We explain why pelvis floor exercises are so important both during and after pregnancy and how you can use these kegel toner exercises to strengthen and repair your pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor is the sling of muscles that reaches from your pubic bone right underneath your pelvis to the base of your spine. This much neglected area plays an essential role in holding your bowel, bladder and womb in place and helping you to control their functions. Normally these muscles do not get properly worked as it takes conscious effort to do this; however, both during and after pregnancy it is really advisable to spend a little time each day doing simple pelvic floor exercises.
During pregnancy your growing baby places a huge amount of weight an strain on your pelvic floor area causing these important muscles to weaken, something that is only exacerbated after the birth when literally thousands of women experience some form of incontinence. This happens because the pelvic floor is not strong enough to completely close the urinary tract, allowing urine to leak; this can be a particular problem when you sneeze or laugh.
A weak pelvic floor can also significantly reduce sexual sensitivity and lead to prolapse of the womb in later life. So, as a preventative measure for this, practicing pelvic floor exercises through pregnancy is definitely worthwhile. As an added bonus, having a strong pelvic floor is thought to help the second stage of labour progress faster, making for a shorter birth and more effective contractions.
Before you can work your pelvic floor muscles you first need to find them. The easiest way to do this is by trying to halt your flow of urine next time you're on the toilet as it is your pelvic floor muscles that will tighten to do this. When you try you will most likely feel the muscles around your vagina, urethra and anus contract, however if you don't, next time in the bath you could try gently inserting a finger in your vagina and mimicing the urine- stopping exercise - if you feel a gently squeeze you know you have the right muscles.
Once you have found your pelvic floor muscles its simply a case of working them. You will need to practice both fast and slow pelvic floor contractions (sometimes known as kegel exercises) for the maximum strengthening effect. The fast variety help to improve your 'tightening' reactions reducing the likelihood of stress incontinence after you've had your baby, while slow exercises help to build up the overall strength of this general area.
- Slow pelvic floor exercises - To practice slow pelvic floor exercises you will need to raise your pelvic floor until you get the squeezing feeling you practiced on the toilet and then hold this contraction for as long as is comfortable. It is important that you completely relax your pelvic floor in between repetitions. At first its likely that you will only be able to tense your pelvic floor muscles for a couple of seconds, however with practice you should be able to build up to first 5, then 10 seconds.
- Fast pelvic floor exercises - To complete fast pelvic floor exercises you will need to tense and relax your pelvic floor in quick succession (as opposed to tensing and holding). Again, you should focus on completely relaxing your pelvic floor between repetitions.
While the toilet technique is good for helping you to locate your pelvic floor muscles it is important not to repeat this too often as it can cause urine retention problems. However, it is ok to try this every once in a while if you want to check your progress.
Some women do find pelvic floor exercises very difficult and choose to use one of the many pelvic floor exercisers available. Because of the resistance provided by these kegel toners some believe that their use actually makes the exercises more effective in strengthening the pelvic floor.
Its never too soon to start practicing pelvic floor exercises and you should aim to do 3 sets of 10 fast and 10 slow repetitions a day indefinitely. Fortunately once you're comfortable doing them you can work your pelvic floor anywhere and no one will know. Its likely to take a couple of months before you notice an effect but keep with it and you will eventually see the results.