Take control of your bladder
Learn how to control your bladder once more!
Sheila Bond is a Chartered Physiotherapist with a particular expertise in helping pregnancy women reduce the aches and pains of pregnancy and new mothers to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible.
This week she’s helping us understand the importance of pelvic floor exercises for women during pregnancy and beyond..
My pelvic floor – what actually is it?
The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles which is attached to the pubic symphysis at the front and the coccyx at the back. Think of your pelvis as a bowl and the pelvic floor muscles as the bottom of the bowl.
The pelvic floor muscles resemble a figure of eight round the back passage, vagina and urethra (tube to the bladder). When these muscles are strong and healthy, bladder, bowel and prolapse problems are rare.
How does my pelvic floor change during pregnancy?
- The pelvic floor muscles get stretched during pregnancy, because of the extra weight that they support.
- They get stretched even more during the baby’s birth, particularly if the baby is large or if forceps or other forms of assistance are needed during labour.
- This stretching can lead to small amounts of urine leaking from the bladder when we cough or sneeze. This is called stress incontinence. Many women are too embarrassed to seek treatment for incontinence but it is very common and can usually be helped by doing pelvic floor exercises.
Why is it important to do pelvic floor exercises?
If you are noticing that you haven’t got full control of your bladder, the answer to this question is obvious – to take back control! Even if you are fine at the moment, the pelvic floor tends to get more weakened and stretched with each further pregnancy and delivery. It is much easier to ‘nip it in the bud’ and work on the exercises now.
Other benefits include:
- Increased pelvic floor strength also supports your pelvic organs.
- A strong pelvic floor is important in stabilizing your back and pelvis and preventing pain.
- Increasing pelvic floor strength can improve sexual satisfaction.
What exercises can I do?
You can exercise the pelvic floor muscles in any position, lying, sitting or standing. It is easier to start in a lying position and progress to sitting and standing as your muscle gets stronger.
Follow these easy steps:
- Tighten the ring of muscle around your back passage as though preventing a bowel movement or wind escaping. Tighten the muscles around the front passage, or vagina, as though trying to stop yourself passing urine.
- Aim to hold both the front and the back pelvic floor muscles tight for 5-10 seconds (without holding your breath) and then relax.
- Repeat this up to 10 times, followed by 5-10 quick squeezes (i.e. tighten back and front passages and relax)
- The pelvic floor muscles work with your lower abdominal muscles. Therefore as you draw up your pelvic floor muscles you should feel your lower abdomen draw in slightly.
How often do I need to do pelvic floor exercises?
Aim to repeat both exercises 3-6 times a day. A good time to do the exercises is when you are feeding your baby.