Stephanie Taylor, Marketing Director, Kegel8, discusses the ways that you can prepare your body for pregnancy and birth.
If you’re planning for a baby or aren’t too far away from taking the next step in your relationship, there are a lot of things to prepare for – mentally and physically.
The pelvic floor is a little-known muscle group that is tested to its limits during pregnancy and post-partum, but many young women take it for granted.
Women’s health expert and Managing Director of pelvic healthcare company Kegel8, gives her top tips for preparing your pelvic floor for pregnancy, ready for the beginnings of motherhood…
What is the pelvic floor and why does it matter?
Pelvic floor weakness can affect any woman at any point in their life. Essentially, the pelvic floor keeps your important pelvic organs – the uterus, bowel, bladder, rectum or top of the vagina – in the correct place.
In pregnancy and for the big event, pelvic floor muscles help support the extra weight you’ll be carrying, avoid embarrassing leaks and can aid natural labour. It can also improve sexual sensation and make it easier to reach orgasm, making conceiving a more pleasurable experience.
Generally, your pelvic floor holds around 20lbs of weight, varying from person to person and this increases dramatically when you’re pregnant. Simply put, if the pelvis has more weight to carry, the pelvis needs more strength.
The earlier on in your journey you start to think about this, the better. The pelvic floor is like any other part of the body, the more time spent trying to build up strength, the more durable and reliable it will be.
How to prepare your pelvic floor for pregnancy
While pelvic exercise can’t guarantee there will be no complications with your pregnancy, it can certainly increase your chances of a smooth-sailing journey as you’re essentially training your body for carrying and delivering a baby.
Pelvic Tilt Exercises: Stand with your shoulders and bottom against the wall, keeping your knees soft and pull your belly button towards your spine so your back flattens against the wall, hold for four seconds and release. Repeat this process 10 times.
Side Leg Raise: Lie on your side with the bottom leg bent, top leg straight and aligned with your torso. On an exhaled breath, lift your top leg up. Hold the leg at the top of the movement and lower it with control. Be aware of not collapsing the waist or moving leg as you lift.
The good, old-fashioned Kegel: Sit or lie down. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as if clenching and lift the muscles as if sucking them in. Hold, counting for 5 seconds. Relax the muscles for an equal amount of time, then repeat this process 10 times. Be sure to breathe deeply and relax.
Continued kegels throughout your pregnancy could help ease labour.
If you haven’t been as diligent with your kegel exercises during pregnancy don’t despair. Help is at hand with an electronic pelvic toner because it does all the work for you and locates the pelvic floor muscles like a satnav.
If you’re having trouble engaging your pelvic floor or want to take things up a notch, an electronic pelvic floor toner can help. Offering pre-programmed sensation, exercise and pain-relieving programmes, pelvic toners deliver electrical impulses to stimulate a contraction within the pelvic floor.
A third of women are incontinent 3 months after giving birth and they also lose sensation in the pelvic floor muscles an electronic exerciser addresses both problems quickly and easily.
And don’t forget these extra tips…
Aside from doing exercises that specifically target your pelvic floor, there are small lifestyle changes that can really help you prepare for pregnancy.
Poor posture is a big problem for pelvic floors. Avoid slouching if you sit at a desk during the day. Over time, this is likely to cause bad back pain and other health problems, including a weak pelvic floor.
When urinating, make sure your bladder is completely empty before you finish, as this will create muscle memory. Never go to the toilet ‘just in case’, only when you need to. Encouraging a ‘dribble’ will tell your bladder and pelvic floor it’s ok to go little and often.
And if you’re a fan of swimming, try brushing up on your breaststroke skills. The simple motion of bringing your legs together causes thigh and pelvic floor muscles to contract, thus strengthening them.
All swimming strokes help to tone pelvic muscles to some extent as you’re continuously engaging these muscles to keep yourself balanced in the water.