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Pelvic floor exercises

The pelvic floor stretches across the bottom of your abdomen from the front (pubic bone) to the back (tailbone) and it supports all the organs in the pelvis – bladder, bowel, and also the uterus (womb). The pelvic floor muscles also form the sphincters (urethra and anus) which are very important for bowel and bladder function. The perineum is the part of the pelvic floor between the anus and vagina. The muscles of the vagina are also part of the pelvic floor, and these muscles have to work harder than usual in pregnancy and birth due to the weight of the growing baby and the hormones that naturally soften muscles. Pelvic floor exercises can be done during pregnancy as well as after birth.

During a vaginal birth the pelvic floor stretches and is put under some obvious strain. A caesarean birth which involves surgery through abdominal muscle layers can lead to a slower recovery from birth as the abdominal muscles heal. In the first six weeks, or sometimes longer after a birth, the pelvic floor needs to recover from the birth and also any vaginal or perineal tears or abrasions. Some tears will have required stitches – as will an episiotomy – and this requires a longer recovery usually.

Leaking urine (also known as stress incontinence) lower back pain and constipation can be signs of pelvic floor problems, although leaking urine is not unusual during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and after birth. Pelvic floor exercises can help prevent these issues. Research evidence has found that pelvic floor muscle exercises may help prevent urinary incontinence in late pregnancy and postnatally.

Pelvic floor exercises are needed to improve muscle strength and support the pelvic organs – this helps with bladder and bowel control and prevention of prolapse.  The basic pelvic floor exercise involves squeezing the pelvic floor muscles which will feel like a lift inside the vagina. Repetitive long and short squeezes linked to breathing slowly in and out are recommended. Avoiding constipation is also recommended – drink plenty of water and eat well.

Animated video about the pelvic floor and pelvic floor exercises https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0_JAoaM6pU

Link to exercise descriptions https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/postnatal-exercise-sample-workout