Being pregnant can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to weakness before your baby is born. Your pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy.
Constipation is common in pregnancy and can put even more strain on your pelvic floor.
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The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that wrap around the underside of the bladder and rectum. If you develop stress incontinence or vaginal prolapse (this can range from mild to severe) there is a good chance that it can be improved with pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor exercises are also useful to prevent incontinence, expecially for those who have had children.
The common reason for the pelvis floor muscles to become weakened is childbirth. If you perform pelvis floor muscle exercises after childbirth, it may prevent stress incontinence from developing later in life.
Stress incontinence is when urine leaks when there is a sudden extra pressure ('stress') on the bladder. Urine tends to leak most when you cough, laugh, or when you exercise (like jump or run).
Sit in a chair with your knees slightly apart. Imaging you have a slipper ball in your vagina and are trying to keep it from falling out. Don't move your buttocks or legs.
Now, imagine you are passing urine and are trying to stop the stream. You will find yourself using slightly different parts of the pelvic floor muscles (those nearer to the front). These are the ones to strengthen.
If you are not sure that you are exercising the right muscles, put a couple of fingers into your vagina. You should feel a gentle squeeze when doing the exercise.
If possible, continue exercising as a part of everyday life for the rest of your life to stop the problem from recurring. Once incontinence has gone, you may only need to do 1 to 2 5-minute bouts of exercise each day to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong and toned up.
Steps to Performing Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises:
You need to perform the exercises every day.
Stand, sit or lie. Hold to the count of five, then relax. Repeat at least five times. These are called slow pull-ups.
Then, do the same exercise quickly for a second or two. Repeat at least five times. These are called fast pull-ups.
Keep repeating the five slow pull-ups and the five fast pull-ups for five minutes.
Aim to do the above exercises for about five minutes at least three times a day, more if possible.
As the muscles become stronger, increase the length of time you hold each slow pull-up. You are doing well if you can hold each slow pull-up for a count of ten (about ten seconds).
In addition to the times you set aside to do the exercises, try to get into the habit of doing exercises whilst going about everyday life. For example, when answering the phone, when washing up, etc.
Other Ways of Exercising the Pelvic Floor Muscles:
Sometimes a continence advisor or physiotherapist will advise extra methods if you are having problems or need some extra help performing the pelvic floor exercises. These are in addition to the above exercises. For example:
Electrical Stimulation: A special electrical device is used to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles with the aim of making them contract and become stronger.
Biofeedback: This is a technique to help you make sure that you exercise the correct muscles. For this, a physiotherapist or continence advisor inserts a small device into your vagina when you are doing the exercises. When you squeeze the right muscles, the device makes a noise (or some other signal, such as a display on a computer screen) to let you know that you are squeezing the correct muscles.
Vaginal Cones or Vaginal Weights: These are small plastic cones that you put inside your vagina for about 15 minutes, twice a day. The cones come in a set of different weights. At first, the lightest cone is used. You need to use your pelvic floor muscles to hold the cone in place. So, it helps you to exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly.