Why is the pelvic floor so important?
Your pelvic floor muscles span the base of your pelvis to keep your pelvic organs in the correct position, tightly close your bladder and bowel and help with sex.
In order to perform their job properly your pelvic floor muscles need to be strong and functioning in the right way at the right time. When they aren't functioning properly you can experience symptoms such as incontinence, pelvic pain and diminished sensation or satisfaction during sex.
When the pelvic floor bears weight for a prolonged amount of time, as it does while you're pregnant, it can be weakened. This weakening can begin from fairly early on in your pregnancy, and other common pregnancy-related issues, such as constipation, can also contribute to this weakening effect.
It is vital to do pelvic floor exercises regularly during pregnancy to support your pelvic floor. This can also help you minimise the risk of incontinence and pelvic prolapse after the birth.
How to work out your pelvic floor muscles
A great way to strengthen up your pelvic floor muscles is to give them a 'squeeze'. You can do these simple pelvic floor exercises by squeezing your internal muscles as if you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind or going for a wee. However, please don't squeeze your muscles whilst you are having a wee, as this can stop your bladder from emptying properly.
You may feel some tightening in your lower abdominal muscles, this is perfectly normal. It is important to breathe normally while doing your exercises. If you have trouble feeling the 'squeeze', or feel that you are bearing down rather than squeezing up, get in touch with a Women's Health Physio who will be able to help you.
Rachel Bromley MCSP, Grad Dip Phys., MSc. is one of Nuffield Health's most senior Women’s Health Physiotherapists and is the clinical lead for Women's Health physio within the company. She has specialist training in the assessment and treatment of a variety of women’s health conditions, including urinary stress incontinence, urgency, symptoms of prolapse, voiding dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain and other pregnancy related conditions.
You should try to do a mix of short and long squeezes. To do your short squeezes, squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles and then relax. Repeat until your muscles get tired. For long squeezes, challenge yourself to see how long you can hold it for. Aim to build up to doing 10 fast and 10 slow squeezes three times a day.
You may find it easier to start off doing these exercises lying down, but as you progress try to move to standing up. There are some great apps that can be downloaded to your smart phone to help remind you to do your exercises, or why not stick a few little coloured dots around your home, car or office to give you a nudge?
Last updated: almost 2 years ago