Written by Sandy Rayner, a Level 3 Mat pilates Instructor, Level 3 Exercise on referral specialist and Level 4 lower back pain specialist.
After my first pregnancy, I felt as if every health care professional was telling me to strengthen my pelvic floor, but not actually telling me how to do this. It’s almost assumed that we know exactly what to do. Overwhelmed with just having had a baby, the last person you are thinking of is yourself.
It is so important, whichever type of birth you had, to strengthen your pelvic floor. Some say you don’t need to if you had a caesarean, but I completely disagree, I found that large babies put a lot of strain on my pelvic floor and I had to do a lot of work to strengthen it afterwards.
The best way of doing this is in a number is small movements. Here is a list of what to do:
- Sit, stand or lie in a comfortable position (some find it easier to find their pelvic floor standing, others while sitting). Remember the first few times is about finding the actual muscles. That’s all you should focus on, until it becomes natural.
- Squeeze and draw in your bottom, as if you are holding in wind.
- Move this “squeeze’ forward” so that you are also squeezing your vagina, which is more like trying to hold in a wee (you can practice this on the toilet but not while you are actually doing a wee otherwise you could give yourself an infection).
- Once you think you have got the hang of this (there are also lots of videos on Youtube, and it can be explained in so many different ways, so have a look if you are struggling), begin with holding these muscles for a 3 second count. So hold in for 3 seconds, release for 3 seconds. Start with 5 repetitions of this, and then go up to 6, 7, 8, 9 reps and then 10 reps. Do this over a few days, don’t rush it, it may take you a week to get there.
- Once you have mastered the art of the long hold, swap it with short holds, so 1 second hold and one second release. Just keep doing this until you can feel your muscles are tired.
So many of us do this wrong, so don’t be embarrassed to ask a health professional to check if you are doing this correctly.
Understanding how the muscles in your pelvic floor support your core will help you exercise more effectively. Being able to harness the stability in your core before you do any exercise will mean you are not only strengthening, you are also protecting your lower back from any injuries.
The types of exercises known to improve pelvic floor strength are pilates and more recently weight lifting. Only attempt weight lifting if you are able to control your pelvic floor and use it to support your core.
Personal training is good to give you tips on posture and exercise correction. Don’t be afraid to ask a trainer what their qualifications are. Ensure that they have training and experience in post natal exercise as I found having the training is not nearly as good as someone with experience, The wrong type of exercise can damage you and set you back by weeks.