Working your pelvic floor in pregnancy

Did you know that regardless of your mode of delivery, the effects of your pregnancy alone will predispose you to pelvic floor muscle weakness?

Pregnancy is physically demanding and the pelvic floor tissues are placed under great strain from the mother’s increasing body weight along with the weight of her growing fetus. Be aware of the effects of pregnancy hormones too as they soften the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues in preparation for childbirth. These mechanisms lead to significant stretching of the physical support systems suspending your pelvic organs (including bladder, bowel, and uterus).

There are a number of factors that put some women at greater risk of developing pelvic floor problems during pregnancy and childbirth. The risk of pelvic floor issues increases for women who have had:

  • multiple births
  • instrumental births (using forceps or ventouse)
  • long second stage of labour (over 1 hour)
  • severe perineal tearing, or
  • large babies (over 4Kg)

Pregnancy-related pelvic floor dysfunction is very common, affecting almost 50% of all women following childbirth. Some of the conditions affecting women following pregnancy include:

  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Voiding dysfunction (including bladder sensation/emptying abnormalities)
  • Defecation dysfunction, obstructed defecation, and constipation

The good news is that these conditions can often be prevented or better managed by adopting appropriate lifestyle changes and, in most cases, by exercising your pelvic floor muscles.

Like any muscle in your body, improving strength and function of the pelvic floor muscles requires intensive and progressive training, with regular follow-up encouraged.

Regularly performing pelvic floor exercises can help you maintain bladder and bowel control throughout pregnancy. Having good pelvic floor muscle tone helps reduce your risk of developing a prolapse during or after pregnancy and can assist with recovery after birth.

But it’s concerning to note that studies have shown up to half of all women perform these exercises incorrectly. It’s a good idea to learn to do them the right way or you could risk doing more damage. Before you start pelvic floor muscle exercises, it is important that you can identify, contract, relax, and coordinate these muscles correctly.

Make an appointment today to have an experienced Continence & Women’s Health Physiotherapist assess your pelvic floor, help you find and isolate these muscles, and tailor an individualised pelvic floor muscle training program for you.

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