I am often asked “Should I be doing my pelvic floor exercises when I am pregnant? Won’t it make it more difficult for me to give birth?” the answer it YES you should and NO it won’t. Providing you are doing it correctly.
I explain this to my clients using this analogy; would you pick up a dumbbell and do little bicep curls, like the second half of this video) only ever using half of the muscle and never straightening your arm right down? Well, if you did you would have very strong (helpful) but very short (very unhelpful) biceps meaning you can’t stretch your arm out fully!!!
The same principle applies to your pelvic floor which, in case you aren’t aware, is also a muscle.
So when you are doing your pelvic floor exercises it is very important to contract the muscle as hard as you can, to build its strength and endurance, but it is equally, if not more, important to fully relax the muscle in between each contraction (like the bicep curls in the first half of the video).
The pelvic floor muscles have such an enormous responsibility in birth. They are like the gatekeepers for the pelvis. When they have normal tone, things go really smoothly. But when they have too much tone or uneven tone side to side, that’s when they can cause problems.
Ideally, we want pelvic floor muscles that have a functional strength. We want the muscle to be able to contract and relax. It needs to be strong and flexible so it can lengthen when pressure is applied. That is what needs to happen for birth – the baby’s head applies pressure, and the muscles lengthen and open up.
What can you do to help?
When doing your pelvic floor exercises, always ensure you allow the muscles to fully relax between repetitions. Think about your pelvic floor as an elevator, when you contract you want to take it to the 10th floor, but before you do the next contraction you need to take the elevator all the way back to the ground floor.
If you feel like you are not lowering all the way to the bottom floor, take a deep breath in and out and relax as much as possible between each repetition of pelvic floor exercises.
If you struggle to feel what you pelvic floor is doing i.e. if it is contracted or relaxed try doing them in lots of different positions until you start to become more aware of them.
Seeing a Women’s Health Physio can really help as they can check your strength, check the technique of your exercises to make sure you are executing them correctly and guide you on how long you should hold for and how many repetitions you should be doing! If you are in Cornwall feel free to check out Laura, Ottilie Founder and Women’s Health Physio, at her Fit Bumps and Mums clinic in Newquay.