Moms are told all the time *do your pelvic floor exercises!*. But Kegels (named after the gynecologist who invented them, a bloke, incidentally. Go figure…) and pelvic floor exercises can be confusing. You’ve heard about them so many times, you almost don’t like to ask, “HOW do I do pelvic floor exercises?”, and WHY are they so important?”
Your pelvic floor is the set of muscles that encircle your urethra, vagina and anus. They attach at the front and at the back of your pelvic girdle (the bones that make up your pelvis) from pubic bone to tailbone, kind of like a hammock or sling.
Well it shouldn’t be shaped like a saggy hammock. It should be strong and functional, which also means being able to be fully relaxed and stretched. Too tight or too saggy – neither makes for a pelvic floor that really works.
When you think about what they have to support, it’s not surprising they need exercising to stay strong! 3 major organs of your pelvic region: your bladder, uterus and bowel are literally held in by your pelvic floor muscles. Pregnancy clearly means that the downward pull and weight from your uterus increases exponentially. You’ll also probably remember it puts a fair old weight and extra pressure on your bladder too, and squishes your bowel out of position in the later stages of pregnancy too.
3 major organs, the weight of a baby, and the massive pressure of possibly hours of pushing down hard during labour. A c-section may mean you avoided the pushing or any tearing, but the weight borne throughout pregnancy will still very much apply.
There’s a lot more to pelvic floor exercises than ‘squeezing as if you’re trying not to urinate’. The odd squeeze while you’re waiting at the bus stop is not going to cut it.
Not only that, but squeeze too much and squeeze wrong and you will actually make it weaker. Seriously. If you keep tucking your butt and shortening the distance from tailbone to the front of your pubis (kinda like placing those 2 trees closer together) the effect is a shorter, (too tight / hypertonic) pelvic floor. Seems ‘stronger’ for a while, but a shortened muscle isn’t an effective muscle. Weak isn’t always too loose. Weak can also be too tight/short.
You need to breathe right too. Seriously… the breathing matters. See Yoga For Your Pelvic Floor here
You need to focus and connect with your body. Maybe this sounds a little ‘far out’ for you, but many women cut off emotionally and physically from certain parts of their body after childbirth because it doesn’t feel as sensitive, as sexy or fun as it used to be… if you don’t like the way parts of your body look right now, or how they make you feel, then you’re going to find it much harder to reconnect those nerve pathways and make the muscles do their job.
The most important part of doing your pelvic floor exercises is not to think of them as isolated little squeezes, but as integral to your core strength, emotional and sexual well-being, as well as your self confidence. Incontinence or prolapse are no fun at all :( So please feel free to ask questions as frank or as intimate as you like and I’ll do my best to give you the straight answers you’re after!