One of the side effects of childbirth can be the weakening of your pelvic floor. During your pregnancy the hormone progesterone is used to help soften and relax your muscles and ligaments so that bub can make their way out of your pelvis and vagina. The side effect of this is that is can stretch those muscles a great deal. This means that many mums can often experience a weakness of the bladder when they laugh, sneeze or even when they lift something.
What are pelvic floor exercises?
Put simply, pelvic floor exercises will fortify the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel (large intestine).
Essentially, you imagine you need to urinate, and instead of releasing it, you hold it in. You are focusing on the muscles that are supporting your vagina, anus and urethra and tighten them during this exercise. You will be feeling a pulling and lifting sensation throughout your pelvic floor. With a little trial and error you will quickly identify the muscles that work this process. Then you need to work on strengthening them.
These exercises are also known as Kegel exercises. They are named after the gynaecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel. They use the same muscles as the ones that stop your urine from flowing. You are targeting these muscles when you are doing your pelvic floor exercises.
How to do pelvic floor exercises
You can discuss pelvic floor exercises with your local nurse or GP. Remember you want to start the process and build up the muscle gradually over time just as you would your fitness.
- Begin by squeezing and holding your pelvic muscles for 5 seconds. Do this slowly and take your time.
- Your aim is for 10 repetitions, taking 10 seconds for each, three times a day.
- Once you feel you are improving work on isolating the muscles supporting your urethra, vagina and anus. Working from front to back, gradually tense and then relax each of these muscles in turn.
When to do pelvic floor exercises
The beauty of pelvic floor exercises is that no one knows when you are doing them and this means you can do them whenever you like. It's good to have a trigger to remind you to do them.
For instance, some people do them whenever the traffic lights turn red during their day. Others do them after their shower and again after lunch. The original creator of Kegel recommended doing them when you first wake up, more when you get out of bed, and 5 pelvic floor exercises every half hour all day long. You may prefer to build up to that level of activity!
Initially you might prefer to program a reminder into your phone three times a day to do your exercises. This will help you build up a consistent training program. The benefit in the long run is the strengthening of your bladder and overall sense of well being. Remember, any time can be Kegel time.
Last Published* November, 2021
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.