Take a look at each week of your pregnancy, from conception to birth, with our comprehensive email newsletters.
Doing pelvic floor exercises will help to make your life more comfortable.
Experts generally agree that this is a region of vital significance. Not just during pregnancy but for years to come.
An easy way to describe a woman’s pelvic floor muscles is as a supportive, muscular sling. These muscles support the uterus, bowel, and bladder as well as enveloping the urethra, rectum and vagina. Essentially, most of the organs which lie below your waistline are supported by your pelvic floor.
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone has a softening and relaxing effect on the muscles and ligaments within the body. This helps with preparing for childbirth and the progression of the baby through the mother’s pelvis and vagina. Regaining pre-pregnancy tone is difficult, especially if a woman has been carrying a very heavy baby and gained a lot of weight through her pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies and having lots of babies is another factor.
The length of a mother’s labour, particularly the time between full dilation of the cervix to 10 centimetres and the actual birth of the baby, with lots of pushing and straining, can further stretch the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Constipation, another common problem during pregnancy, also leads to a further loss of tone. To avoid becoming constipated drink lots of water, exercise and remember to boost the fibre content of your diet.
This important group of exercises specifically target the pelvic floor.
Kegel’s exercises use a similar group of muscles as the ones which stop your urine from flowing. So the muscles used when ‘holding on’ or stopping urine floware the ones you’ll be targeting.
Women of all ages benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises every day. Try to get into the habit of associating certain activities with pelvic floor exercises. When waiting in a queue at the bank, in the car at a red light, or waiting to be served at the shops. It will not be obvious to anyone else what you are doing, pelvic floor exercises are very discrete.
Many women find Kegel’s exercises difficult to do in the first few weeks after childbirth, especially if there has been some trauma from an episiotomy, perineal tear or generalised swelling and bruising. But it is important to start doing them shortly after birth even if you have had a caesarian delivery.
Some women find it easier to do a set of Kegel’s exercises when they are sitting or lying down. If you have become used to doing pelvic floor exercises during your pregnancy, it is likely to be easier for you to resume them after birth.
Try to visualise the muscles which are supporting your vagina, anus and urethra and tighten them. If you are doing this effectively, you will be able to feel a pulling and lifting sensation throughout your pelvic floor.
Your aim is to build up frequency and repetitions as you do sets of Kegel’s exercises and not aim to do too many at once. Like any other exercise programme, success lies with gradually building on what you can do, establishing what your personal threshold may be and then improving it.
If you are going to ante-natal classes, some information on pelvic floor toning will be included. Read what you can so you develop a good understanding of what is involved.
For more information check the New Zealand Continence Association website and follow the links to pelvic floor training.
If you’re experiencing slight bladder weakness, try Poise Liners which are similar to feminine care liners but are designed to manage light bladder leakage.