If you mention pelvic floor exercises in a room full of women most of them will know exactly which exercises you are talking about. Pelvic floor muscles are the ones that cause many women the most trouble and are particularly affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Every woman should know how to do pelvic floor exercises but many are confused about how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly. In most cases a few sessions with a physiotherapist will help you to learn how to isolate your pelvic floor muscles and give you some exercises for pelvic floor health that you can do at home.
There is a lot of myth today surrounding pregnancy, delivery and post pregnancy care information – it’s hard to know what to believe anymore as you come across conflicting advice. Experts may be divided on pregnancy care and procedures but when it comes to pelvic floor exercises they all agree on its importance and benefits.
What exactly are my pelvic floor muscles?
Very few women know exactly what pelvic floor muscles are and fewer of them know how to keep those muscles strong to assist in delivery and after delivery care. Your pelvic floor muscles are internal muscles that aren’t visible when relaxed or contracted. Think of your muscles as a ‘baby sling’ of supportive singular muscle that keeps all your internal organs, bladder, womb, bowel and uterus in place.
Why do I need to think about my pelvic floor muscles during my pregnancy?
Strong pelvic floor muscles will assist you in a having a smooth delivery and labor. Your pelvic muscles will have become weak during pregnancy because the hormone progesterone will loosen them so that your baby will pass through your pelvis easily during delivery. High progesterone levels will leave your muscles loose and give you incontinence. With age, weight gain and multiple pregnancies your pelvic organs may descend into the vagina commonly known as vaginal prolapse. Pelvic floor exercises can delay and even prevent these symptoms.
Benefits of pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy
In pregnancy having a strong pelvic floor will,
- Help you in supporting the extra weight of pregnancy.
- Help you in the second stage of labor where your uterus continues to contract about every five minutes and your cervix dilates about 10 centimeters.
- Reduce the occurrence of incontinence (leakage of urine) especially when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
- Help you have an easy delivery and a faster recovery time after delivery.
- Reduce your chances of having a bladder or vaginal prolapse especially if you have had more than one vaginal delivery.
- Reduce discomfort from perineal swelling and haemorrhoids
- Reduce the chances of you needing a surgical vaginal tear or what is known as episiotomy during delivery.
- Help you enjoy sex much better with your partner.
A Kegel exercise is the name given to pelvic floor exercises named after Dr Arnold Kegel who invented the exercise. These exercises will strengthen the same muscles that stop your urine from flowing.
Is there a specific time to do Kegel exercises?
You can do your Kegel exercises anytime even before you fall pregnant, during and after your pregnancy. You can do them anywhere even while driving a car, waiting in line at a grocery store or sitting at a table with your friends.
How to do Kegel exercises?
Now that you have understood the benefits of doing Kegel exercises, here are some useful tips to learn how to contract and relax your pelvic muscles.
- Try to squeeze or contract your pelvic muscles, when you do this you should feel your vagina tighten and pelvic floor move forward. Then relax your muscles after five seconds and you should feel your pelvic floor return to the starting position.
- Once you have identified your pelvic muscles try to contract your muscles for five seconds and relax them for five seconds. Do this five times in a row. Once you get comfortable with these exercises try contracting and relaxing your pelvic muscles for 10 seconds.
- As you get better in your exercise routine you can try to stop your urine flow midstream, but trying to stop your urine flow frequently can result in weakening of your muscles and increase risk of Urinary Tract Infection.
- When you do your Kegel exercises avoid flexing the muscles around the buttocks, thighs and abdomen. Don’t hold your breath when you do these exercises. Relax and breathe freely, focus on contracting only the pelvic muscles.
- For best results do your exercises three times a day with each set having 10 repetitions. To get into the habit of doing your exercises everyday – you can do it simultaneously when you brush your teeth or hair or prepare meals.
Don’t be discouraged if you are still having bladder problems. It take times and patience to strengthen your pelvic muscles with exercise. If you are attending birthing classes at the hospital don’t be shy to ask your midwife for more information on the right techniques of doing these exercises.