The pelvic floor muscles form the floor of the pelvic and support all your pelvic organs, i.e. your uterus, bladder and bowel.
A healthy pelvic floor is supple and firm and especially important for pregnant women. Being pregnant can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy.
Good pelvic floor muscles may help to:
- Support the extra weight of pregnancy
- Shorten the second stage of labor, when you push your baby out
- Heal the area between your anus and vagina (perineum) after birth, by increasing the circulation of blood to it
- More satisfying sex life
Practice working your pelvic floor each day with the following exercises.
Plies: Start with your legs apart and feet that on the floor. Drop your arms gracefully in front of you. Gradually, with a straight back, bend your knees out over your feet, and then straighten them. Work to a count of 4-4 down and 4 up. Do not let your bottom stick out. Repeat 10 times.
The Lift: This exercise can be practiced in a variety of position e.g. sitting on a chair, or lying down. For this particular example – stand with your knees bent slightly, head, tail and back straight. You are going to imagine you are in an elevator going from the first to the fourth floor of a building. Contract the pelvic muscles a little at a time, tightening them at each floor. Take them right up to the fourth floor, where you are as tight as you possibly can be, and hold for a count of 5. Then gradually release the muscles back to the ground floor. Repeat as often as you can every day.
Pelvic Squat: This exercise limbers the pelvic region and strengthens the thighs. Stand with legs about hip-distance apart and back straight. Gradually bend your knees and squat down with your feet parallel or turned out. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor, arms on your knees and relax into the squat and hold for a few moments. Repeat often. Avoid this exercise if you have knee problem.
Standing Pelvic Tilt: Stand with your feet about hip distance apart and knees bent slightly. Keep your hands on your waist. Without arching your back or moving your upper body, push your pelvis slowly forward and upward. Repeat 10 times.
Lying Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Your feet flat on the floor and about 30 centimeters apart. Press your lower back to the floor. Tighten and contract your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Hold for count of 5 Repeat 4 times.
Floor Pelvic Tilt: This exercise will strengthen the stomach and pelvic floor muscles and stretch the inner things. Sit with a straight back (not arched) and the soles of your feet together. Keep your knees wide apart. Rest your hands on your ankles. Tighten and flatten your abdominal muscles and round your lower back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles at the same time. Gently relax all muscles as you use your back to lift your body. Repeat 6 times.
Cat and Cow: Come onto your hands and knees. Inhale and lift your head and tailbone up, arching your back. This is Cow pose. Exhale and round your back like a scared cat, tucking chin to chest and lowering your tailbone. Repeat with your breath. Cat and Cow stretches during pregnancy exercise the pelvis as well as the spine, and can help your baby find the right position during labor.
Two Knee Spinal Twist: Lie on your back with your knees above your hips. Exhale and slowly lower your knees to the right, keeping your torso on the floor. Inhale to lift, and exhale as you slowly lower both knees to the left. Repeat several times on both sides. Be sure not to put pressure on the abdomen as you twist.
Tailor Sitting: Sit on the floor with your back straight in the “butterfly position” (the bottoms of your feet together and your knees dropped comfortably). As you press both knees gently toward the floor using your elbows, you should feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Don’t bounce your knees up and down rapidly. If you find it difficult at first to keep your back straight, use a wall to support your back. Hold the position for 10 or 15 seconds and repeat the stretch five or 10 times.
Kegels: Contract the pelvic floor muscle and hold for three to 10 seconds. Then relax and repeat up to 10 times. To do fast Kegels, quickly contract and relax your pelvic floor muscle 25 to 50 times. Relax for 5 seconds and repeat the set up to four times.
Regular practice can ease the stress on the lower body and facilitate childbirth.