You may hear midwives and doctors refer to something called the ‘pelvic floor’, particularly during and after the birth. The pelvic floor comprises of all the muscles running from your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, to the coccyx (the small bone at the bottom of your spine). These muscles, or pelvic floor, hold all of your pelvic organs in place (such as your womb, bladder and bowel). Your pelvic floor is particularly important as it enables you to pass urine and pass a bowel movement (or poo). It can also prevent you from doing these things at the wrong moment.
The later stages of pregnancy and the birth of baby can put a lot of strain on your pelvic floor muscles and can cause problems like urinary incontinence (wetting yourself), when you cough, sneeze or laugh. So it is really important to make sure that your pelvic floor is in ‘good shape’!
Can you imagine expecting someone to run a marathon when they’ve never even run to the end of the street before? They’d need some regular and probably quite intense training first, or they’d risk injuring themselves. It is the same principle for your pelvic floor, but there is hope! Regularly doing pelvic floor exercises throughout pregnancy and into the postnatal period is like the training for a marathon – it gets your muscles in good shape ready for the birth, and helps your body return to normal quickly afterwards.
Thankfully, unlike training for a marathon, pelvic floor exercises are quick and easy to do – you can do them whilst brushing your teeth, eating dinner, working at a desk, or watching TV – whatever suits you best.
To work out where these muscles are, find somewhere comfortable, either standing or sitting, and imagine the feeling of stopping yourself from passing urine when you really need to go to the toilet, or try stopping yourself from passing wind. Or try clenching the walls of your vagina together. You will feel which muscles are moving as you do this, and these are the same muscles you need to target and practice clenching and unclenching. When you get really good at doing the exercises, you can isolate which area you are clenching and do them in turn. Try to avoid tightening your “glutes” (gluteus maximus – the big muscles in your bottom) or your abdominal muscles; just focus on the pelvic floor muscles. Don’t do this whilst you are urinating though, as it can cause damage to your bladder if you do.
Once you are comfortable and you’ve worked out which muscles we’re talking about, try clenching and releasing these muscles in quick succession. (Clench, release, clench, release, clench, release, and so on), demonstrating a speed of about 0.5 seconds per action. Start off doing this about 10 times, but as your muscles get stronger, try to increase that to about 50 times (which should take about a minute). This will strengthen the surface muscles.
Give yourself a 30 second break or so, then, try to strengthen the deeper muscles of the pelvic floor. Using the same muscles, clench and hold that clench for as long as you can. Aim to hold it for 10 seconds but work up to this if you need to.
And that’s it! It won’t even take you two minutes, and, if you’re doing it correctly, no one will notice you preparing for that marathon! Just try to do these three times a day throughout your pregnancy and ideally, for the rest of your life! It could prevent problems later on with your bladder control and incontinence. Look on our website “mybirthmychoice.co.uk” for further information.