Your pelvic floor is the basket of muscles nestled within your pelvis. This network and various layers of muscle are responsible for peeing, pooing, supporting your growing baby and of course helping you when you give birth.
During your pregnancy, these muscles have to do a lot of extra work to support your bump. To help them (and to help yourself after you have a baby) pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, are essential every day right the way through your pregnancy.
They will help improve the tone of your muscles and whether you give birth vaginally, or via c-section, will reduce your chance of suffering any incontinence or leaking of urine after your baby is born.
They can be done very safely in pregnancy and should be part of your daily routine before, during and after pregnancy. In fact, all women of any age should do them, as your pelvic floor loses significant tone and strength once you hit the menopause.
In Ireland, we have one of the highest rates of urinary incontinence in Europe, and one of the major reasons for this is that we are not doing enough pelvic floor exercises. Do them, your post-pregnancy and older self will thank you for it!
Remember, no one will know you are doing them so try and pick something that you do often, like making a cup of tea or washing your hands and make the exercises associated with that, so you don’t forget them. You should be aiming to do them several times a day, every day.
To find which muscles you are talking about, imagine stopping the flow of urine when you are peeing. It is absolutely not recommended that you do the exercises whilst peeing, but doing this once to find which muscles you are exercising can be helpful.
- Find a comfortable position, either sitting or standing.
- Take a few deep breaths and relax the muscles of your thighs, bottom and tummy.
- Imagine you are trying to close an imaginary zip that starts at your pubic bone and goes right to your tail bone:
- Squeeze in the muscles around the front passage as if trying to stop the flow of urine.
- Squeeze in the muscles around the vagina and suck upwards inside the pelvic.
- Squeeze in the muscles around the back passage as if trying to stop passing wind.
- Hold for 3 seconds and relax. When you get more strength, try holding for slightly longer. Repeat this 10-15 times and take a little break. Once you build up your strength, you can do a few repetitions with a short break in between. If you feel uncomfortable, stop.
- If you aren’t sure how to do them or feel you are doing them incorrectly, talk to your midwife, or physio in the maternity hospital and they will be happy to advise.
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