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Pelvic floor exercises

Exercising your pelvic floor should be as important a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth. Read more


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Pelvic Floor Exercises

Your pelvic floor is your first line defence against problems with incontinence and prolapse. Kegel exercises for your pelvic floor should be as important a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth. Many people new to pelvic floor exercises think that they take a huge amount of physical effort or even that they have to get down on the floor to perform them (hence the name!).

Neither of these is true. Anyone can perform pelvic floor exercises, even if they have other illnesses or are confined to a wheelchair or bed. You can also do them immediately after vaginal surgery or childbirth. The only time you are advised to wait is if you have a catheter in your bladder.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Before you begin to exercise your pelvic floor, you need to think about the position you are in and how you are breathing. If you are in a slumped posture, then it is harder for the muscles to contract effectively.

Some people can feel more happening when they are sitting down, whereas others prefer to begin lying down with their knees bent or on their hands and knees. The easiest position to start with is sitting.

Sit in an upright position without slumping your back. Relax your shoulders down and let your tummy muscles relax too.

Now place one hand on your tummy and the other on your upper chest. Try to make sure that your upper chest is not moving more than your tummy as you breathe. As you breathe in you should feel your tummy rise and then it should fall as you breathe out.

Now, on the next breathe out, pull up and in down below as though you are trying to stop yourself passing wind or going for a wee. You should feel a lifting and tightening sensation in or around your vagina or back passage. Try to hold that contraction for a count of 5 whilst you breathe normally. Then relax your pelvic floor for a count of 10.

Some people feel more happening at the front, whereas others feel more at the back. As long as you can feel something happening between the front and back, that is fine.

As you tighten you shouldn’t feel your buttock muscles clenching (you can tell this is happening if your bottom lifts off the chair!)  or your upper tummy muscles contracting (your back will bend forwards slightly if this is happening). You may feel your lower tummy muscles tighten and this is fine as this muscle works with your pelvic floor.  It is also important not to hold your breath.

If you struggle to feel what is happening then the Educator is a useful tool to show you if the pelvic floor muscles are contracting. This is something that you can use at home before you see a health professional.

Research shows that you should be doing 10 pelvic floor exercises three times  a day in order to see a difference in your symptoms. It can take up to 3 months for you to regain your strength so do persevere. Once you are confident that you know what you are doing, you should aim to hold the contraction for 10 seconds each time.  When this is easy then you can begin to perform fast contractions too. To do this you contract your muscles in the same way but then you tighten and let go quickly, 10 times in a row. It is still important not to hold your breath and not to tighten your buttock or upper tummy muscles.

Although it will take some effort to get these exercises right initially, you can soon make it part of your everyday routine. 

By Alison Bourne MA (Cantab) BSc MCSP ACPWH