often should you do pelvic floor exercises?
Try to do pelvic floor exercises several times each day. If you have discomfort from overworking the muscles when you first start, then reduce the number of exercises you are doing and gradually increase them after the discomfort stops.
Pelvic floor exercise can be done sitting, standing or lying down. See if you can remember to do your pelvic floor exercises at these times:
- Each time you finish going to the toilet
- Each time you put the kettle on
- Each time you answer the phone
- Driving in the car - when you stop at red lights
- When watching television.
But importantly, make pelvic floor exercises part of your daily routine and do them regularly to build and maintain the strength of your pelvic floor muscles.
do you use your pelvic floor muscles?
Now that you know how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles, it is important for you to know when to use them.
To prevent little leaks of urine, squeeze and lift up your pelvic floor muscles each time before you:
- cough or sneeze,
- lift, push or pull
To protect this area from strain, try to form the habit of tightening and lifting the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles before heavy lifts, pushes or pulls.
- For more help or advice ask your doctor, midwife or physiotherapist.
- You can also call the Continence Foundation of Australia on 1800 069 789 and talk with a nurse adviser.
Pregnancy, birth and baby Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age.
Raising Children Network Raising Children website is produced with the help of an extensive Australian network including the Australian Government.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.