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Pelvic floor muscles form the base of your pelvis attaching from your tailbone and across to your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis. They are also attached to the sides of your pelvis and sit bones. The back passage, vagina urethra pass through the pelvic floor. The role of the pelvic floor muscles is to support your internal organs (bladder, uterus, etc.). They also maintain bladder and bowel control and to support the spine.
Throughout the duration of pregnancy there is increased pressure and load on the muscles of your pelvic floor. The change in hormones during pregnancy in combination with the increasing weight of your baby causes this increased strain on the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy. Often post pregnancy, women find that they leak urine when they cough and sneeze or with higher impact activities. This is extremely common. Research has shown that performing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy makes it less likely that you will experience stress incontinence. The risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse it also reduced.
Continuing these pelvic floor exercises after pregnancy can help to prevent these problems becoming a long-term issue. Depending on how long you breastfeed for, it may take quite a while for your hormones to return to their pre-pregnancy state. This can vary from person to person. Therefore, even though you no longer have the weight of the baby stressing your pelvic floor, the effects of hormonal changes may still be present. Doing pelvic floor exercises will also aid in accelerating healing post birth by increasing blood flow to this area.
A woman’s health physiotherapist can help determine the degree of weakness of your pelvic floor. Physiotherapist then provide advice on exercising post pregnancy. They can also show you how to correctly switch on your pelvic floor muscles. Also, how strongly you should hold contractions. Your pelvic floor muscles are made up of two kinds of muscle fibres: fast fibres for strength, and slow fibres for stamina. For best effect, you need to exercise both kinds of fibres within your pelvic floor muscles. Your woman’s health physiotherapist can also show you how to correctly exercise both types of muscle fibres. On the contrary, your physiotherapist may find that you have an overactive pelvic floor, possibly from doing exercises incorrectly. This can sometimes cause pain. Therefore, it is important to learn how to completely relax your pelvic floor between contractions when doing pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
If you have experiencing any of the symptoms described above associated with either a weak or overactive pelvic floor, contact us here. Women’s Health Physiotherapist Aileen MaGuire can assess pelvic floor strength, train you to activate correct muscles and provide advice on general activity and suitable forms of exercise.