In women, pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, bowel and womb and have been affected both by stretching them during pregnancy and delivery regardless of how your baby was born. It is important that these muscles are exercised following the birth of your baby in order that they continue to support these organs in later life.
Women with strong pelvic floor muscles are less likely to suffer from prolapse or leakage from their bladder or bowel. Toning these muscles in the short term can also reduce swelling and soreness. Pelvic floor exercises are quick, simple and can be done anywhere as long as you are comfortable.
Start pelvic floor exercise gently and increase the strength and frequency of the exercises, as feels comfortable. Try to repeat these exercises four to six times every day:
- Imagine that you are trying to stop your flow of urine or stopping yourself from passing wind. You should feel a gentle lift and squeeze around your front and back passages. This is the basic exercise that will tone these muscles.
- Every woman is different and it is important that you don’t strain yourself. Start gently by holding this ‘squeeze’ for five seconds.
- Rest and repeat the exercise up to ten times.
- Gradually increase the length of time you can hold it for (up to a maximum of ten seconds) as the muscles become stronger.
- Next try to squeeze and lift more quickly and release immediately (up to ten times). This will help to reduce leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh. It is important that if you have any problems with your bladder that you discuss it with your GP.
- Hold your breath
- Tighten your tummy excessively
- Tighten you buttocks
- Squeeze your legs together.
Start gently and increase the strength and frequency of the exercises, as feels comfortable. Try to repeat these exercises four to six times everyday.
Day 1 after the birth and onwards
Sit comfortably on a firm chair with your knees slightly apart, lean forward over your knees with your elbows resting on your thighs. Relax in this position.
Stage 1 - tighten your back passage - imagine that you are stopping yourself passing wind, focus on the tightening around the opening of the bowel. Do not squeeze your buttocks or leg muscles.
Stage 2 - tighten your vagina and front passage - imagine that you are trying to stop the flow of urine. Focus on this tightening. Try to feel the muscles lifting upwards and forwards towards the pubic bone.
Stage 3 - do both of the above tightening exercises together and hold this. How many seconds can you hold? Aim for 5 seconds. When you let go, can you feel the muscles relax? If not, you have held too long. Try again with a shorter hold.
Pelvic floor exercises
Exercise One Slow pull-up - tighten the pelvic floor muscles slowly as in Stage three. Continue to hold for as long as you can, relax and feel the muscle let go. Rest for a count of 5 seconds. Repeat this five times. As it gets easier, gradually increase length of hold and number of repeats.
Exercise two Fast pull-up - tighten the pelvic floor muscles quickly. Do not hold and feel the muscle. Let go straight away. Repeat this five times – approximately one contraction per second.
Pelvic floor exercise routine - do exercises one and two at each session. That is, five slow pull-ups and five fast pull-ups. Aim to repeat each session up to five times each day.
Transversus Abdominus - take a breath in. Then, as you breathe out, gently draw in your abdominal muscles below your tummy button (imagine you are taking in a notch in a low slung belt) and hold for several seconds whilst breathing normally. Repeat 5-10 times, resting between each pull-in. Try to do this exercise several times a day sitting, side-lying or standing. They work with the slow pelvic floor pull-ups, so you could do them together.
What if I have any problems?
If you have any persistent pain, loss of bladder or bowel control or difficulties with sexual intercourse you should contact your GP who may refer you to see a physiotherapist.
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise
For information on pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain visit pelvic girdle pain.