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While pregnancy is physically demanding, exercise becomes necessary to cope with the physical as well as biological changes that affect specific areas such as muscles, joints, backbone and especially the pelvic floor. In this post, we are going to share how pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy are important since they not only help reduce pelvic pain but also ease the childbirth procedure.
Your takeaway from this blog post on pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy –
- Where are pelvic floor muscles located
- How to locate pelvic floor muscles
- Why is pelvic floor exercise so important
- How does pregnancy affect pelvic floor
- Benefits of pelvic floor exercises
- Types of pelvic floor muscle exercises
- What else you should know about pelvic floor exercises
Before we jump into the workout section, let’s have a quick intro on pelvic floor –
Where are pelvic floor muscles located?
As the name suggests, the pelvic floor muscles form the base of the pelvis.
Pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and sheet-like tissues that stretch from the front side to the back side i.e. base of your spine. These muscles are attached to the pelvis sides (the bones that we sit upon). They are also attached to the pubic bone and the coccyx i.e. tailbone. These muscles pass through the vagina, anus and urethra, as shown in the image.
What do pelvic floor muscles do?
- They help in supporting the bladder, uterus and intestines.
- They help in controlling bowel and bladder movement.
- They help in sneezing, coughing and lifting heavy objects.
- They support the spine and help during sex.
How to locate pelvic floor muscles?
Try to control your flow while urinating, and you can soon identify the muscles which help you stop the flow in the middle of urinating. However, it is not ideal to do this as an exercise as stopping the flow can affect your bladder.
Another way of identifying these muscles is by inserting two fingers into your vagina and try squeezing them. You will soon understand the mechanism.
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Why is pelvic floor exercise so important?
- As already discussed above, the pelvic floor muscles support the uterus and help in bowel as well as bladder movement, so if the pelvic floor is weakened then the muscles become harder to be squeezed which affects urinating and bowel movement.
- Weak pelvic muscles may also put you in an embarrassing situation as you may pee a little while coughing or sneezing. This further leads to a heavy dragging-like feeling because of improper bladder and womb movement.
- Weak pelvic muscles also affect vaginal muscles.
- Not only during pregnancy but pelvic muscles should be well maintained as post menopause hormonal changes worsen the abovementioned problems, thereby causing sagging of the uterus and bladder towards the walls of the vagina.
By regularly doing a few pelvic floor exercises, bladder weakness or prolapse symptoms are kept at bay, while reducing the pelvic pain during pregnancy and labour pain as well.
How does pregnancy affect the pelvic floor?
The extra pounds that you put on following pregnancy exert pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, thereby leading to weakness that persists even after the childbirth. The pelvic floor tends to become weak as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy.
As constipation is one of the common health problems for expecting moms, it can put more strain on your pelvic floor thus increasing the pelvic pain.
Benefits of doing pelvic floor exercises
- They help in toning up the pelvic floor.
- They help in reducing the risk of uterine/bladder prolapse.
- They help during labour, while improving the recovery time.
- They help in reducing post-partum discomforts such as perineal swelling and hemorrhoids.
- They help in healing the area between anus and vagina i.e. perineum post-partum, by improving the blood circulation.
- They help in reducing perineal tearing and the likelihood of episiotomy.
- They help in the complete emptying of the bladder and bowel.
- They help in maintaining the muscle tone of the vagina thereby easing the delivery process.
- They help in preventing urinary leakage during pregnancy.
Types of pelvic floor exercises
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Since your pelvic floor muscles comprise two types of fibres — fast fibres that render strength and slow fibres that render stamina; we offer you two types of pelvic exercises during pregnancy for best results.
Short squeezes in pelvic floor exercise –
- Sit down comfortably by slightly stretching your knees. Stretch the muscles around the back passage just as you would do to stop your bowel movement.
- Now do the same thing at the front, as if you are squeezing your vagina to stop urinating.
- Make sure the squeezes are strongly executed in as much that you feel a definite ‘let go’.
- These types of short squeezes should not last for more than a few seconds.
- Try to do three sets per day in different positions.
Long squeezes in pelvic exercises during pregnancy
- Sit down in the same position as you had done for short squeezes and repeat the above step. The only difference is you need to hold it for a longer time i.e. a few extra seconds. But always remember to breathe normally.
- Make sure in the process you’re not constricting your buttock muscles. You can stress your lower abdominal muscles a bit but don’t squeeze out your anus.
- Take a break of few seconds before repeating the above step. However, you should stop immediately if you feel your muscles are tired.
- Try to find out how long you can hold on to the squeezing, say 4 seconds. This will help you do the long squeezes better.
- Now when you become comfortable with the 4-second long squeeze, try to increase it to say 10 seconds. You can gradually increase the counts with each workout.
Bonus points — What else you should know about pelvic floor exercises?
It is equally important to relax pelvic floor muscles as it is to tighten and squeeze them. It is especially important when the baby starts crowning its head during second stage of labour. The pelvic muscles need to be relaxed during this stage, so as to avoid episiotomy.
Make sure you drink a lot of fluid and that you urinate only when you feel your bladder is completely full. Since the frequency of urinating increases during pregnancy, do not try to hold on for too long as it affects the bladder.