Emma has complied a fact sheet for mums about why and what you need to do for your pelvic floor muscles. Take a look, its an interesting read….
Pelvic Floor Muscles written by Emma Redding Founder and director Buggyfit
We talk about our pelvic floor muscle as a singular however it is a group of pelvic floor muscles which act as a hammock to support the uterus, bladder bowels and other pelvic organs. As with the rest of our body, as the baby grows the weight bearing on the pelvic floor muscles increases and they become over stretched and weakened.
The most common ongoing problem caused by this is incontinence (a distinct lack of bladder control resulting in the leakage of urine.)
The pelvic floor muscles play a variety of vital roles during pregnancy and during childbirth and the stronger they are the better they will aid in the turning of the baby in the latter weeks and in helping to actually push the baby out. The pelvic floor muscles come under severe weakening even after a caesarean birth; this is due to the weight weakening the muscles in pregnancy. Multiple births will generally lead to a weaker pelvic floor.
It is vital we exercise these muscles as soon after childbirth as is comfortable.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
These exercises are essential for all new Mums, whether you have delivered naturally or by caesarean section, as a lot of damage is done to weaken these muscles in pregnancy due to the weight of the baby; it’s not just during the birth that the damage is done.
Some new Mums often find PF exercises very hard in the first few weeks, as they are unable to feel the exercise and become very despondent.
Persevere, there are a variety of ways to do them, and eventually the hard work will pay off. A great way of feeling the sensation of the strengthening exercise is that that you should imagine they are ‘slurping spaghetti’ with your vaginal muscles, this creates the correct technique.
As mentioned before, the pelvic floor is a collection of muscles creating a hammock. These muscles are made up of a mixture of slow and fast twitch muscle fibres, which benefit from being exercised at different speeds. In short, the slow twitch fibres support the pelvic contents and the fast twitch fibres are recruited spontaneously to tighten the pelvic floor and prevent urine leakage. These muscles must be strengthened like all others muscles to provide their function adequately.
Firstly we need to locate the pelvic floor muscles.
The action starts from the back (near the anus) as we pull in our front passage and vagina will follow suit.
Try stand with your toes turned in to locate their front squeeze, then toes out to locate a back and squeeze. This should help you locate your pelvic floor.
The midwives are right – pelvic floor exercises can be performed in any position; we can work them as a separate muscle group or during exercises that isolate other areas too. i.e.: tummy sucks or pelvic tilts.
You SHOULD be able to do them without it being obvious. Keep breathing throughout.
Like all muscle groups, the pelvic floor will fatigue. Once you feel the muscles have fatigued, take a break and resume the exercises later.
It is a great idea to have triggers that remind you to do these exercises, i.e. sitting at red traffic lights. (Great if you live in city centres, not so good if you are in the middle of nowhere!!!!!) While the kettle boils, while breastfeeding.
Some wear a hair bobble on their wrist, put stickers around the home etc. etc.
As a new Mum it is a good idea to try and plan a programme to do at home, keep it simple and start with few and build up. If you make your goal too big you are less likely to do them.
If you are really concerned about anything regarding the function of your pelvic floor, and have been exercising it, then you should ask for a referral to a specialist women’s physio. See www.acpwh.org.uk to find one in your area.
There are also plenty of gadgets on the market that you may have already bought that can really help and give these exercises a bigger purpose.
It has recently been suggested that bigger exercises such a squats and lunges (which we always do in buggyfit classes) will help to strengthen your pelvic floor as much if not more than the traditional ‘contracting/squeezing ‘ exercises, but her are some to help.
Exercise prescription: *A mix of these is ideal*
Quick – lift and release. Contract the muscles and release them in two counts
Endurance - Contract the pelvic floor muscles by squeezing and lifting then holding for up to 10 seconds then aim to gradually release. Start with 5 sets of 10 repetitions per day and work up to 10 sets per day. You could also try this by doing a figure of eight, each way.
The Wave - Contract the muscles from back to front and release from front to back.
The Elevator - Imagine you have just stepped into an elevator. As the doors close – Contract your pelvic floor muscles by lifting slowly (1 floor at a time). The elevator stops at floor 6, the doors open and close (at which point you hold the contraction) and then begins to descend – (you slowly lower through the floors again)
Pelvic floor muscles can be tested while passing urine. See if you can stop the flow of urine completely. Only do this test once in a while, as it can be bad for the bladder.
Another way of testing and indeed strengthening these muscles is during sex. Simply tighten the vaginal wall around your partner’s penis. It is known to also improve your sex life!
When doing these exercises you should not be, pulling your abs in excessively, or squeezing your legs or butt muscles.
Other good times to work the pelvic floor are pushing a heavy shopping trolley, each time you lift baby or something heavy. You must contract your Transverse abdominus (belt muscle around waist) and pelvic floor for these daily activities.
Any high impact work that takes both feet off the floor together (even for a split second) will put pressure on the pelvic floor, so should be avoided in the first 8 weeks postpartum, and until you feel the pelvic floor is strong enough to handle it. Running, jumping etc would be included in the list.
All buggyfit trainers are experts in postnatal fitness and well being, so will be able to help and advice on pelvic floor issues.
See the buggyfit website for classes in your area.