How to train your pelvic floor like an Olympian

Last night the lovely women’s health physiotherapist, Melissa Millman came to talk with my pregnant and post natal ladies about the very important subject of pelvic floor.

I’ve interviewed the top gynaecologists and experts in this field for features and I’ve attended workshops with the top women’s health exercise professionals in the UK but I’m always learning. This part of a woman’s anatomy is still the subject of a great deal of scientific research and in particular, its role in sexual function.  I wanted to share some important reminders and some new learnings from last night’s talk.

Conversations with your midwife in your booking in appointment.

How many of you, during your booking in appointment, had a conversation with your midwife about pelvic floor health? Did you know it’s part of the NICE guidelines for your midwife to talk about it at this point (National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence)? Why? Well prevention is better than cure. If you start training your pelvic floor effectively from ten weeks into your pregnancy you have around seven months to make a difference.

Stress incontinence in early pregnancy.

It’s not all about post natal leaks. Some women experience a little leakage in the first trimesters of pregnancy. Why? According to Melissa it’s most common in women who are sensitive to hormonal shifts. In early pregnancy your oestrogen drops and progesterone rises, this is to ensure your body tissues become lax enough to allow for foetal growth. However, this laxity affects your whole body.

Take the urethra, your wee tube. It’s surrounded by two layers of pelvic floor muscle. One is conscious and can be trained much like you’d train a bicep, but the other is unconscious or involuntary. So in some women, the involuntary muscle becomes a bit too lax and allows leakage. This can be particularly unpleasant if you’re suffering from morning sickness.

Training the ‘trainable’ muscles can help make up for involuntary muscle weakness but also just knowing this is normal and non-permanent can help.

Train until you fatigue

It’s one thing doing a quick squeeze every now and again but if you really want to build up strength in your pelvic floor muscles you need to train them like you’d train your body in the gym – until you reach fatigue. You need to finish your training session and feel like you’ve worked out. The same is true for your pelvic floor muscles.

Slow and quick

Don’t forget that you need to do your quick, strong squeezes immediately after your slow ones. Think of it like warming up in the park before you do your short sprints.

Squeeze before you sneeze

If you are aware of a little leakage when you sneeze, research has shown that if you squeeze your pelvic floor before you sneeze you can minimize the problem.

Never stop!

The biggest age group of women experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction is post menopausal.  You need to work pelvic floor exercises into your life, for life, to ensure you don’t become one of the one in three women who frequently visit the shelves next to tampons in the supermarket.

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