Your pelvic floor is a group of ligaments and muscles that attach to the front of your pubic bone and the back of your tail bone from the base of your pelvis. The pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus and bowel. A strong pelvic floor is especially important before, during and after pregnancy because it prevents the involuntary loss of urine and faeces, as well as prolapse of the organs that it supports.
It is important for pregnant women to do pelvic floor exercises because this not only prevents stress incontinence during pregnancy – when there is already extra weight on your bladder and muscles – but also after pregnancy and a potentially stressful labour. In addition, strengthening these muscles will help you push when it’s time to give birth.
How Often Should I Exercise My Pelvic Floor?
Every woman should exercise her pelvic floor muscles every day. This will serve to improve muscle function and prevent any type of weakness when you need it the most.
How do I Identify My Pelvic Floor?
If you are unsure of how to find your pelvic floor muscles, there are a few things you could try. The next time you go to urinate, try to stop mid flow. Identify which muscles are holding back the urine and then release. Try this again when you are not on the toilet.
Another method of finding where your pelvic floor muscles are is to visualise them. First, lie down and relax your muscles. Then squeeze in the muscles of the front part of your pelvis as if you were trying to stop urinating. After that, identify your vaginal muscles and suck upwards with them, while then squeezing in muscles around under your tailbone as if you were trying to stop passing wind. Identify all of these regions and the muscles you are using, then release and tense again.
Consider Clinical Pilates
It is important to get the technique right to be effective. You may need to sit or lie down to contract the right muscles. If you cannot identify them, you may want to consider Clinical Pilates and seeing a women’s physiotherapist to help you get started.
Effective Pelvic Floor Exercises
Exercise 1 - Squeeze and Release
Once you’ve identified your pelvic muscles by clenching them, try finding the position that works best for you. You can be sitting, standing up tall, lying on your back with your legs a comfortable distance apart and your knees bent, or you can be bent over on your hands and knees.
Close your eyes and again identify the muscles by pretending not to pass wind or urinate. Hold them as tight as possible for three to five seconds, and then release slowly. If you are doing it correctly, you should feel the muscles squeeze up inside you before coming back down again. If you can go for longer, do it, but no longer than eight seconds. Repeat this exercise, stopping between each rep, for 10 reps, or until you are too tired. Do this every day, three times a day. Try a different position each time you do it.
For a quick and powerful set, tighten your pelvic floor muscles as hard and strong as you can for just a second or two and then release. Do 10 to 20 fast reps and squeezes, resting for a few seconds if you need to between each exercise. If you can do this one to three times a day, you will see the best results.
Exercise 2 - The Hundred
There is a range of Clinical Pilates exercises you can do to strengthen your core, and by association, your pelvic floor. A very effective exercise is to lie on your back and bring your knees up into a raised, tabletop position. Raise your head up to begin the contraction of your muscles, and extend your arms in front of you on either side of your thighs, and then extend your legs to a 45-degree angle. Begin pumping your arms up and down 100 times, remembering to breathe in and out as your do.
Have any questions about pelvic floor muscles? Maybe you have your own exercises that you enjoy. Feel free to leave a comment and start the discussion.