Of all the things people tell you about preparing for labor, the one that often gets forgotten about is the importance of looking after your pelvic floor. Not only can pelvic floor exercises help your body cope better during the third trimester and childbirth, but can also help you feel fitter and stronger postpartum too.
The good news is that pelvic floor exercises are incredibly simple and easy to do, and surprisingly discreet – no one will even notice you are doing them! Read on to find out why pelvic floor exercises are such an important part of your post-partum recovery.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is the name given to the set of muscles that sit at the base of your pelvis and offer vital support to key organs such as your bladder, bowel and uterus. During pregnancy and childbirth, your pelvic floor is put under incredible amounts of strain, both from the additional weight of your growing baby in the womb and of course during the physical trauma of contractions and labor.
Your pelvic floor can lose some of its strength over time, but exercises can help avoid problems associated with a weak pelvic floor including incontinence, discomfort during intercourse, and at its worst, even prolapse (where the organs can drop down into your vagina).
Pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels) are an easy and practical way to regain strength in your pelvic floor after childbirth. If you don’t already practice them, it is recommended you start during the early stages of pregnancy, to help prepare your body for the effects of labor and beyond.
How do you do Kegels / Pelvic Floor Exercises?
If you have already practised the techniques of yoga or Pilates, then you may have done a pelvic floor exercise without even knowing it.
In its simplest form, a pelvic floor exercise feels a little like stopping urine mid-flow. Imagine you are on the toilet and suddenly need to stop. A pelvic floor exercise involves pulling up, holding and releasing your muscles as if you were stopping a wee – it’s as simple as that.
Alternatively, some practitioners recommend thinking of pelvic floor exercises like an elevator. Starting at ground level, imagine the elevator raising to the top floor, stopping to let people off, and then returning to the ground level again. Simply tighten for 10 seconds at a time and then release.
It is suggested that you do 10-15 repetitions at least three times a day during and after pregnancy. They can be done anywhere and at any time, but you may wish to set aside a small part of your day where you can focus your full attention or set a reminder on your phone. Alternatively, you can do them at your desk during the working day, or in bed, before you go to sleep.
What are the benefits of a strong pelvic floor?
Not only can a strong pelvic floor help prepare you for childbirth, but can also prevent incontinence, which women with a weak pelvic floor can experience if they sneeze or cough.
A strong pelvic floor can even help improve your sex life by preventing post-childbirth discomfort and improving the intensity of your orgasms.
Looking after your pelvic floor isn’t as complicated as you may think and should be a key part of your pregnancy journey. If you haven’t already started, why not give them a go today?