Your pelvic floor muscles go through a lot during pregnancy. They surround and support all the organs in your pelvic area, including your womb, bladder and bowels.
During pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles naturally loosen thanks to all of the hormonal changes in your body. As the baby grows, additional pressure on your bladder can sometimes cause you to leak a little urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or while exercising.
While this can be inconvenient and sometimes feel embarrassing, you certainly aren’t alone, and there are certain steps you can take to help strengthen those pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and avoid any unwanted leaks, as well as help prepare your pelvic floor for labour, and speeding up recovery.
Bladder leaks after the birth of your baby are not normal, and you do not have to accept them as part of life! Seek review from a specialised women’s health physio through your healthcare provider, if you are suffering from incontinence after the birth of your baby.
How to do pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises, or Kegels, are quick and easy to do and even can be done on the go! The main focus of pelvic floor exercises is squeezing and relaxing the same muscles you’d normally use to stop a stream of urine or to stop yourself from passing wind.
To help find the right muscles, try stopping an imaginary wee – you should feel a slight lift as the muscles contract. If in doubt, chat to your doctor who can help you to locate the right muscles.
Once you’ve found the right muscles, squeeze them, imagining you’re lifting them as high as they’ll go. From there, you can choose either:
- Long hold: squeeze those pelvic floor muscles for as long as you can, around 10 seconds, then relax for a few seconds and repeat again. You may struggle to hold the muscle for more than a couple of seconds when you first begin pelvic floor exercise – that’s totally natural! After a few weeks, you’ll gradually be able to increase the hold time as your muscles begin to strengthen.
- Contract and release: Quickly contract the muscles for a short 1 or 2-second burst, wait 5 seconds, then repeat. Do this several times in quick succession to help your muscles strengthen and have more acute reactions to sudden stresses.
The more you practise, the easier the exercises will become. Start small and gradually increase the number of repetitions and duration of your squeezes. While there’s no set rule on how often is best to practise pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to aim for a few times a day.
Tips for doing pelvic floor exercises
One of the easiest ways to implement pelvic floor exercises is to incorporate them into your daily routine. Keep these tips in mind while you practise:
- Don’t strain or hold your breath – keep your abdominal area, thighs and buttocks muscles relaxed, focusing all your energy on your pelvic floor.
- Don’t do pelvic floor exercises while you’re going to the toilet, this can cause issues with your bladder and prevent it from emptying fully.
- Try to associate your pelvic floor exercises with something you do regularly, like sitting down to watch TV or washing your hands. This helps your exercises become part of your routine and much easier to remember.
- Don’t go too fast, too quickly. Build yourself up slowly, gradually adding in more repetitions and holding time. You may feel a little soreness around your pelvic area when you first begin pelvic floor exercises, but if you feel any pain, speak to your doctor.
Benefits of pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy
There are a number of health benefits associated with doing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy, including:
- Improved bladder control – Having a strong pelvic floor can come in handy both during, and after you’ve given birth – helping alleviate or prevent conditions such as urinary incontinence or stress incontinence.
- Lessen the risk of bowel incontinence – along with your pelvic floor muscles, you’ll also be exercising your rectal muscles, helping to prevent bowel incontinence issues in the future.
- Peak pelvic organ support – your pelvic floor comes under a lot of strain during pregnancy and childbirth. Some women, particularly those who experience long, or difficult births may suffer from pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor exercises can help prevent this during or after birth.
Find out more
Pelvic floor exercises are just an additional little step towards improving your overall health and wellbeing during pregnancy. With patience and practice, they’ll become another beneficial part of your daily routine.
Our team of health professionals are ready to guide you through your pregnancy and into parenthood. We are a modern alternative, drawing on the very latest evidence-based research. Together, let’s get ready to parent.