The first time I ever heard the term ‘Pelvic Floor’ was when I was about 15 years old. During my teens I made some rather feeble attempts to get fit and one of those was doing a Lorraine Kelly exercise video my mum had. Part way through was an abs section and the trainer, Jenni, started by getting us to do some pelvic floor exercises. Her instructions were to contract the muscles you’d use to stop weeing mid-flow. I just tried to do as I was told and from that point onwards I would always do a set of pelvic floor contractions before doing any abdominal exercises. Over all the years since that first lesson in pelvic floor care, I confess I never really did any research into what my pelvic floor actually was. I knew it was a muscle. I knew it had something to do with my bladder. But that was it. Until I got pregnant…
What is the pelvic floor again?
So to be sure everyone is clear, the NHS define the pelvic floor muscles as follows:
The pelvic floor muscles are located between your legs, and run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are shaped like a sling and hold your pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder) in place.
From that definition alone it’s quite easy to understand why popping a baby out might affect the pelvic floor a smidge. But as I sat in my first NCT class, I didn’t know that definition and was a little horrified when the teacher informed us that we’d have no pelvic floor strength after giving birth; That we might find ourselves at a greater risk of bladder leak; That we should start doing pelvic floor exercises the very day we give birth and should aim to do 50 per day…forever more.
I was quite happy to commit to doing regular pelvic floor exercises. But I wasn’t honestly convinced that my pelvic floor would be affected that badly by giving birth. HA HA HA! How naive I was. As I lay on a hospital bed hours after Little H was born, I went to contract my pelvic floor…and nothing. Or at least it felt like nothing. Whatever strength I had built up over the 17 years since that Lorraine workout had been well and truly destroyed by my beautiful new tiny human. Gulp.
What’s the big deal if you have a weak pelvic floor anyway?
A fair question for us to all ask before committing to daily exercises forever more. Again I will refer to the trusty NHS website article that I linked to above.
Weakened pelvic muscles can cause problems, such as urinary incontinence and reduced sensitivity during sex. There is also a risk of pelvic organ prolapse, where one or more of the pelvic organs bulges into the vagina.
Right. Right. So I don’t know about you but I don’t need to read anymore to be sold on giving my pelvic floor some time and attention. If you’re still on the fence then read the whole post. There is a lovely paragraph about stress incontinence which I’m sure will see you leaping into the ‘do exercises’ camp.
It took a couple of weeks after birth but eventually I heeded the advice of my NCT teacher and I did my pelvic floor exercises at least 3 times a day whilst I was breastfeeding. That first year I managed to get some reasonable strength back. As I got closer to my return to work I put in an extra effort too. I didn’t want to be the woman sprinting out of a meeting because she’d drunk a cup of tea too many. But then I started back to work and, I’ll be honest, I got lazy / distracted / forgetful. I slacked off on my pelvic floor. I have never had any accidents fortunately, but recently I have found myself dashing to the loo a lot more regularly than at the start of the year. My hip, which has never fully recovered from my pregnancy SPD, also started hurting more. I needed to take action! Doing pelvic floor exercises is not hard. In fact you can do them anywhere so they are easy to fit in. The main challenge is remembering!
How I remind myself to do them
There is an app for everything these days…or so we’re told. So I did a Google search to see what the ‘top’ pelvic floor apps. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t find many that looked any good. The NHS have an app called Squeezy (available on iTunes and Google Play). But despite it’s good reviews it’s £2.99 which seemed a lot for what it did. So I re-installed the Tena My Pelvic Floor Fitness app which I used last year.
It’s a pretty good app actually. It will very visually show how long you should be contracting and releasing. You can amend the frequency, intensity and duration of repetitions. It also has an option to set reminders. BUT, after 2 days I abandoned it for a couple of reasons:
- The alerts stopped working after a day. Then whenever I rebooted my phone I’d get all the missed alerts. Not helpful!
- The interface is too ‘obvious’. I decided to do some exercises on the train but it’s impossible to use the app discretely. And not using it for every single set seemed to defeat the point!
So I tried adding reminders into my calendar. But they just annoyed me as I kept getting reminders in my notifications bar too often and would just remove them and forget!
In the end, I went for something very simple! I have a “Daily Planner’ in my Bullet Journal for each month. I use it to make sure I do a number of routine tasks each day (such as taking my vitamins). I add a row for ‘Pelvic Floor’ and everyday I record the number of sets I’ve done. It works really well as it shames me into doing more when I’ve had a lax day! I always review my journal at bedtime so I now do a set a bedtime which means I always do 1 as a minimum.
What exercises I actually do
There is so much different advice and guidance out there so I would recommend each individual spend 10 minutes reading to decide what works for them. I’ve tailored my ‘set’ of pelvic floor exercises to meet my needs though. I’ll now aim to do 1 – 2 sets of the following exercises everyday. Ideally I should always be doing 2, but I still forget!
- 10 x 10 seconds gradual squeeze in w/ 5 second gradual relax;
- 10 x 5 seconds gradual squeeze in w/ 5 second gradual relax;
- 1 x 30 second gradual squeeze in and hold, w/ gradual relax afterwards.
Do you regularly exercise your pelvic floor?
How do you remind yourself?
Do you do any different exercises which are effective?
I would love to hear any tips / experiences!