One of the most common reasons my ante natal participants come to Fit School’s Epping classes is to get expert advice on their pelvic floor.
During pregnancy and birth, the pelvic floor muscles undergo some major stresses and strains. Obviously having great muscle tone before pregnancy, so being active and therefore regularly training your pelvic floor muscles is optimal but there’s still lots you can do during and after pregnancy.
Do I need to train my pelvic floor when I’m pregnant?
During pregnancy there is a lot of downwards pressure from your growing baby and uterus. Add to this a pregnant posture where your pelvis tips and adds more downwards pressure and lots of pregnancy hormones which can do funny things to your lady parts. Training your pelvic floor is a pregnancy essential.
Will pelvic floor muscles help with delivery?
Your pelvic floor muscles will help to push baby out, the healthier they are, the better equipped you’ll be to get baby out under your own steam. A well trained pelvic floor BEFORE delivery will also pay dividends when it comes to birth recovery.
What about C-sections – do I still need to bother?
You might not get to the pushing out part but you’ll still have had the same pregnancy hormones and downwards pressure throughout your pregnancy.
Have I left it too late?
It is never too late. Don’t forget that you don’t just have to squeeze to train your pelvic floor muscles. The more active you are, the more they’ll be working anyway. But it’s always good to put in some dedicated pregnancy practice.
So I just have to squeeze once a day?
Squeeze as often as you can. And don’t forget to squat, walk, lift, relax and pulse too. All those other ways to ensure your bits are in the best shape for pregnancy, labour and recovery that we learn in class.
Squeeze, lift, squat, pulse, slowly lift, slowly relax – there are so many ways. Your pelvic floor works constantly but also at an intense level when you sneeze (or orgasm). Think of it like sprinting and endurance. The best place to start is on a hard chair. Lift up and you’ll get feedback from something hard underneath you.
Why is it so important?
According to a 2000 study published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at least one in three women is affected by pelvic floor disorders (PFD) and these are just reported cases. The University of Adelaide study found urinary incontinence affects 17% to 45% of adult women – with age being a big factor. Surgery is an absolute last resort. Pelvic floor exercises are THE BEST WAY to keep your pelvic floor healthy and functional.
According to Women’s Health Physiotherapist Zoë Eggleton, 1 in 2 women have some sort of pelvic organ prolapse and many women aren’t doing their pelvic floor exercises correctly.
I pee a little when I laugh or cough – isn’t that just normal?
A little problem when you are young could be a much bigger problem when you hit the menopause/get older and lose a lot of muscle tone.
What increases my risk of pelvic floor problems?
- Big babies;
- Being overweight;
- Being inactive;
- Forceps or other birth intervention;
- A chronic cough;
- Menopause; and
- Age at which you deliver your first baby.
What about once I’ve had the baby – how long will it be until I can feel them again?
Everyone is different but even if you can’t feel them straight away you need to start doing your exercises to help healing and recovery.
Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and writes about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
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