Pregnancy and childbirth can affect the body in many ways, for example, making you become overweight or lose stomach tone. By looking after your body, you can aim to minimise these changes.
Up to 70% of women actually leak urine during pregnancy (especially when they cough, laugh or sneeze) but this usually improves after your baby is born. Other urinary symptoms also occur. Most women pass urine more often and have to get up at night to pass urine. These symptoms are quite normal and nearly always disappear after pregnancy.
Even after Caesarean section, childbirth may weaken the pelvic muscles. Over the years this can result in prolapse of the vagina or uterus and some degree of urinary incontinence (leakage of urine on coughing or sneezing). Up to 30% of women suffer from some degree of urinary incontinence at one time or another following childbirth. It is important that you exercise and strengthen you pelvic floor muscles during and especially after pregnancy.
Look after your PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES - you need them.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a hammock across the pelvis and help to hold the uterus (womb),bladder and bowel in place. These muscles also act like a control valve around the urethra. They tighten when you do something to raise your abdominal pressure (e.g., coughing) to prevent any urine from leaking. They relax when you want to pass urine.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
You should learn to do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and practise them daily to maintain pelvic floor muscle tone. After childbirth you should undertake pelvic floor exercises regularly for at least 4 months.
How can I learn pelvic floor exercises?
There are several ways of exercising and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. In the beginning it is often better to see a physiotherapist who will teach you how to do the exercises properly. Below is listed a simple exercise regime.
- Stand, sit or lie with your legs slightly apart. Slowly tighten and pull up the pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can. Do not tighten your abdominal wall or buttock muscles. Once you have mastered this you are ready.
- Slow pull-ups - Pull-up the pelvic floor and hold tight for at least 5 seconds if you can, then relax. Repeat at least 5 times.
- Fast pull-ups - Now pull the muscles up quickly and tightly, then relax immediately. Repeat at least 5 times.
Do these exercises - 5 fast and 5 slow pull-ups - at least 3 times a day whilst pregnant. After childbirth, increase this to at least 10 times a day as soon as you are not too sore to do them.
As the muscles get stronger, you will find that you can hold for longer than 5 seconds and do more than 5 pull-ups each time without getting tired. It takes time to make muscles strong and what you do is for your future benefit - SO STICK AT IT.
Remember: Pelvic floor exercises work if you stick at it. You must continue your exercises for at least 4 months after your baby is born.