Background and useful information
More than one in three women experience unintentional (involuntary) loss of urine (urinary incontinence) in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, and about one in three leak urine in the first three months after giving birth.
Around one in four women have some involuntary loss of flatus (wind) or faeces (anal incontinence) in late pregnancy.
One in five women leak flatus or faeces one year after giving birth.
The most important message is that these symptoms can often be avoided and definitely treated. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
If you feel you have left it too late to do anything to improve your pelvic floor, think again! There is no time limit to improving your pelvic health, but the sooner you start the better.
‘Pelvic Floor Muscle Training- In the Perinatal Period and Beyond’
The perinatal phase is any time from conception right through to the postnatal period. We usually talk about the postnatal period being up to a year after giving birth, but really it can mean any time after having a baby.
The pelvic floor muscles lie across the base of your pelvis and stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone (at the front) to the coccyx (at the back) as picture.
The pelvic floor muscles are part of what is often referred to as a “core” and together with deep abdominal, back muscles and diaphragm (breathing muscle) control your abdominal pressure when you lift, carry, bend, strain or do exercise.
The pelvic floor muscles help to keep the bladder and bowel openings closed to prevent accidental leakage and they also allow bladder and bowel emptying by relaxing. Good pelvic floor muscles play an important role in improving vaginal sensation and enhancing sexual function.
Pelvic floor muscles can be trained like any other muscle in the body and by training them regularly in the right way, can improve and keep pelvic floor function healthy.
During pregnancy and regardless of how you give birth, pelvic floor muscles will be affected by hormonal changes and the growing weight of a baby.
Your midwife, health visitor, GP or other healthcare professional will also be able to provide further information and provide a referral to a Specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist if you need any help with these exercises.
Pelvic floor muscles work in two main ways:
- Slowly and gently in your day-to-day life, to keep things in place, help control your bladder and bowel, and to support your pelvis and pelvic organs.
- Quickly and strongly, for instance when you do a quick movement, cough, sneeze or laugh.
For this reason, we exercise the pelvic floor in two ways – slow, gentle squeezes to work on the endurance of the muscles and then some quick, strong squeezes to stimulate both of these pelvic floor functions.
Once you have grasped the technique, you can start to progress your exercises by using them in your day-to-day activities.
If you are struggling with any symptoms or the exercises themselves, a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist can help you, whatever level you are at.
They can show you how to get started with the basics or help you progress to you back to your desired level of exercise.
If you need help please ask for a referral.
Usually, it takes around three to six months to see an improvement in pelvic floor muscle strength. Hopefully, you will find that any symptoms have resolved, or are beginning to improve by then, the exercises should be easier to do and you are starting to return to your normal levels of activity gradually.