Haven’t we all heard something about pelvic floor and suspect where it is, but never really paid any attention to its health. Unfortunately, most of us only realise the importance of pelvic floor exercise after experiencing incontinence, reduced sensation in the vagina or uncontrolled passing wind. That’s why it’s important to draw women’s attention to this part of the body, not only at pregnancy but also at any other period of life.
Just in case you are not sure, what exactly I am referring to, here are the basics. A woman's pelvic floor muscles support her womb, bladder, and bowel. The urine tube, the vagina, and the anus all pass through the pelvic floor muscles. If the muscles are weedy, these organs may lower down and not perform as they should. It’s been found that 30% of women can’t activate their pelvic floor correctly, hence putting themselves at risk of associated disfunctions.
But first thing first, you need to find out which muscles you need to train. It is very important to correctly identify your pelvic floor muscles before moving into a regular pelvic floor muscle exercise programme. Squeeze muscles around your back passage as if you are trying to stop passing the wind. Squeeze the muscle as if you are trying to stop a urine stream. Squeeze your vaginal muscle. Do you feel an internal lift? This is your pelvic floor working!
Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor may include pregnancy and childbirth. That’s why regular exercise is essential. Of course, we practice it at a pregnancy yoga class, but you can really do it anywhere - while watching your favourite show, washing dishes or chatting on the phone. No one would really notice what you are doing and even 10 min a day could make a huge difference for the rest of your life.
If you haven’t exercised your pelvic floor before, pregnancy is a good time to start. The pelvic floor muscles in women provide support for the baby during pregnancy and need to be relaxed during the birthing process. Pelvic floor muscle training will help the body cope with the growing weight of the baby. Healthy, fit muscles before the baby is born will mend more easily after the birth. Don’t delay any further, you need those muscles toned now!
In case of any concern, these exercises are not harmful. You should find them easy and relaxing. If you get back pain or stomach pain after your exercise, you are probably trying too hard and using your stomach muscles instead. If you experience headaches, then you are also tensing your chest muscles and probably holding your breath. If performed correctly, the practice is totally safe at pregnancy. Though if you keep experiencing pain, please, consult your GP.
As we’ve just just said, pregnancy, if not earlier, is a great starting point. But don’t stop there. Make it habitual. We consider healthy pelvic floor as one of the predominant factors of female wellbeing. Voluntary contractions or squeezing (and that is what we basically do to exercise our pelvic floor) contribute to sexual sensation and arousal. And get your partner on board too, pelvic floor muscles are important for erectile function and ejaculation. In other words, better sex life is an added bonus!
Three Pommama favourite pelvic floor exercises:
- Sit comfortable in butterfly position and contract pelvic floor on the inhale on a count of 5, release with exhale on a count of 3. Start with 10 repetitions.
- Stay on all fours and start with cat cow, don’t forget to add breathing to the movement. Round your spine on exhalation, back bending on inhalation. Then add activation of pelvic floor on inhale and release it on exhale.
- Sit in cross legged position. Contract pelvic floor muscles. Focus on pulling in both rectum and vagina simultaneously. Inhale for 5, release for 3. Repeat 5 times.
Increase the counts, keeping longer inhales, and repetitions as you become more familiar with the practice.
This article is written by Maria Kondrashova, founder of Pommama, www.pommama.com, a London specialist in pre and postnatal yoga. They care about mums and mums-to-be at any stage of their motherhood journey: they privately teach fertility, pregnancy, postnatal and all the way beyond. Pommama primarily offers individual yoga classes face-to-face in London and livestream online practices anywhere else in the world. Check them out.