Pelvic Floor Exercises During Pregnancy

Pelvic Floor exercises in pregnancy

Pelvic Floor Exercises During Pregnancy

Pelvic Floor exercises are so important during pregnancy and after you have had your baby. Here is why you need to be doing your pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and how to do them correctly.

 

The Pelvic Floor muscles are a group of muscles around the bottom of your pelvis. They support the pelvic muscles, stabilise the pelvic joints and are useful to:

• Maintain bladder and bowel control
• Prevent prolapse of the pelvic muscles
• Stabilise the pelvic joints and muscles

Think of your pelvic floor as a hammock laying across your pelvic region, a bit like the bottom part of a pair of knickers. These muscles maintain a normal level of strength which stops us from having any accidents while sitting or standing.

pelvic floor muscles women side on

 

The Pelvic Floor and Pregnancy

 

During pregnancy the hormone Relaxin softens the muscles of the body to prepare for labour. This relaxing of the muscles also includes the pelvic floor. As well as this, as the weight of the growing baby increases, it puts pressure on the pelvic muscles which can cause them to become weak. This is why, during Pregnancy Yoga classes, we spend a few minutes each session working on our pelvic floor strengthening.

As well as strengthening the pelvic floor, during pregnancy we also want to learn how to relax as well. During labour our pelvic floor muscles automatically soften and relax allowing baby to pass through easier. So often during labour as soon as a mother feels any pain they tense up, causing tightness in the pelvic area as they try to protect the area. However, this has the opposite effect and can make it harder for the baby to come out, causing more pain and tightness. This all means that it is so important to learn how to relax the pelvic floor muscles in order to be ready for labour.

Considering all of the above, during a Pregnancy Yoga class we will practice both strengthen and releasing the pelvic floor muscles to aid in the above.

 

The Pelvic Floor and Labour

 

During labour it is important to remember that you just relax the pelvic floor. You do not need to strengthen it. This is a time to breath and relax the whole pelvic area as muscle as possible!

 

 

Testing Your Pelvic Floor

 

When starting out your pelvic floor exercises whether it be pre or post natal, it is a good idea to get a feel for how strong your pelvic floor muscles are already to see how much work you need to do. Generally, you do not need to do pelvic floor exercise if you have a good level of strength in that area.

There are a couple of ways to test your pelvic floor. The first way is to try to exercises below and see how long you can hold them for. The optimal time is holding for 10 seconds. If this is not possible, then it might be you want to spend a few days doing some exercises and seeing if the time gets longer.

Another way is to use the Modified Oxford Scale. This is what Physiotherapists use to gauge how strong a person believes their pelvic floor is. You can check if you are using the right muscles by feeling inside the vagina with a finger to feel the vaginal walls tighten.

 

Image result for modified oxford scale for pelvic floor

Anything below a 4 would be recommended to do some pelvic exercises.

 

Positions for Pelvic Floor Exercises

 

There are many different positions you can be sat in to do your exercises but really you just want to keep it simple. Find a position where you can feel the pelvic floor muscles working the most. It can be different for each person.

Here are some positions that you can try:

  1.  Sitting on a chair, lean forward with hands on the knees
  2.  Sitting on a chair, lean back as if slouching
  3. Sitting upright in a chair
  4. Sitting on a bolster or cushion with the knees tucked behind you
  5. On all fours, hips in the air with the head down
  6. Standing up
  7. Walking

 

Try starting at number one and doing some exercises then working your way down the list to find which works best for you. You may find walking is the hardest.

 

Feeling your Pelvic Floor

 

As you cannot show a person how to do pelvic floor exercises we have to use analogies to explain how it should feel. Here are some I like:

  • Imagine you are at a party. You really need to fart – you need to hold the fart in. Then all of a sudden you need a wee! You have to hold your wee. You hold until you get to the toilet, then you can release.

 

This one is great because it demonstrates the fact that you should start at the back and feel that lifting moving towards the front. This ensures a good lift across the whole area of the pelvic muscles.

 

  • Imagine you are in a lift. You are at the bottom of the lift (the base of your vagina) then you imagine you are going up the lift towards your belly button. Slowly go up the lift and then feel yourself lowering down the lift.

 

I like this one to help people to visualise the holding of the pelvic floor for a length of time. It also creates the visualisation of moving slowly up and down.

 

  • Imagine you have a marble in your vagina and you are lifting the marble up towards your belly button. Then you are releasing the marble and lowering it back down.

 

The analogy of the marble gives the idea of holding that strengthen within the pelvic muscles to keep the marble lifting up. Then the idea of lowering the marble demonstrates as feeling of really letting go.

 

Pelvic Floor Exercises

 

There are two mains ways you can practice the exercises:

 

Long Holds

  • Exhale and relax
  • As you inhale feel a lifting sensation starting from the back of your pelvic muscles (anus) towards the front.
  • Once you feel that lifting at the front, hold it in.
  • Keep that lifting as you breath normally.
  • How many seconds can you hold it in for? Ideally you want to be able to count to 10. If not, keep working at it.
  • Exhale and slowly release the pelvic floor muscles, allowing them to completely relax.
  • Count to 3 before having another go.
  • Repeat for around 10 rounds.

 

Short Lifts

  • Exhale and relax
  • As you inhale feel a lifting sensation starting from the back of your pelvic muscles (anus) towards the front.
  • Once you feel that lifting at the front, start to squeeze the pelvic muscles up and down.
  • Keep those short lifts and releases as you breath normally.
  • How many times can you lift and release before the muscles get tired? Ideally you want to be able to do 10. If not, keep working at it.
  • Once the muscles get tired, exhale and slowly release the muscles, allowing them to completely relax.
  • Count to 3 before having another go.
  • Repeat for around 10 rounds.

You may need to start with ‘little and often’ if you find that you can only hold the squeeze for a short time, or only do a few before the muscles tire.

 

Come to yoga!

 

If all else fails, come to one of my Pregnancy Yoga classes and have a go at some pelvic floor exercises under my guidance. I run two pregnancy class:

Monday, 6:15pm, The Self Centre

Saturday, 11:30am, The Wellbeing Warehouse

 

For more information about my classes then click here.

Extra Information

 

If you would like to find out more or are concerned for any reason, then click on the links below:

Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy
Download & Find out more about the NHS Squeezy app
NHS information on the pelvic floor

Or contact your local physiotherapist.

 

 

I hope you have found this helpful and feel inspired / convinced to do your pelvic floor exercises to help you during your pregnancy and labour. I will be publishing a blog about the pelvic floor during the postnatal phase so sign up to my newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date!

Lorna