Pelvic Floor Exercises During and After Pregnancy
Pelvic floor exercises (PVE) can lead to shorter labour and a faster post-birth recovery
Passing your baby through your pelvis is demanding not only on you but also on your pelvic muscles. So even if you’ve never thought much about them (or maybe never yet realised you had any), you’ll want to pay attention to your pelvic muscles during and after pregnancy. And not only do they play an important role in delivery, but they keep your urine from leaking when you cough or laugh (a skill set you’re only likely to notice when it’s gone).
Fortunately, there’s one exercise that experts agree can help prevent problems with your pelvic muscles after birth and even make your labour go a little smoother: Pelvic floor exercises. If you do only one exercise during pregnancy, make it this one.
What is a pelvic floor exercise?
Your pelvic-floor muscles act as a sling for the bladder, uterus and rectum. One of the most important long-term health recommendations for healing and recovering after birth is to do PFE to help keep your pelvic floor muscles healthy during pregnancy, help get them back in shape after delivery and possibly prevent urinary incontinence.
How to do a pelvic floor exercise:
Start with an empty bladder. Imagine that you’re trying to stop yourself from passing gas and trying to stop the flow of urine midstream at the same time. The feeling is one of “squeeze and lift” – a closing and drawing up of the front and back passages. Squeeze and hold those same muscles for 10 seconds and then slowly release. Squeeze again and release quickly. Do 20 10-second holds five times a day.
If you haven’t been doing pelvic floor exercises, start by holding each squeeze for a few seconds before releasing, and relax for a few seconds after each one. As your muscles get stronger, you’ll want to work up to holding each squeeze for ten seconds, then relaxing for ten seconds after each one. If you’re suffering from urinary incontinence, try to hold a squeeze while you sneeze, cough, or lift something. You may find that it helps keep you from leaking.
When should I start and stop doing pelvic floor exercises?
It’s never too early to start but the earlier you practice them, the greater the benefits.
Don’t stop! Following birth, you have to continue the exercise to maintain your strength and ward off incontinence as you age. So make doing pelvic floor exercises a lifelong habit.
After you’ve delivered, you can restart your PFE routine immediately. Make it a habit to do them regularly (while, say, you’re feeding your baby) to stimulate circulation, promote healing and improve muscle tone. Don’t worry if you can’t feel yourself doing them initially — the perineum will be numb after birth, but feeling will return gradually over the next few weeks. In the meantime, the work is being done even if you can’t feel it.
You can ‘learn how’ and practice your pelvic floor exercises as part of preparing your mind and body for birth by attending our weekly pregnancy yoga & Hypnobirthing class.
There’s also a great ‘SQUEEZE’ app you can download to remind you https://www.squeezyapp.com/how-it-works/