Significance of Pelvic Floor Exercises in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many physiological changes and one such change is the increase in the amount of some hormones. These hormones such as progesterone and relaxin are released in a large amount which causes the stretching and loosening of muscles and ligaments in the pelvis. This causes the weakening of muscles that support the bladder i.e. the pelvic floor muscles. As a result, women can lose control over their sphincter muscles and a tiny amount of urine gets leaked during activities like sneezing or coughing. This condition is called “stress incontinence” and it is experienced by more than half of the pregnant women.

Strong pelvic floor muscles not only ensure the proper bladder and bowel control but also help to support the baby during pregnancy and can also ease the process of childbirth. Pelvic floor muscle (PFM) exercises also known as “Kegel exercises” are done to strengthen these muscles and these can be safely performed by pregnant women. This article will provide you with some simple tips to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which you can easily perform at home.

 

How to Do PFM Exercises at Home?

Before exercising your pelvic floor muscles, check if you can feel their contraction. To feel your muscles, imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine by squeezing and lifting the area around your urethra, vagina and anus. As you feel a slight tension in your muscles, keep contracting and relaxing until you gain control over them. During this, you will feel that your abdominal (tummy) muscles are also tightening but be sure to differentiate this from the pelvic floor contraction. While contracting your pelvic floor muscles, be sure to avoid the contraction of thigh, buttock and abdominal muscles.  Once you gain control over your pelvic floor muscles, start exercising by following these steps:

  • Contract your pelvic floor slowly by lifting the muscles upwards and inwards.
  • Hold this contraction for at least 4 seconds and then release it slowly.
  • Perform each contraction and relaxation with the same speed and strength.
  • Start by performing 5 contractions for 5 times a day. You can gradually increase the repetitions but avoid overdoing it.
  • Be sure to breathe normally and avoid holding your breath during the exercise.

If you find it difficult to perform these exercises while sitting, start by doing them while lying down first. If you are in a later stage of pregnancy, it’s better to lie down on your side as it is a comfortable position for you and the baby.

After this, start performing them in the sitting position in such a way that no one can tell if you’re doing PFM exercises! You can even perform them while riding the subway.

 

What are the Benefits?

Performing PFM exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles so they can efficiently control the bladder and bowel functions. Strong pelvic floor muscles will help to prevent urinary incontinence during pregnancy and will also ease the delivery of the baby during labour.

 

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2997838/

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/what-are-pelvic-floor-exercises/

https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03426.x

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