My Registered Nutritionist and Pre- and Post Natal Exercise specialist, Emma West joins me for another blog post, this time we are talking all about pelvic floor exercises! I for one was fascinated to find out that most of us should be doing pelvic floor exercises most of the time, regardless of being pregnant, or having just given birth, and was surprised by how easy the exercises actually are. See if you can get to the end of the article without doing a few squeezes yourself! Emma shares her professional advice on this important topic!
Emma, what exactly is the pelvic floor, and why is it so important?
Emma: "Your pelvic floor is extremely important, it holds all your organs up in their correct places - think of it as a handbag, but for your body. It plays an important role for core strength and stability, bladder and bowel control and intimate wellbeing. It is a sheet of muscles running from your tail bone to your pubic bone at the front. Pelvic floor exercises aren’t just for those who are thinking of having a baby, are pregnant, or are post-partum. Having constipation, being overweight or having a chronic cough can also damage your pelvic floor over time."
How do I know if my pelvic floor is weak?
Emma: "Signs that you may have a weak pelvic floor:
An aching or dragging sensation in your vagina
A tendency to leak urine when you cough, laugh or sneeze. Which is called stress urinary incontinence.
A need to go to the toilet frequently during the day or night.
An urgent need to visit the toilet, and leaking before you get there or if you don’t go (which can be either urine or faeces) – called urge incontinence.
An inability to control the passing of wind from your back passage.
You can also have the feeling of something coming down into your vagina. This is when one or more organs have dropped down out of their usual position- which is called a prolapse."
How do I do a pelvic floor exercise?
Emma: "Because your pelvic floor muscles are internal, you shouldn’t be able to see anything happening externally. Your bum, thighs or tummy shouldn’t be moving or contracting - you should be able to do the exercises without anyone even knowing. The area you should be squeezing is like trying to hold in wind or a wee. You should feel the muscles contract upwards inside of you, NOT outwards! Before starting, ensure you are in a calm and relaxed environment. Especially at the beginning whilst you get the hang of it!
"There are two types of exercises, slow and fast - as you have both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres. As the names suggest, fast is performed through quick squeezes. Whilst slow, is a slow contraction lasting for about 10 seconds each if you can. You should start with the slow and finish with the fast at the end of each session.
"Slow twitch exercise:
Close and draw up your muscles from your back passage, as if you are trying to stop the passing of wind. Do not contract your bum muscles!
Continue around and close up your muscles around your vagina and urethra, as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
Hold for as long as you can, then slowly let go resting for the same amount of time (hold for 10 seconds rest for 10 etc)
Slowly increase the time that you hold the contraction, and repeat as many times as you can. The aim is to be able to hold your pelvic floor for 10 seconds.
"Fast twitch exercise:
Pull up your pelvic floor as before
Hold for one second then relax quickly
Repeat 5-10 times, or until your muscles get tired."
Do I do the exercises lying down, sitting, or standing?
Emma: "Start out by laying down on your back to perform the exercises and once mastered, progress to performing them seated. Lastly, perform them standing - which is the position you need the most strength in - since we don’t spend all our time laying down!
"Aim to do both the fast and slow twitch daily. It is also much better to do a smaller number of good squeezes than a higher number of half-hearted ones. Increase the length of time held and the number of repetitions. Remember it will take time, you won’t see results instantly."
Emma's Key Points:
"DO NOT practice your pelvic floor muscles whilst doing a wee - yes they are the muscles we are working on but a UTI infection is not the aim here.
DON’T hold your breath, or contract your legs, bum or tummy
DO NOT worry if you can’t hold each repetition for long, just like any muscle its needs to be worked regularly to become stronger (but do take rest!)
DO ensure you are in a calm environment, as at the beginning it requires a lot of concentration to do it right!"
Any other tips for us?
Emma: "I would recommend downloading the award-winning NHS app called Squeezy (I should have shares in this thing!) - it can give you reminders about doing the exercises and counts down the number of reps and sets you need to do.
"I also recommend things like the Elvie pelvic floor trainer, although more expensive it will guide and correct you through the exercises. If you are unsure if you are doing exercises right, I would suggest booking in with a women’s specialised physiotherapist."
Thank you so much Emma, once again really fascinating information and simple but effective advice, and good to hear it straight from a professional!
Emma is based around Loughton, Essex, and offers pre and post-natal sessions tailored specifically to your needs. If you are looking for personal training sessions she will also bring the gym to you! Sessions take place in the comfort of your own home.
My upcoming blog posts will be featuring how to find you child's (and your own!) "Play Mojo", and some fab ideas for really fab Dads! Sign up to my mailing list to get the latest, and read my summer newsletter right here! While you are here why not read some more great tips from some of my other favourite specialists: Midwife and Lactation Consultant Shelley Wilson, Sleep Consultant Alexandra Collingbourne, and Declutterer and Organiser Joanne Forde.
Check out my other posts for more info and advice on screen time, dinner times, fussy eaters, buying pre-loved children's clothing, decluttering before your new baby, and more. Visit the rest of my website to find out more about my parenting coaching services, child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting!
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