Your Pelvic Floor In Pregnancy
Stress incontinence- or leaking from your bladder- affects up to a third of all new mums. But it’s not just the stretching from the birth that causes this – your pelvic floor can actually become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy. If you leak urine during your pregnancy, you are also five times more likely to be incontinent after your baby is born so it’s not something you should just ignore in the hope it will go away. The good news is that there is plenty you can do to prevent your pelvic floor muscles from letting your bladder down.
Starting your pelvic floor exercises as early as possible can help to protect you from incontinence during and after your pregnancy. There is a link between how strong your pelvic floor muscles are when you are 20 weeks pregnant and how strong they will be a year after your baby is born. Good pelvic floor muscles may also help to shorten the second stage of labour (where you push your baby out) and may help with the healing of any stitches you might need after the birth. Another benefit of these exercises is that they can help to improve your sex life too!
How do I do them?
On a breath out, imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and trying to stop your flow of urine at the same time. The feeling is one of lifting up and in around your front and back passages. Some women will feel more happening at the front and some will feel more happening around their bottom. Don’t worry too much about this. As long as you can feel a tightening, a squeeze or a lift somewhere between your front and back passages you will be tightening your pelvic floor.
That sounds simple enough but to do it properly you need to tighten those pelvic floor muscles without pulling in your upper tummy muscles (above your belly button), squeezing your legs or buttocks together or holding your breath! When you’re learning, this can feel a little like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time.
If you’re not sure if you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly then you can check by placing one or two fingers inside your vagina to see if anything is happening. Only do this if you have not been told to avoid sex in your pregnancy and if you do not have any bleeding or infections. You should feel a gentle squeeze and lift inside your vagina. You can also try to tighten your muscles during sex and ask your partner if he can feel the squeeze!
When you are pregnant, it is just as important to learn how to relax your pelvic floor as it is to tighten it. When your baby’s head appears, your muscles need to relax as it passes through the birth canal. After you have tightened your pelvic floor muscles, make sure you relax them fully and for a slow count to 10 before you tighten them again.
Studies show that performing pelvic floor exercises during your pregnancy can help to prevent leaking after your baby is born, regardless of what type of delivery you have. It is also much harder to learn how to do these exercises after your baby is born so get as much practice in as you can now.