Pelvic floor and pregnancy

In a series of guest blogs, my colleague Claire-Anne Rutherford, Specialist Womens Health Physiotherapist, writes about the pelvic floor and the importance of effective control.

Your Pelvic Floor : Why Squeeze?

Are the pelvic floor muscles really that important? Yes, yes, yes! The pelvic floor can be a world of help if performed correctly.

Research shows that 1 in 4 women experience bladder weakness and even this is thought to be an underestimate. Bladder weakness is a key consequence of weak pelvic floor muscles and, despite this, 75% of 16-24 year old women have never been shown how to locate or exercise their pelvic floor and 1 in 5 women don’t know what their pelvic floor muscles do.

The most common form of urinary leakage is stress incontinence – when urine leaks out with coughing, sneezing, jumping or running. This type of incontinence affects up to a third of all new mums and is most common in young women (25-49 years of age).

Your pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that attach to your pubic joint at the front and your tailbone at the back. They form a floor supporting your bladder, back passage and uterus. During pregnancy the hormone relaxin is released which softens the ligaments and muscles to allow your body to accommodate your growing uterus and to prepare for birth. This combined with the extra 13 kilos / 2 stone that mums gain in pregnancy, results in a lot of extra strain on the pelvic floor and causes them to weaken. These muscles are weakened further during delivery and even more so if you have a tear or episiotomy. Research shows that strengthening your pelvic floor during pregnancy will ensure these muscles recover more quickly postnataly as well as helping to prevent / reduce/ cure any bladder weakness.
Having strong pelvic floor muscles will also determine how soon you can resume certain types of exercise postnataly.

How to exercise the pelvic floor:

Slow contractions:

Imagine you are trying to stop yourself from passing urine as well as trying to stop yourself from breaking wind by tightening the muscles around your front and back passage. Try to hold the contraction for 10 seconds. You may find that after just a few seconds the muscle tires and starts to let go. Relax the contraction if this happens and try again. Gradually try to increase the time you hold for. Try to repeat these slow contractions 10 times.

Fast contractions:

Contract the muscles in the same away as with the slow contractions but rather than holding the muscle, let go immediately. Repeat 10 times.

The more you can do these exercises the better so try to aim for 3 to 4 times a day if you can.

Claire-Anne Rutherford (nee Head)
Specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapist

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