Looking after your pelvic floor muscles is important for all women, but particularly pregnant women. Pregnancy and childbirth can put a strain on your pelvic floor, so it’s important to maintain a strong pelvic floor to help prevent problems such as incontinence and prolapse.
If you already have issues with your pelvic floor, or they develop throughout or post-pregnancy, Dr Chettle can refer you to a specialized physiotherapist.
What is the pelvic floor?
It’s a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel. The openings from these organs, the urethra from the bladder, the vagina from the uterus, and the anus from the bowel pass through the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles attach to your pubic bone at the front and the tailbone at the back and from the base of your pelvis.
Strong pelvic floor muscles support the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or faeces) and prolapse (lack of support) of the bladder, uterus and bowel.
The pelvic floor muscles also help you to control bladder and bowel function, such as allowing you to ‘hold on’ until an appropriate time and place.
What puts a strain on my pelvic floor?
- Pregnancy, particularly from 18 weeks as your baby gets heavier and places more strain on your body.
- Childbirth, particularly following delivery of a large baby or prolonged pushing during delivery
- Being overweight
- Constipation (excessive straining to empty your bowel)
- Persistent heavy lifting
- Excessive coughing – causing repetitive straining
- Changes in hormonal levels at menopause
- Growing older
Exercising your pelvic floor can make these muscles stronger. There are specific exercises that you can do that are focused on your pelvic floor muscles. This, in conjunction with regular gentle exercise, can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The Continence Foundation Website has a great exercise program you can refer to.