How Pelvic Floor Therapy Can Help During Pregnancy
Most women don’t give a second thought about their pelvic floor until they have had given birth to a child and experience urine leaking. However, the best time to start thinking about your pelvic floor health is before becoming pregnant or giving birth.
What is the main purpose of the pelvic muscles?
The pelvic floor muscle is subjected to constant strain throughout pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor is a band of muscles that stretch as a support hammock from the pubic bone to the lower end of the spine. These muscles support pelvic organs, including the bladder, bowel and the uterus. This also helps stabilise your backbone. The baby’s weight constantly puts more pressure on the mother’s pelvic floor during pregnancy. Muscles are weakened, and the mother may experience the following symptoms:
- Urinary or faecal incontinence
- Inability to empty the bladder completely
- Prolapse, or having the sensation that the organs are dropping
- Lower back pain
- Trouble walking and bending
Australian pelvic health services like pelvic floor therapy are advised to help the patient strengthen their muscles. So, what are the other benefits of pelvic floor therapy to pregnant women?
Benefits of pelvic floor therapy
- It Helps Them To Prevent Stress Incontinence
Many women experience at least mild and infrequent urinary incontinence or involuntary loss of urine during their pregnancy. The bladder sphincter, the muscle involved in regulating urine flow, is overwhelmed due to the extra stress and pressure on the bladder, and it can vary from case to case in different women. Age and body mass index are just some of the risk factors for pregnancy incontinence, and it might continue even after childbirth.
That’s why pelvic floor therapy is recommended to partake in during pregnancy. It significantly strengthens the muscle bands in the pelvic floor so that pregnant women can decrease the symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Kegel exercise is one method used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. To perform this. it would be best if you did the following:
- It would help keep your abdominal, buttocks, and thigh muscles relaxed.
- It will help if you tighten the pelvic floor muscles.
- You should contract and hold the muscles until you count to 10.
- Then, you can relax the muscles after counting to 10.
Pelvic health services in Melbourne include Kegel exercises in their therapy, these can be done anytime, anywhere, and you will usually see results in about four to six weeks.
- It Assists in Your Labour
Aside from being a supportive hammock for your internal organs, pelvic floor muscles assist you with your labour. The hormones loosen the muscle and ligaments in the pelvic diaphragm to pass through the vagina during pregnancy. Simultaneously, the expansion of the uterus and the stomach can put more pressure on the pelvic floor, increasing the chances of having pelvic floor disorders. When strengthened, your baby’s head can descend efficiently through your pelvis during vaginal deliveries.
- It Leads To Faster Recovery Rate
Whether you had a vaginal delivery or went through a caesarean, your pelvic floor muscles still experienced stretching and strain. Some women also experience nerve damage, especially during vaginal delivery. As for women who had a caesarean section, the scare can create issues like the pelvic floor muscle may not be able to bend and twist as quickly and efficiently as before. Thus, lower back pain is experienced due to the lack of mobility.
As soon as you stand or sit after childbirth, your pelvic floor muscles will proceed to do their job. It’s recommended to spend as little time as possible being upright after labour. Still, your pelvic floor muscles will undergo stages of healing, so you need sufficient rest. You can employ R.I.C.E or Rest, Ice Compress, and Elevate to heal faster. Undergoing pelvic floor therapy can make your recovery faster after childbirth. It’s recommended to talk to a physiotherapist regarding pelvic exercise after birth. The physiotherapist considers factors like the state of the perineum and the second stage of labour’s length when prescribing the best pelvic floor therapy for your recovery.
- It Will Prevent Uterine Prolapse
When the muscles and ligaments of your pelvic floor stretch and expand beyond their usual capacity, you’ll experience uterine prolapse. Your pelvic diaphragm will become weaker and unable to provide enough support for the uterus. This results in the descending of the uterus, which means it may protrude out of the vagina. Although it’s more common in women who experienced menopause or had multiple vaginal deliveries, it can still occur in women of any age. Uterine prolapse can lead to complications like the displacement of the vaginal lining. The vaginal tissue may rub against clothing when this happens, leading to vaginal sores or ulcers that eventually become infected if not treated. That’s why it’s recommended to perform pelvic floor therapy even before pregnancy.
What can you expect in pelvic floor therapy?
Prevention is better than cure. When it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, the earlier, the better for all women, it’s recommended that they exercise their pelvic diaphragm muscles throughout their life, whether preparing for pregnancy or not. Pelvic floor therapy involves squeezing and relaxing muscles in the pelvic and genital areas. Regular gentle exercise, such as walking, can help. But here are some exercises your physiotherapist may recommend to you:
Sample Exercise 1
Step 1: You can try these positions —sit, lie on your back with your knees bent and legs apart, kneel or stand tall
Step 2: Imagine your muscles that you should tighten when stopping yourself from urinating. Visualise this by closing your eyes. If you encounter problems like having no distinct tightening feeling of the muscles involved, you should ask your physiotherapist to help you get started.
Step 3: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles around your front passage, back passage, and vagina as firmly as possible. Hold this for three to five seconds. You can feel your pelvic floor muscles lift inside. Consider this as ‘contraction”. Let it go as your muscles relax. You can hold it longer but should not exceed eight seconds.
These steps are considered as one exercise set. If possible, do three sets per day in different positions as stated in step 1. It would help if you incorporated this exercise for the rest of your life.
Sample Exercise 2
This next exercise is called a quick squeeze for power. This doesn’t require you to hold on to the ‘contraction’, unlike the first sample exercise. Just squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as firmly as possible. You can rest for a few seconds between each squeeze, then repeat these 10 to 20 times. You should perform this exercise set one to three times daily.
Sample Exercise 3
This exercise requires you to stand with your shoulders and bottom against the wall. You must keep your knees soft, then pull your belly button towards your spine so that your back can be flattened against the wall. Hold this position for about four seconds, then release. Repeat this exercise at least ten times.
What are other helpful tips when doing pelvic floor exercises?
To get the most out of your pelvic floor therapy, you should keep these tips and tricks in mind:
- Don’t perform pelvic exercises while you’re urinating. This may prevent your urinary bladder from fully emptying the urine.
- Don’t hold or strain your breath. Keep your muscles relaxed, especially your abs, glutes, and thigh muscles.
- Don’t overdo your pelvic exercise. When you have decided to start these exercises, you might feel some soreness around your pelvic area. While this symptom is normal, you have to stop and immediately consult your doctor if it persists for weeks.
- Be consistent in doing these exercises. If you find yourself being forgetful of things, you can download apps that remind you to do these exercises. Some apps might also offer you different workout sessions so you won’t get bored of the routine. Being accountable is important.
- Associate the exercise to a certain activity that you do regularly. This can be as simple as sitting down to eat or washing your hand after going to the toilet. Associating this exercise to a daily activity will help you develop habits.
Strong pelvic floor muscle has proven its benefits during one’s pregnancy, and it’s encouraged to strengthen your pelvic diaphragm muscles as early as possible. However, the therapy itself should tailor to every woman’s specific needs, and it would be best to follow a guided exercise recommended by your physiotherapist.