How to protect your pelvic floor during pregnancy
The Pelvic Floor is a muscle that isn’t given a lot of thought until we become pregnant. For most of us, we don’t even really worry about our pelvic floor until after pregnancy when suddenly it doesn’t feel quite right. I am like most women. I had zero interest in my pelvic floor before I became pregnant. Even during pregnancy, when I had the warning signs of bladder leaking, I wasn’t concerned about my pelvic floor. I was more worried about how I was going to get my body back and when I’d be able to return to exercise.
Before we start… What is the Pelvic Floor?
Your pelvic floor is a combination of muscle, ligaments and fascia that sit in your pelvic bowl. Your pelvic floor connects to your tailbone and the back, your pubic bone at the front and your sit bones on either side. It acts like a hammock or sling to support your bowel, bladder and uterus.
Being pregnant can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to weakness or incontinence. Constipation is really common during pregnancy and can place more strain on your pelvic floor.
During labour and birth, your pelvic floor needs to be able to stretch to allow for the passage of your baby down the birth canal. So it is important to be able to contract and engage your pelvic floor muscles, but also to be able to release them!
Why is the pelvic floor important?
- A strong pelvic floor will help to keep your insides-inside and prevent or reduce pelvic organ prolapse. When your pelvic floor is weakened, you can be more susceptible to pelvic organ prolapse. A condition where your pelvic organs, bladder, uterus or bowel can prolapse and bulge into your vaginal wall.
- A strong pelvic floor may help to reduce incontinence. Incontinence is said to affect 37% of Australian Women.
- A strong pelvic floor can improve sexual pleasure and confidence.
- Your pelvic floor is a vital part of your ‘core’. It will help you to create a strong body after baby.
How do you contract the pelvic floor muscles?
Here are some of my favourite visualisation cues to help you get a good contraction on your pelvic floor.
Clock. Imagine the walls of your vagina like the numbers on a clock. Your pubic bone is 12 o’clock. Your tailbone is 6 o’clock, your two sit bones are 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Take a deep breath in. On the exhale engage all 4 sides of the clock by drawing in from 6 o’clock, then 12 o’clock and then 3 and 9 o’clock. Lift your pelvic floor up from the centre before fully releasing.
Flower. Similar to the clock analogy, imagine the 4 walls of your vagina like an open flower with 4 petals. Draw the four petals into the centre and lift the closed bud. Take a breath in, hold and exhale to fully release.
Don’t forget to breathe. You should be able to engage and lift your pelvic floor whilst maintain a neutral breath.
It is easy to get your pelvic floor contractions wrong. My number #1 tip when it comes to pelvic floor is to have your pelvic floor and core strength assessed by a Physio specialising in Women’s Health and Continence.
What are some basic pelvic floor exercises for pregnant mums?
1. Endurance Holds
Here you are trying to maintain a pelvic floor contraction for an extended period of time.
- Engage and lift your pelvic floor for 3-4 seconds before releasing fully.
- Repeat 8-10 rounds.
- Slowly build up by increasing by 1 to 2 seconds each day.
2. Power Lifts
- Engage your pelvic floor as quickly and powerfully as you can.
- Fully release.
- Lift straight back up with no rest in between.
- Aim for 10 power contractions.
Posture, pregnancy and your pelvic floor
Fitting exercise into a busy schedule
How your changing body impacts exercise during pregnancy