Within your pelvis are important organs such as the bladder, uterus and lower bowel, and the pelvic floor is the muscle which supports these organs. You must maintain the strength of this muscle to support the organs inside or the worry is that in the future they will prolapse or drop from their normal position, in some cases actually coming down out of the vagina. The other worry is that weakened pelvic floor muscles cannot support the bladder and urethra well enough, allowing urine to leak out. This is called Stress Incontinence. You DO NOT want this to happen, and you can do your best to prevent this from happening by contracting these muscles frequently – these are called Pelvic Floor Exercises.
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken or damage these muscles so it is important to strengthen muscles to prevent overstretching during birth. Strong pelvic floor muscles can help you with a vaginal birth and can also help you to recover quickly after the birth. They can increase the blood flow to your vagina and bottom and can help with healing hemorrhoids and tears and rips.
We will explain how to do these Pelvic Floor Exercises and you must try to do these religiously before, during and after pregnancy. It is important that at the very least, you start these during your pregnancy as after a vaginal birth they will be weak and sore.
If you imagine you want to stop yourself doing a wee mid-flow, the muscles you would use are your pelvic floor muscles. So if you just sit down on a chair and squeeze these muscles, you will feel them contracting inside. When you first start to do these, you may only be able to hold them for a second or two. You should repeat this 10 or 15 times in a row and try to avoid holding your breath, or tightening your stomach, buttock, or thigh, muscles, at the same time.
You should gradually, over a few weeks try and push yourself to hold them for up to 10 or 15 seconds. You will soon be able to hold each one for 10 seconds and easily do a set of 10. You should aim to repeat this a few times a day.
Here are some good ways of remembering to do these –
- Every time you wash your hands do a set
- Every time you stop at the traffic lights do a set.
- Do a set when you wake in the morning.
- Do a set when you get into bed.
You should try and do these everyday up until the birth and continue with them again after the birth. If you have stitches after a vaginal birth then start the pelvic floor exercises as soon as these have been done, this will help increase blood flow and healing. It may feel a bit weak and odd the first time you try them after giving birth, but persevere and in a few weeks it will feel normal again.
If you can carry on doing these for the rest of your life you will have very strong pelvic floor muscles and may avoid things like urinary incontinence and a prolapse in later life.