After nine months of transformation your body will arrive at the main event: birth. As a pelvic floor physiotherapist I would love for all women around the world to arrive at birth as informed and prepared as possible. Maintaining your pelvic floor strength during pregnancy is an important part of this preparation.
Most women think about their pelvic floor health after pregnancy or birth because they start experiencing issues like leakage, pain or strange sensations. It’s often not until women have symptoms of pelvic floor weakness that they decide to seek help from a pelvic floor physiotherapist, but what can be done to prevent these issues?
Pregnancy is the perfect moment to bring awareness to this hidden part of your body. It is important to become familiar with your pelvic floor muscles as soon as possible, exercising and maintaining them in the right way.
Pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy
Awareness of your pelvic floor muscles
Awareness is always the first step. You will need a fitball or a rolled up towel for this exercise. When you sit on the fitball or towel you are increasing the area in contact with your pelvic floor .
Try to feel your pelvic bones moving really slowly with the contact of the fitball or towel. If you roll to the front you will feel your pubis, if you go to both sides you will feel your sit bones and if you go to your back you will feel your coccyx and the end of your spine. Between these bones we have the pelvic floor muscles.
If you try to do a pelvic floor contraction in this position you will feel a change in pressure. Focus on that feeling, improving your proprioception or awareness of the pelvic floor.
Doing these exercises during pregnancy will also increase your pelvic range, creating more space for your baby.
Once you have a strong awareness of your pelvic floor muscles, it is time to learn how to contract them - and avoid issues like leakage when you laugh or sneeze in the last trimester of pregnancy!
Breathing correctly is essential when learning to exercise your pelvic floor muscles effectively. The breath will balance the different pressures in your abdominals and your pelvic floor, reducing the likelihood of pain and helping you to push during the birth.
Breathe correctly by inflating your belly slightly when you inhale and then tucking your belly button in slightly when you exhale.
Learn how to contract your pelvic floor muscles
Using the breathing technique above, squeeze and lift your pelvic floor as you exhale, without contracting any other muscles. Hold this contraction for 5-8 seconds.
When you contract your pelvic floor imagine that these muscles are an elevator: you close the doors and the elevator goes up to your abdominals. This can help you identify if you are exercising correctly.
It is important not to activate other muscles, like the muscles inside your legs or your glutes, while doing pelvic floor exercises. Try to isolate the contraction to your pelvic floor.
Don’t forget to keep breathing when you are exercising your pelvic floor!
If you cannot hold the contraction for the full 5-8 seconds yet, don’t worry. Keep working on it and you will improve.
Devices, like Elvie Trainer, will help you to see your contraction and to have more propioception (mind-body awareness). It is a great device to help learn how to exercise your pelvic floor, increase your awareness and it even sends reminders to help motivate you.
Activate your transverse abdominis
Finally, activating the transverse abdominis (the muscles at the front and sides of your core) will make your pelvic floor exercises more effective. It is important to activate the transverse abdominis like a girdle, realigning your centre of gravity and supporting the additional weight without hurting your lower back or pelvic floor.
Do this by pulling your belly button in and up when you exhale. A good way to think about this during pregnancy is to imagine hugging your baby.
6 tips to maintain your pelvic floor health during pregnancy:
Visit a professional pelvic floor specialist to give you an assessment of your pelvic floor health
Exercise your pelvic floor!
Support your back and pelvic posture
Stay active. Try low impact sports like yoga and walking
Include plenty of fibre and water in your diet
Enjoy some pelvic floor massage to help you to relax
This blog post was written by Goretti Font, a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Goretti is co-owner of a medical center in Girona where they have a department of womens health called GMGdona.
GMGdona supports women at different stages of life such as before, during and after pregnancy and throughout menopause with a focus on incontinence and pelvic floor issues. To find out more visit www.gabinetmedic.com.
If you enjoyed this post let us know on social media by tagging @elvie and @gabinetmedicgirona. Or if you're ready to invest in your self-care get your hands on an Elvie Trainer, our award-winning Kegel trainer.