Pelvic floor exercises to stop you wetting yourself!
Pelvic floor exercisers don’t have to be boring and they will stop you weeing yourself!
The pelvic floor (PF) muscles are located between your legs and run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. You can think of them as a shopping bag or hammock which supports all of your internal organs – an important job. To stick with this analogy, if you imagine you keep loading up your shopping bag its base will come under more and more strain. In the same way, the weight of your growing baby will put increased pressure on these muscles. They can also be weakened and experience some trauma through childbirth.
The functions of your PF:
- Support – As I have already outlined the muscles act as a support for all your internal organs and prevent a prolapse (some of your insides coming out). This sounds scary, but don’t worry is not common and easily preventable with regular exercise.
- Help baby out – These clever muscles in partnership with your deep abdominal muscles have a key role in childbirth. Your PFs will help guide your baby out and they will not get too tight. This is a bit of a myth and happens in very rare circumstances with professional athletes. Tight and strong PFs will actually help, not hinder during childbirth.
- Hold wee and poo in and help it out! Your pelvic floor needs to be strong to counteract the change in abdominal pressure that occurs when you laugh, cough or sneeze. If your pelvic floor is weak, you may wee (or more rarely poo) yourself a bit. This is called stress incontinence. Your PF muscles also help you go to the toilet so have an important role in both directions!
- Sexy time – Not only will these exercises help your bladder control; they may also increase the pleasure of having sex – so get started!
By doing some simple, regular exercises you will be able to strengthen them, whether you have already had your baby or not. If you have stitches during childbirth, these exercises will also help blood flow to the area to aid the healing process.
You still need to do these exercises if you have a C-section as the weight of your baby will put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.
A quick way of finding the right muscles is by trying to stop the flow of urine when you’re midflow – the correct movement is an upward and inward contraction. Don’t make a habit of doing this on the toilet, though, as it is not good for you!
While you are doing your pelvic floor exercises, put your hands on your belly and buttocks to make sure you can’t feel your belly, thighs or buttocks moving (unless the exercise specifies otherwise). Breathe normally and relax all other muscles. Don’t squeeze your knees together, squeeze your shoulders or tense any other part of your body.
To do a pelvic squeeze pull up around your bottom as if you were trying to stop a bowel movement and around your vagina as if you were trying to hold in a wee. The contraction should pull up the whole ‘sling’ of muscles in between your legs.
Try to do three of the exercises below (reps specified) five to seven times a week (and more often if you can). Make it easy for yourself – do them at work, on the bus or sitting watching TV. Ideally get into a routine of doing them at a set time each day; maybe when you sit down at your desk, after your dinner or before you have a shower. This will help you remember!
Do I really need to do them?!
Look I know these exercises aren’t the most sexy, exciting exercises in the world and you don’t get a buzz from doing them in the same way you do from a good workout, but they really are an essential and fundamental part of your pregnancy exercise programme. Along with your regular ab and core stability exercises a strong PF will provide you a great foundation for continuing to exercise, preventing injuries and aches and pains, a quicker recovery after you have had your baby and a healthy, functioning PF for years to come (see functions above for motivation!)
I have included a good variety of exercises so that you can mix and match and progress over the months and your muscles get stronger. All exercises are suitable for after you have had your baby too.
Exercises 6–11 are a bit harder and need a little more time, so if you’re a busy lady just stick to the simple contractions – but make sure you do some!
1 – Slow contractions
Slowly pull in your pelvic floor muscles. Hold for ten seconds and release. Repeat five times. This may be hard to start with, but try to build up to ten seconds.
2 – Medium contractions
Pull in your pelvic floor muscles. Hold for two to three seconds (as tightly as possible) and release. Do this ten times. Repeat three times. This may be hard to start with, but try to build up to ten repetitions.
3 – Fast contractions
Pull in your pelvic floor muscles. Hold for one second (as tightly as possible) and release. Do this ten times. This is like switching a light switch on and off. Repeat three times.
4 – Progressive contractions
Pull in your pelvic floor muscles one-third of the way and hold. Pull them in another third and then hold. Pull them in all the way as tightly as you can and hold. Release using the same three steps. Repeat ten times.
5 – Wave contractions
Pull in the muscles around your bottom, then all the way along to your front pelvic floors. Hold, then gradually release in a wave motion. Repeat ten times.
The following exercises may be hard to start with, but try to build up to ten repetitions:
6 Seated – knee push-down
With the soles of your feet together, apply slight pressure on top of your knees, pushing them to the floor, squeezing your pelvic floors. Push your knees back up against your hands. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat ten times.
7 – Seated – knee push-up
With the soles of your feet together, apply slight pressure from under your knees, pushing them up to the ceiling, squeezing your pelvic floors. Push your knees down against your hands. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat ten times.
8 Standing – air cycles
Standing, using a chair for support, lift your leg to the side. Slowly circle your leg ten times one way, then ten times the other way, without putting it down and holding in your pelvic floors. Repeat twice on each side.
9 – Standing – wall-squeezes
Stand with your shoulders and bottom against the wall. Pull your abdominals in so that your back is flat against the wall and pull your pelvic floors in. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat ten times.
10 – Pelvic tilt on all-fours – work your abs too!*
On all-fours with your back flat (this is essential), pull in your abdominals and hold. Then pull in your pelvic floor at the same time and hold. Release your pelvic floor muscles, then your abdominals. Repeat ten times.
11 – Pelvic tilt lying on side – work your abs too!*
Lie on your side, with your body in a straight line and your lower leg bent back at 90 degrees behind you. Rest your head on your hand. Pull in your abdominals and hold, keeping your body straight. Your pelvis should tilt. Then pull in your pelvic floor at the same time and hold. Release your pelvic floor muscles, then your abdominals. Repeat ten times.
* As an alternative to 10 and 11, in Trimester 1 only (and after the birth) you can do a pelvic tilt on your back by pushing your lower back into the floor and hollowing the abdominals as you pull your abs and pelvic floors in. Your pelvis will tilt upwards as you pull the muscles in.