Pelvic floor and doing pelvic floor exercises seems to be a buzz word when you’re researching pregnancy. There are a ton of articles on how to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Not even sure what the hell your pelvic floor muscles are? Do you even really care? I’ll explain below why you should be doing them.
What are the pelvic floor muscles and what do they do?
The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a muscular trampoline from the tailbone to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone. These muscles are normally firm and thick.
When the pelvic floor is strong, it supports the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as:
- prolapse of the bladder, uterus and bowel.
The pelvic floor muscles also help you to control bladder and bowel function, such as allowing you to ‘hold it.’ They also work together with your back to keep you strong and if they’re strong keep back pain away. Your whole body works as a machine, and when one area is weak it often affects another area. An example would be your back- if you have poor pelvic floor function it can add to lower back pain.
What are some causes of pelvic floor muscle weakness?
Some causes of pelvic floor muscle weakness that can occur are:
- being overweight
- really heavy lifting
- growing older.
How can I strengthen these muscles?
Surely you’ve heard before that women should exercise their pelvic floor muscles every day. This can be done while you’re driving at red lights, standing in line at the grocery store, etc. Exercising weak muscles regularly can strengthen them and make them work effectively again, or stay strong if you’ve been doing the exercises for some time. Regular gentle exercise, such as walking can also help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles in combination with the pelvic floor exercises below.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
This exercise works the muscles’ ability to hold. Slowly tighten, lift and draw in the pelvic floor muscles and hold them for a count of three. Relax, then repeat. At first you probably won’t be able to tighten the muscles for very long. Start with holding for one to two seconds, and gradually increase over a period of several weeks to a goal of 10 seconds. If you feel the contraction letting go, just re tighten the muscles. Rest for 10 seconds between each contraction. Over time your contractions should also become stronger.
Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as strongly and as quickly as possible. Do not try to hold on to the contraction, just squeeze and let go. Rest for a few seconds in between each squeeze. Repeat this 10 to 20 times or until you feel your pelvic floor muscles fatigue.
If you can, do this exercise set one to three times per day.
During these exercises you should-
- feel your pelvic floor muscles ‘lift up’ inside you, rather than feel a downward movement
- relax your thighs and buttocks
- keep breathing normally
- stop exercising if your muscles fatigue.
What can I do to prevent damage?
To prevent damage to your pelvic floor muscles, avoid:
- constipation and/or straining with a bowel motion
- persistent heavy lifting
- repetitive coughing and straining
- putting on too much weight.
Make training part of your life by:
- tightening your pelvic floor muscles every time you cough, sneeze or lift
- doing some regular exercise, such as walking
- progressing your exercises by doing them during the day in different positions ex: standing, sitting or on your hands and knees.
For a lot of women, it is important to follow a specific exercise program tailored to their individual needs. If you are unsure of whether you are exercising your pelvic floor muscles correctly or you have urinary problems, you should make an appointment with a physiotherapist or specialist in women’s health. There are actually pelvic floor specialists you can consult with as well depending on where you live.
Here is an example-
Below are some pelvic floor exercises which can also help you strengthen, as well as the rest of your body-