Reasons to Train the Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor is weakened by hormonal changes. That is why it is very important to train the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and following childbirth.
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles and ligaments that close the lower abdominal cavity. Found in both men and women, its function is to support the pelvic organs. In women, the pelvic floor muscles hold the bladder, womb and bowel in their correct positions; the normal functioning of these organs depend on it.
Pelvic floor functions
- Continence functions: the pelvic floor controls the sphincters, so having a strong pelvic floor will help us to control urination and defecation.
- Sexual function: toned perineal muscles improve the quality of sexual intercourse.
- Reproductive function: the perineum is the last obstacle through which the baby’s head must pass during childbirth. It helps the head to rotate and produces a reflex contraction in the uterus, that causes the pregnant woman to want to push.
- Support function: the perineum supports the bladder, the womb and the bowel. If you are pregnant, you have to add the weight of the fetus, therefore, training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy is very important.
Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor
Kegel exercises involve contracting the muscles to train the pelvic floor during pregnancy, or at any time of your life.
One of these exercises is performed as you contract the muscles, when you go to the bathroom to pass urine. You use the pelvic floor when you try to voluntarily stop the flow of urine.
There are several Kegel exercises that you can perform, such as:
- The slow: contract the pelvic floor muscles for five seconds, as you breathe gently. And then relax them for five more seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- The fast: contract and relax the muscles as fast as you can, for two or three minutes. Begin with 10 repetitions and gradually increase them to 50 repetitions per day.
- The elevator: this involves slowly contracting the muscles. Imagine that the pelvic floor is an elevator, that slowly rises, and stops for a few seconds on each floor.
- The wave: is performed by first contracting the muscles that surround the urethra, and then those in the bowel. Do this by relaxing them from back to front.
These “invisible” exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor can be performed at almost any time and place. This is possible, as no one can see what you are doing. It’s recommended to practice them daily, and as many times as possible.
Advantages of training the pelvic floor during pregnancy
During pregnancy, and as the fetus gains weight, the uterus enlarges. So the bladder has to withstand increased pressure, which can lead to problems with incontinence. So, if you train the pelvic floor during pregnancy, you’ll decrease the continual need to go to the bathroom.
Moreover, it’s recommended that pregnant women strengthen their pelvic floor. This is because it will facilitate delivery and significantly reduce the chances of a tear during delivery.
Another important reason is that it will allow the woman to recover much quicker during the postpartum period, particularly in terms of sexual relations.
Kegel exercises will serve to tone the vaginal muscles, and this will allow you to enjoy sexual intercourse and will help you to increase your sexual pleasure.
It’s also important to know that exercising this area is a great way to avoid suffering with incontinence during the postpartum period. This way you can prevent leaking urine from simple and habitual activities, such as coughing or laughing, for example.
It’s also considered to be a way forward for pregnant woman to cope with any weight gain that she has experienced.
- Grape, H. H., Dedering, Å., & Jonasson, A. F. (2009). Retest reliability of surface electromyography on the pelvic floor muscles. Neurourology and Urodynamics. https://doi.org/10.1002/nau.20648