You make a variety of healthy decisions each day to take care of your body and mind during pregnancy. From prenatal supplements, nutrition choices and ample rest, these thoughtful actions build toward a safe delivery and healthy mom and baby.
Perhaps a lesser-known health precaution to take during pregnancy is strengthening the pelvic floor, the muscles, ligaments and tissues that stretch from the public bone to the base of your spine.
Performing pelvic floor exercises assist during labor and minimize the risk of developing stress incontinence, a condition common during pregnancy, in which small amounts of urine release when sneezing, laughing or during exercise.
When hormones and extra weight during pregnancy cause the tissues and muscles in the pelvic floor to stretch, the sphincter muscles that control your bladder can weaken.
Practice the following tips during and post pregnancy to strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent incontinence and best prepare for a smooth delivery and swift recovery.
1. Incorporate dual exercises.
Fast and slow muscle fibers make up the pelvic floor. It is essential to exercise both for comprehensive strength and stamina.
Once comfortably sitting or lying with your knees slightly apart, first contract the muscles surrounding your back passage and then squeeze as if to stop the flow of urine. Release immediately, rest for two seconds, then repeat. It’s important not to squeeze the buttocks or hold your breath during this exercise.
Complete the same exercise above while holding for a four second count and remember to breathe. Work to increase the count hold up to 10 seconds and gradually build the number of repetitions performed in each session.
2. Quality over quantity.
While striving to complete more short squeeze repetitions and holding longer long squeezes, it is important to remember fewer correct, quality squeezes is more effective than more incorrect squeezes. Stop when muscles fatigue and rest before a new session.
3. Make it routine.
Exercise your pelvic floor muscles at least three times per day, between eight and 12 times for eight weeks. Try to incorporate as many as you can while going about your daily routine, such as watching TV.
4. Keep track.
Use a tracking system as a reminder to complete your exercises. For example, keep a checklist in your daily agenda or download an app to record your exercises.
5. Continue post-delivery.
As soon as your doctor okays it, resume pelvic floor exercises to reduce possible swelling and ramp up the healing process. Start with short, gentle squeezes and gradually build both squeeze length and repetitions. Eventually, work toward completing exercises four to five times per day.