Pelvic Floor Muscles
During pregnancy, hormones and the weight of your baby can result in weakening of your pelvic floor muscles. The birth process can lead to stretching of the muscles, and swelling and stitches can also make it hard to feel them working. However it is not only the birth which can stretch and weaken the muscles so even after a caesarean delivery, it is important to exercise your pelvic floor muscles.
It is important to start exercising these muscles in the first few days after having your baby. Strong muscles will help you to avoid bladder / bowel leakage and prolapse (lack of support of the walls of the vagina). These muscles also work together with your deep abdominal muscles to provide support for your spine and pelvis, so it is important to work them properly to avoid pelvic and back pain too
Your pelvic floor muscle exercises
To contract these muscles:
- Tighten and lift your muscles as if you were stopping wind. You should feel a squeezing sensation around your anus, vagina and urethra.
- Keep your buttocks and thighs relaxed.
- When you release, focus on the ‘letting go’ sensation.
- Try to keep breathing normally. This may be difficult at first, but keep practicing.
Your pelvic floor muscle home exercise program is:
While you are sitting or lying down: Hold the squeeze for 2-3 seconds, relax completely. Repeat 5 times in a row. Do this 4 times a day.
Each contraction should be as strong as possible.
You may find it easier to remember if you do these exercises every time you
- Change a nappy
- Eat a meal
- Brush your teeth
- Feed your baby
When you are able, aim for a strong 5 second hold, and increase the number of repetitions to 10. Practice not only when you are sitting down, but when you are standing up too, as it is harder for the muscles to work against gravity.
Contract your pelvic floor muscles just prior to coughing or sneezing, or lifting.
All women should exercise their pelvic floor muscles every day!
If you experience any symptoms, such as bladder leakage or a feeling of heaviness in your vagina, you should consult a Women’s Health physiotherapist to develop an individualised pelvic floor-strengthening program.