Pelvic floor exercises should be a regular part of every woman’s fitness routine.
I can’t stress enough the critical importance of maintaining strong pelvic floor muscles, especially for pre and post natal women.
When I was pregnant I was advised by mothers, doctors and midwives to regularly do my pelvic floor exercises, but until I had my son I didn’t fully comprehend how important their advice was.
Strong pelvic floor muscles are an integral part of your body’s internal core stabilisers. Maintaining and enhancing their strength daily will increase your likelihood of having a comparatively quick, complication-free delivery. Additionally it improves early postnatal pelvic floor recovery and reduces the risk of incontinence.
But how can I find my pelvic floor muscles?
In front, they attach to the pubic bone, and in back to the coccyx (tail bone). On the sides, these muscles connect to the bottom bones of the pelvis, the ischium also called the ‘sit bones’.
One way to identify your pelvic floor muscles is to try and stop or slow the flow of urine mid-flow. (Stopping the flow of urine repeatedly is not recommended and should only be done to identifying your pelvic floor muscles.) If you can, stop the flow of urine for a second or two, then relax and finish emptying your bladder without straining. This ‘stop-test’ may help you identify the muscles around the front passage.
Mental images can help to isolate pelvic floor muscles
Imagine your pelvic floor muscles are laced together like sneakers. As you contract your pelvic floor, visualise pulling the laces up the inside of your torso and the laces pulling the pelvic floor taut; Or imagine that you could pull your pubic bone and your tail bone closer together, feel the two bones moving closer together.
Intro to training your pelvic floor
Imagine letting go like you would to pass urine or to pass wind. Let your tummy muscles hang loose too. See if you can lift and then squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe. Nothing above the belly button should tighten or tense. Some tensing and flattening of the lower part of the abdominal wall will happen. This is not a problem, as this part of the tummy works together with the pelvic floor muscles.
Try tightening your muscles really gently to feel just the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing in. If you cannot feel your muscles contracting, change your position and do this again. For example, if you cannot feel your muscles contracting in a seated position, use a lying down or standing up position instead.
After a contraction it is important to relax the muscles. This will allow your muscles to recover from the previous contraction and prepare for the next contraction. It is common to try too hard and have too many outside muscles tighten. This is an internal exercise and correct technique is vital. Training pelvic floor muscles the wrong way can be bad for you, so please see a continence professional if you cannot feel your muscles hold or relax.
The Training Program
(Also known as Kegel exercises)
Once you master the art of contracting your pelvic floor muscles, try holding the inward squeeze for longer (up to 10 seconds) before relaxing. If you feel comfortable doing this, repeat it up to 20 times.
This can be done four to five times a day. Make sure you continue to breathe normally while you squeeze in. You can do the exercise lying down, sitting or standing with your legs apart, but make sure your thighs, bottom and stomach muscles are relaxed.
Linking the exercises to a regular activity such as meal times or brushing your teeth is a good way to incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine.
The exercise program prescribed here is only a guide and may not help if done incorrectly or if the training program is inappropriate.