Check out the pelvic floor exercises info-graphic we made for you here!
If you only manage one pregnancy or postnatal exercise (and please do more!), then it has to be pelvic floor exercises. All pre/post exercise programs should include these – if yours doesn’t – get a new one!
Your pelvic floor muscles act as a muscular ‘sling’ which supports your internal organs (it literally holds them in preventing prolapse), provides bladder and sphincter control and gives you better orgasms… So it’s pretty important.
If you’re pregnant now, you’re also going to need them to push your baby out.
Pelvic Floor exercises during Pregnancy are VITAL to keep your core muscles in shape as pregnancy progresses. If you have a vaginal delivery, strong muscles stretch more easily than weak ones, so a ‘toned’ pelvic floor has a better chance of avoiding episiotomy (cutting) and tearing. If you have a c-section, the pelvic floor is not spared I’m afraid – it will still have been stretched and put under pressure during pregnancy by the weight and gravity of your baby.
After your baby is born, postnatal pelvic floor exercises should be the first exercise you do – there is no time limit – start as soon as you can remember to! Many, many mums are all too familiar with ‘stress incontinence’: a slight leak (or worse) when coughing, sneezing, jumping, trying to run for a bus, laughing…
…and just like spilt abdominal muscles and a mummy tummy, a weak pelvic floor does not have be ‘just part of being a mother!’
Pelvic floor exercises can be done anywhere, anytime. No one knows you’re doing them but you, and you don’t have to put your running shoes on. You can be lying down, sitting or standing, in the car, in a meeting or feeding your baby.
How to do Pelvic Floor Exercises / Kegels:
Kegels are often described as stopping yourself from urinating, but there’s a bit more to it than that. (Um, the baby didn’t come out of that hole…) They can actually be more effective if you imagine you’re trying not to fart. Yes really – if you draw in your sphincter muscles, your vaginal muscles will also tighten slightly (the muscle system is all connected). Then imagine you’re trying to stop yourself from urinating – try to differentiate and identify front, middle and back. Squeeze and release them from front to back, then back to front…
Coordinate your breathing with your gentle squeezing – alway breathe out as you squeeze, and relax everything (don’t push away, just let go) as you inhale.
Important: the ‘relax’ phase is absolutely as important as the contract phase, so let it go! And keep the contraction gentle – pelvic floor exercise should never be a forceful contraction.
Once you’ve identified and focused on the very front (urethral opening) of the muscle, then on the very back (sphincter), then you may find it easier to LIFT the muscles surrounding the middle, vaginal opening.
Try quick squeezes / lifts, as you contract and release the muscles for just a second at a time. Do this 10 times, rest for a couple of seconds, then do another 10.
Also longer holds. Starting with 5 seconds, repeated 5 times. Take a minute break then do the set again. You can build up to 10 second holds with 10 repetitions.
Do both types, and aim to do the whole set 2-3 times a day. Seriously, it might not feel like much, but these exercises are the differences between post-baby bladder control and wetting yourself! They’re worth it.
Important to remember when doing pelvic floor exercises / kegels:
- Don’t hold your breath! Try counting out loud to make sure you breathe
- When you release, don’t push out or down, just let go
- Make sure other, bigger muscles aren’t doing the work instead – there should be NO contraction in your backside or inner thigh muscles
- Your pelvis, tummy, shoulders or anything else shouldn’t move – make sure you isolate the important pelvic floor muscles
- MULTITASK! As you engage your pelvic floor muscles, gently draw your belly button inwards, activating your deep core muscle, your transverse abdominis
Finally, if you’re having trouble identifying the right muscles at all, try doing the exercises at first sitting on a fitball (swiss ball), as this can help you to feel the contraction in the early postpartum weeks when you may have limited sensitivity.