Antenatal Classes – Pelvic Floor Exercises

Most of the pregnant women are probably hearing how important it is to have strong core muscle. If you have never come across core stability exercises, Pilates, Yoga and you are first time pregnant it is not easy to understand and start strengthening the muscle. Many pregnant women hear about the pelvic floor muscles and Kegel Exercise but not many are told where they are, how to find them and most importantly how to train them.

So let’s make it simple!

What is pelvic floor?

They are a sling of muscles that sits underneath the bladder and runs from the base of the spine (coccyx) to the pubic bone at the front.

What do they do?

The main purpose of your Pelvic floor muscles is to give your organs support and help to improve your bladder/bowel control and improve or prevent any leakage.

The pelvic floor muscles relax when you contract the bladder to let the urine out.

Why are they important for pregnant women and women who have children?

The pelvic floor muscles can weaken during pregnancy as they relax from the weight of the baby and a hormone called relaxin that softens the connective tissue of the pelvic structures in preparation for birth. During childbirth vaginal delivery may further weaken or stretch some of the supporting structures in the pelvis.

Can I do anything to help protect my pelvic floor from weakening?

Yes start your pelvic floor exercises straight away!

How do I know I am actually working my Pelvic floor muscles?

There are two ways to check that you are correctly contracting the pelvic floor:

Stop test

While going to the toilet you can try and stop the flow of urine, if you can then you are contracting the pelvic floor muscles correctly, but do not stop the flow of urine every time you go to toilet. This is a good way of seeing if you are exercising the correct muscles, but may cause problems with your bladder if you are doing the test more than once a fortnight. Remember this is a test and you must not exercise your pelvic floor muscle while urinating!

Squeeze test

You can also feel if your pelvic floor muscle is contracting by putting one or two fingers into your vagina whilst having a bath or shower. Tighten your muscles so they squeeze your fingers.

How often should I do my exercises?

Practice five pelvic floor exercise contractions five times a day

There are two types of pelvic floor exercises; low twitch and fast twitch. It is important that you do the slow twitch first and then the fast twitch each time you exercise your pelvic floor muscles.

Prepare to exercise:

Sit on a chair/toilet seat/toilet lid. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your legs slightly apart:

To perform the slow twitch exercises:

1. Close and draw up the muscles around the back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind. Make sure you do not contract your buttock muscles whilst doing this.

2. Now close and draw up the muscles around the vagina, as though you are trying to stop the flow of urine.

3. Hold for a count of five, breathing normally and trying not to hold your breath.

4. Slowly relax and let go.

5. Repeat five times in total.

6. When you can repeat five contractions for five seconds, start to build up the hold to ten seconds, increasing by one or two seconds each time.

To perform the fast twitch exercises:

1. Pull up your pelvic floor muscles as before.

2. Hold for one second and relax.

3. Repeat five to ten times or until your muscles feel tired.

If you are performing slow twitch exercises and you find your muscles ‘let go’ too quickly and you cannot hold for a count of five then just hold them for as long as you can.

When performing pelvic floor exercises it is important NOT to:

1. Squeeze your buttocks together.

2. Bring your knees together.

3. Hold your breath.

4. Lift your shoulder/eyebrows/toe upwards.

5. Perform the exercises while urinating.

If you do any of the above then you are not contracting your muscles correctly.

Any other benefits of performing these exercises

Yes! For women, strong pelvic floor muscles can also mean increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms.