Your Guide to Pelvic Floor Fitness
January 28, 2020
A woman’s body undergoes tremendous strain and stress during childbirth, particularly in the pelvic floor region. That’s why it’s very important for new moms to maintain their strength before and after giving birth. Today we’ll talk about the pelvic floor muscles, how they work during delivery, and provide tips and exercises to help keep them strong.
Pelvic Floor Muscles and Their Purpose
The pelvic floor in a woman’s body consists of layers of muscles that stretch from her pubic bone to her backbone. These muscles have two main functions: supporting the abdominal viscera (stomach, intestines and other organs located in the abdomen), and acting as a constrictor or continence mechanism for the urethral, anal and vaginal orifices.1
These layers of muscles endure strain during pregnancy as they support the weight of the growing baby; however, the muscles are put under much greater strain during childbirth. Weakened pelvic floor muscles in pregnant or postpartum women can cause stress incontinence, which is when the body leaks urine during sneezing, laughing or coughing. Although slightly embarrassing, stress incontinence is very common and can continue after pregnancy. The good news is that with regular strength-building pelvic floor exercises, it can be avoided.2
Who Should Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?
Most health care professionals recommend that pregnant women perform pelvic floor exercises, even if they are not experiencing stress incontinence. Pelvic floor muscle training can help your body cope with the growing weight of your baby, as well as avoid stress incontinence after giving birth.2 These exercises can also help reduce swelling, improve blood flow and improve healing.3
It’s important to note that pelvic floor muscles will not get stronger unless you perform specific exercises to rebuild their strength.2
Pelvic Floor Exercise Tips
It is considered safe for most women to start doing pelvic floor exercises right after giving birth. Before you begin however, take note of these precautions and tips:
- Begin gently, being careful not to overexert your muscles. You can gradually progress to stronger exercise once you feel able.
- Try to avoid constipation during and after pregnancy, as straining during bowel movements can put additional stress on your pelvic floor muscles. Eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables can help. Speak with your doctor if constipation continues to be a problem.
- Consistency is the key. You’ll want to make your exercises part of your daily routine to get the biggest benefit. Even if you only perform the exercises for a few minutes a day, you’ll keep the muscles from growing weaker.
Pelvic Floor Exercises Step-by-Step
The great thing about pelvic floor exercises is that they can be done just about anywhere, at any time and do not require special equipment.
Step One: Find a comfortable position (lying down may be best after vaginal delivery).
Step Two: Next, squeeze your pelvic muscles as if you are trying to stop yourself from passing urine or gas. Remember to keep breathing normally.
Step Three: Hold the contraction for up to 10 seconds, then rest for the same amount of time. If you cannot hold the contraction for 10 seconds, start with a time increment within your ability. You can gradually work your way up to 10 second increments as your muscles get stronger. If you start to feel like you are losing the contraction, stop. Do not try to force yourself to hold it longer. Simply relax and start your next contraction.
Step Four: Repeat the exercise up to 10 times.
You also can do exercises in which you hold the contraction for one second, rest for one second and repeat 10 to 15 times.
Ask Your Doctor for Guidance
If you are having difficulty performing these exercises, consult your gynecologist or other health care professional. Remember, every woman’s body and physical abilities are different. The most important thing is that you avoid unnecessary strain to your pelvic floor muscles and to follow your doctor’s guidance.